Much more than pants

Dear Inner Circle,

It’s common for kids to laugh so hard that their stomach hurts and they’re gasping for air. Yet for some reason that seems to happen less and less as we age. If you find friends that bring that contagious joy, cling on to them. This week I caught up with a mate who does just that. He was spinning yarn after yarn, tales that had me in stitches, which was pretty mind-blowing considering he has spent the last three years in a maximum security prison. He was a cartographer of a different world, with vivid descriptions of those who end up in “boneyards”, get involved in “buy-ups” and an ominous place known as “segro.” At one point, he eyeballed me, “You know why I was locked up? Because I was just as self-absorbed and selfish as my old man. Now, I have a lot of work to do, fixing the relationships I broke, and becoming the dad I never had.”

His wisdom floored me, especially in a world that values replacing over repairing. Perhaps that’s because the true art of mending requires time, patience and intention. It’s what happens around here every day. It’s in the smile of a woman who whispered to me, “I used to come here before, but now no one recognises me and that’s good – I’m a different person now and I come here for much different reasons.” It’s in the loving actions of our big-hearted office staffer who, amidst a thousand administrative tasks, ran home to grab her sewing kit. She mended a beloved pair of pants for someone who couldn’t bear to throw them away –  a pair that was a gift from his sister, when his life was in a different place. They weren’t just pants – but a symbol of promise and hope. There’s a beauty in repair that far outweighs a replacement model. At least, that’s what Lisa, my wife, always reassures me of!

The work of repair often spans decades, not days, as seen in Tony’s journey. Tony first came to Wayside at 13, already tangled up in what he calls the “bad juju” on the streets. Thirty years later, we’re still side by side, facing each obstacle together, helping him as he builds a life of dignity and independence. Watching Tony this week, dressed as the Christmas Grinch, making his wide circle of Wayside mates laugh until it hurts, reminded me of the profound impact a thousand small acts of love can add up to, they define not just the person but also ourselves and our community. Do we opt for the easier path of replacement, or do we choose the bumpier road of understanding, building, and healing? At Wayside, our choice is clear.

I typically hesitate before appealing directly to you for money, but this year’s circumstances compel me to do so. It’s an ask that leaves me both sleepless at night, yet fills me with great respect for my friends who spend their days “cold biting” on street corners. I’m acutely aware that the cost of living crisis has understandably affected many, not only those who walk into our community centres each day, but also our vital supporters.

Your depth and generosity of response, my dear Inner Circle, always leaves me speechless. If you have already given, you have my deepest thanks. If you haven’t had the opportunity and you’re in the position to, could you please consider, right now, taking a moment to make a special Christmas gift for those who need it most.

Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle.


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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