Dear Inner Circle,
Years ago when working in a local high school a mate assisted in setting up a program for aspiring young leaders. We mentored and provided opportunities for the school’s gifted future leaders to see a world beyond the one around them, which gave them the space to imagine a future different to anything they’d previously dreamed. Many of these leaders have gone on to fulfil their potential, all having to work hard, not only at overcoming the bias that locational disadvantage still presents today, but also the internal narratives that self-limited their potential.
A moment in time that is seared deeply into my memory is of a morning when one young leader presented to school. She was a mess. Another team member mustered her best mama energy to gently hold her as she wept and winced. She was quite beaten up and her hair had also been cut crudely. She slowly spoke of the events of the previous night that had led to her current state. The perpetrators were her parents and we made the appropriate notifications. Yet something more was needed in that moment.
So we called our friendly local hairdresser. She had just opened a new business and was up to her eyeballs with stress and the fallout from leaving her last business. Yet the moment I called her she put that all aside, “I’ll be right there” was all she whispered. She entered the scene and fell to her knees, cooing and gently holding onto the girl, who broke into a fresh round of sobs. Carefully she opened her kit and neatened the girl’s hair, not too much to make it obvious, but just enough to restore dignity. Then she held a mirror carefully to her, and spoke softly, “Look at yourself darling, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you aren’t the most gorgeous creature on the face of this earth!” I haven’t stood on what I would call “holy ground” very often in my life, but this was one of those times.
When I asked later how she was so perfect in that scenario all she could offer was, “I suppose that as soon as I walked in I saw myself, and knew exactly what she needed, which wasn’t to hear ‘I understand’. She just needed me to love on her.” In that moment she was truly “response-able” – a rare gift in this world, to be able to put to one side all instincts to fill the room with wisdom and understanding, in favour of simply presenting herself as an answer to the cries of this young girl’s heart.
Life by the Wayside is about being response-able, yet we never have any idea of what is coming next. And we don’t always get to see what goes on in the lives of the people who come to us, after they have left. So when we do, it’s something that lifts us all up. Just last week a middle-aged chap came up to the desk, he spoke simply, and straight from the heart: “I’ve done 20 years in prison. I’m now 2 years clean. Wayside were here for me. I just wanted to come in and say thank you.” And that was that – barely had the front desk volunteers began to attempt a response before he just gave them a nod and walked out again. A small moment, but a special one. Not more than a few minutes later someone else rejected an offer of a clean pair of brand new black jocks, because “black ones leave black fluff, and that’s not, how do I say this, a good look you know!” All who heard burst out in laughter. You never know what to expect on any day here and that’s the way it should be!
Thanks for being open to us, our Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
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