Dear Inner Circle,

For us, one of the lessons of 2020 has been that nothing is inevitable outside of risk, courage and effort.

A few weeks ago this note was penned in the sadness and silence of our empty community cafe in Kings Cross. Our kitchens have been twice as busy this year, serving takeaway food and sending out our teams who travel all over the city in vans packed with freshly-prepared nutritious meals. Since COVID-19 hit in March, our cafe dining area had remained empty, a space normally bristling with life that had been marked by its absence. With the recent easing of restrictions, the planning has been on in earnest to re-open the cafes in our Community Service Centres in Kings Cross and Bondi. The path of least resistance would have been to continue our hiatus for at least another few months, but the call to community isn’t a call to comfort, it’s to connection.

This note is being written in the new controlled chaos and joy of our re-opened cafe. Our visitors may now be greeted by staff who sign them in, sit at tables that are safely-spaced, and served by our kitchen staff from behind perspex screens, but they all know this is a minor inconvenience compared to the freedom of returning to their own safe space. Our mission is about creating community, it was quite a sight to behold as reunions filled our spaces in Kings Cross and Bondi, emanating enough colour and light to bring hope into even the most despairing of hearts.

On the first day of re-opening our cafe, one of our much-missed regulars who we haven’t seen since the start of lockdown ambled in. He quietly informed us that we had re-opened on the day of his 66th birthday. Trish, our tireless Cafe Manager, reassured him that we had indeed re-opened just for him. She then hustled hard to throw an impromptu party. Normally tears are appropriate for the poor-quality singing that follows but as no singing occurred, the sight of this man being surrounded by familiar faces all emanating love was enough to bring those present to tears. I’m not sure if blowing out candles will ever be considered acceptable again, so with a clap of his hands the single flame was extinguished but a renewed sense of hope was born.

For many of us, Christmas will look a bit different this year. For people experiencing homelessness, Christmas will be especially tough and lonely. There’s a lovely fellow who pops up at Wayside every year in the month before Christmas. He’s got his fair share of challenges but his heart is full of nothing but gold. He said that he’s drawn to Wayside at Christmas because the joy and goodwill that pours through our community at this time of year drowns out his own painful memories of Christmas. He was sad to hear that Wayside Chapel won’t be able to go ahead with our usual large-scale Christmas Day Street Party in Kings Cross due to COVID-19 restrictions but he was heartened to learn of our plans to create Christmas cheer for people in our community who are in need. Over the seven days before Christmas, including Christmas Eve, we will be hosting daily community lunches in Kings Cross that will capture the spirit of Christmas with freshly-cooked meals for people experiencing homelessness and isolation. These lunches may not have the usual fanfare of our street party, but they will still be served with a big dose of love and the gift of good company. You can find out more about our other Christmas activities here.

We need your help to bring some joy to our community this Christmas. We will be recording a Virtual Choir performance of a secret song to be shown at our ‘Week of Christmas Spirit’ community lunches and on Wayside’s social media on Christmas Day. If you love to sing, we’d love you to participate by submitting your own video! The first 30 people to email [email protected] with “Virtual Choir” in the subject line will be sent a link with specific instructions on how to record and submit your performance.

Thank you for being a part our virtuoso Inner Circle,

Jon

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