Dear Inner Circle,
It is quite a sight to behold – the sheer amount of planning that goes into putting together our Christmas Day Street Party. All involved bring their gifts and contributions to the table as we work out how to make the magic happen so hundreds of people can celebrate together on Christmas Day. We dig in because it isn’t about us, we are united by a fervent commitment to deliver a Christmas Day full of love and joy for those who are living lives that are in free fall and who may very well be at their lowest ebb. We remember that we are at our best when we are necessary, significant but not central, and whenever we encounter people at their worst, it’s a calling for us to be at our best.
It’s so we can be there for someone like my dear mate, Josh. When his father tragically died when he was only 18, he was numbed with a grief that gripped him so tightly he soon drifted to the streets, sleeping in a tunnel that he knew his father walked every day to work in the hope that he would somehow catch a glimpse of him. A broken heart is all too easily preyed upon and soon he fell into addiction. The shame associated with this separated him from his family. This was the time of year when I would receive a call from his broken-hearted mother, asking me only one question, “Is my baby OK? Tell him I love him.” Valiantly I would attempt an answer, only to hang up and choke up, because, truth be known, there were times when I feared every goodbye would be the last and a mother’s broken heart is hard thing to hold.
I no longer get that call. Instead, Josh rings me excitedly with updates on his own little family. It hasn’t been an easy journey for Josh to get to where he is today but Wayside has been right there alongside him on every step. Sometimes we just hang out when he gets a rare day off work. I was at his place, chatting over a cup of tea, when his little boy woke up and Josh leapt to get him. A few minutes later they were still in the room, as all he wanted was some settling cuddles. From the lounge I overheard Josh comforting his baby boy, “Hey buddy, daddy and mummy love you, you’re all right. Jon is here, one day I will tell you about the two things that saved my life, your mum and Wayside…”
Christmas is a time of a great outpouring. Grief, loss, compassion and generosity of heart all flow freely through this time. All are precious and very hard to capture in words, yet what makes us unique is that we never see anyone here as the object of our pity or compassion. We are driven by the belief that everyone we meet somehow is a reflection of the majesty of the universe, and contains within them the power of Christmas, which is a time to remember that new life is not only possible, it is often born in the most unlikely of places.
Among the schemers and dreamers who unite on Christmas Day are many who you would never know first came to Wayside on the worst day of their lives, and I am grateful to people like you who have given them their best, and marvel at the gifts they now pay forward. During the past few months one of the Wayside planning committees that is looking to our future has Josh as a key contributor. He brings insights so deeply imbued with wisdom and humour, he is a leader of the future.
This festive season, you can send the most important message of all to someone like Josh – that they belong to a community, and they are loved. Please consider making a generous gift today. It will make all the difference for our visitors who need it most.
When I first arrived at Wayside I overheard another conversation between two people on our deck, “I won’t come this year, I will be too miserable,” to which the quick response was, “Don’t be miserable by yourself on the day, come and be miserable with us!” The wisdom in that offering makes you know, deep down, that this is a special place.
Thank you for being part of our precious Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor