Loving and Giving: The Ultimate Stain Remover

Dear Inner Circle,

As a young lad I grew up going with my family to a weekly Sunday chapel service in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. It was across the road from the State Library Victoria, a beautiful part of the city. One Sunday a man appeared out the front of the library holding up a sign, “Free East Timor”. Week after week he showed up, holding aloft the sign. East Timor wouldn’t achieve liberation for another 15 years, but he didn’t know that then. One day out of curiosity I walked up to him, and after introducing myself asked him what he was doing (I was all of nine years old). He told me something that took me many years to comprehend. “Son,” he smiled, “I’m doing this for two reasons. Firstly, because I believe the world can change for the better, and secondly, I never ever want this world to change me!”

This week is National Volunteer Week. Wayside Chapel, like civic society, wouldn’t exist without our precious vollies, couldn’t exist without our precious vollies, and most importantly, shouldn’t exist without our vollies. If all who come to visit us are the heart of Wayside, and our teams are the hands and feet of the place, then our vollies are the lifeblood the holds us together. The theme this year is Change Makers. At Wayside we have an army of change makers who don’t brandish weapons of war. Instead, they arm themselves with teaspoons full of sugar, hands that select items of warm clothing according to the personal tastes of the just showered visitor, and arms to hug someone sorely in need of some healing contact. Every act of kindness, every pair of undies given out in love, every sugar placed into a cup of tea (sometimes up to 8 or 9!) not only shows dignity to all members of our family of humanity but are also a vote for the world as it could be. Thank you to our wonderful vollies for being tangible reminders that in a world which values compliance and coercion over creativity and compassion, that we can refuse to collude in our own demise by taking action. It gives me great hope to see the world is going to change for the better.

At a critical moment in my life, when I was filled with self-doubt, a mentor encouraged me with his wisdom; “If you want to find your life, then give it away in service to others.” Thus, my volunteering journey began. The trajectory of my life has been altered immeasurably for the better because of the people I’ve met through volunteering, who are now close friends. A few weeks ago, one such friend and I spent a weekend on a mate’s cattle farm. Too many episodes of Yellowstone got me thinking that I could muster cattle, but we quickly learnt that I am far more Indian than cowboy. As we sat around the fire that evening, he reminded me that we first met when he was in high school. I was volunteering with his class, who were the kids who might not make it through. At lunchtime the students usually played football in the local field, but this day there was a stolen burnt-out car that drew their attention. Jumping on the roof was the game of the day. As we tried to get them all down, he jumped off and without thinking wiped his hands on his brand new t-shirt, streaking it with black, “On no, Mum hates stolen car stain!” His life could have gone in any direction, but he has chosen a path where he now also serves his community. As we sat back and stared into the star riddled sky it was the perfect moment to realise the wisdom of my earlier mentor’s words come to life.

Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,

Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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