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.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Pastor & CEO