Dear Inner Circle,

This morning I had an early appointment in William St, so I walked from Wayside Chapel along Darlinghurst Road. I’m not sure that this is a trip that I’ll ever be able to make quickly. I spoke to a man who was leaning against a shop window. His feet looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in months. I told him that a shower, shoes, fresh undies and a good meal were just a block away from him if he cared to head down to Wayside. He was eating a small carton of licorice allsorts. I told him that if he was still here when I walked past in an hour or so, that I would gladly walk with him to Wayside and introduce him to some people who would welcome him. He wasn’t there when I returned, and I’ve worried about him all morning. I won’t forget the sight of his feet in a hurry.

A couple of the pubs in on the main road have windows where drinkers can look right onto the street. Even early in the morning, there are people observing the passing pedestrians while nursing a cold glass of beer. I didn’t know any of the faces at the first pub that I passed but at the second pub, I was surprised to recognise a face I hadn’t seen for quite some time. As our faces met, a warm smile came over his face and he greeted me like a long-lost friend. He was with another half-dozen drinkers. It seemed like a rather solemn gathering until my friend started introducing me around. We spent perhaps ten minutes catching up on news. In summary, my friend was not long out of prison and determined, he said, to make a better go of his life this time round. I felt cheeky enough to point out that drinking so early in the morning was an odd attempt at finding a better path to the future. “I had to come here to borrow some money from my friends.” In ten minutes, two or three new people approached us, having also recognised my friend and their meeting was not as warm as mine. They were each most keen for him to repay the money he’d borrowed from them in recent days. I wondered why he’d drink in such a prominent location when so many people were on the lookout for him to repay debts. We hugged and I reminded him that all the support and respect he might need was at Wayside where he was well known and well-loved. I’ve no doubt I’ll see him around here before long.

Eventually, I made it to my appointment with a lady who had asked to meet me. It made me realise that most of the time I speak with people who might be damaged but are often masters of resilience. I often I meet with people who have suffered greatly in many ways but have found ways to survive, even if that is in a psychotic state. Her husband had recently walked out of their marriage. The woman I met with was in such despair. She was convinced that her young son would choose to live with his father rather than her. She told me that she hadn’t slept properly since the marriage failed and she cried day and night. She had a supportive employer but she was worried that there were limits to how far her employer could bend. She was sure her marching orders were very close. She said at one point, “My son would be better off without me.” All my alarm bells were suddenly ringing. I asked her if she’d thought about ending her life and it set off a flood of tears and a reaction that told me there was a plan and a time for the plan to be implemented. Just vocalising this and knowing someone was there, I suspect was a turning point that was well overdue – and just in the nick of time. While I was with her, she made an appointment with her doctor and agreed that she would be honest with her to seek some help. She also called her sister and let her know just how low she was feeling. Australians are three times more likely to die from suicide than from traffic accidents. There is help close at hand for anyone who is in such a dark place that they are pondering the ending of their life. If you are in such a spot or even close, please call someone. Call a trusted friend; call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Most of us have been close to the brink at some point in our lives: We’d lost sight of the future and didn’t believe that we’d ever find a way to a new, brighter and meaningful life.

In the words of a famous Leonard Cohen song, “There’s a crack, there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

Thanks for being part of this Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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