Dear Inner Circle,

Years ago, living in Mt Druitt, my house was a hive of activity. One day, amidst the frenzy, I found a young boy standing completely still, just staring into our recently re-stocked pantry. He declared boldly “When I grow up, I want to be rich like you, always having food at home”. This boy grew up in a household that dealt in violence and he has demons that still haunt him to this day. But he never allows them to get the better of him. I met up with him recently and he has lived up to the potential we all saw in him. He still remembers every detail of our interactions and the way everyone who believed in him fostered that potential. Every word spoken and action taken in love has had an indelible impact on his life. Our discussion swung between memory lane and talk of the future as we shared a meal together. He told me how he had managed to secure the job of his dreams, and by doing this, inspired his siblings to get and keep work. When I asked what he thought set him apart from others who haven’t done so well, he responded, “You guys always saw the best in us and I was actually listening!” “And your hope for the future?” I asked. “I want to look after mum, pay her bills and have a cupboard full of food.”

Our words create our worlds; our speech can create new horizons of possibility and potential in peoples’ hearts and paths for their feet, but words can also tear us apart. Words are so much more than an expression of feeling or opinion. This week, the world marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide when neighbours and friends turned into enemies. The massacred Tutsis were called “cockroaches”. It was language which preceded the violence and paved the way for an extermination. Enter the underbelly of any internet chatroom that espouses hatred against any group and you will see the seeds of disaster are still being sown, keystroke by keystroke. That’s why we at Wayside avoid language that builds barriers. We “meet” rather than “fix” and we welcome “visitors” into Wayside rather than “clients”.  Words can damage or create distances between people and perpetuate loneliness, even if you are using them in the very act of helping.  We recognise the dignity and humanity in every person, that is so often forgotten. We want to be gracious hosts, treating everyone like we would a guest in our home.

At the front door of Wayside, you often see compassion in action – today I saw an embrace between two people, one of whom has just had her baby taken from their arms in hospital. You will see it in the podiatrists who come into Wayside for a monthly clinic and are surely the most gracious angels to walk the earth, as they care for feet that have become warped in the concrete jungles many of our visitors call home. Sometimes love is undignified. The crowds on Palm Sunday were longing for a superstar, but the reality was a humble bloke on a donkey, weeping.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

JonJon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

P.S. Wayside is looking for a Senior Philanthropy Manager to join the team. If you’re interested in being part of an incredible team making a real difference in the community, you can find more details here

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