A young man came to Wayside many years ago after the sudden death of his father had led him to a life on the streets. So extreme were his ups and downs, that there were days where all of us were deeply worried for him as his life seemed to slip deeper and deeper into an abyss of despair. He often slept in the park above the local car park, and while he’d always wave with a smile his eyes told another, far less cheery story. Even after we’d helped him secure social housing, he’d tell us stories of how he’d get up in the middle of the night to walk the streets to give out food and blankets to other rough sleepers. At times, the lure of addiction was too great as he sought comfort from the pain, and he’d end up sleeping rough again.
A lot has changed for him over recent years. As we walked with him we started seeing the spark return to his eyes. One step at a time he started turning his life around on his own terms. He had gotten clean, found a loving partner, gotten a job, and found a place to live. He recently took Una, one of our Community Services workers aside and whispered, “Thank you for keeping me alive.”
Last week I got to pick him up from a hospital, this time though, for the greatest of reasons. He and his partner welcomed a newborn little boy into the world. He sent me a photo from the hospital, his eyes were red, but they were filled with exhausted joy. He later told me that as he held his son for the first time he cried. I have seen plenty of men who have lost or never known their fathers to go on to become amazing dads. He will be one of them.
When we announced this news at a recent staff meeting, the room erupted in joyous applause and a few tears. It was a timely reminder of why we do what we do. His story shows that no tomorrow is ever set in stone if love stays true. It stretches far beyond the immediate moment and reaches courageously into a future so something new can be created.
This week, Wayside Chapel has launched our annual Long Walk Home fundraising event that will raise awareness for the 116,000 people in our country who don’t have a place to call home through this pandemic, plus the much-needed funds to enable Wayside to keep supporting them. 28km is the average distance someone sleeping rough walks every week just to find insecure sleeping spots, access to services, and the basics necessary to survive. We invite you to walk with us in solidarity virtually over a week (Saturday 2 – Friday 8 October) OR walk with us in person from Parramatta to Kings Cross on Friday 8 October 2021. Sign up here.
A couple of years ago, the same young man that I talk about above completed our 28km Long Walk Home event, only to walk a further 12kms alone to find his secret spot in a park to sleep rough for the night. We ask that you walk with us, so people like him don’t have to walk alone.
Thanks for choosing love over hate, our precious Inner Circle.
PS – Tune in tonight on Facebook at 7pm for Voices from the Frontline, where I will chat with three of our frontline workers about their experiences of life by the Wayside. Register here.