Dear Inner Circle,

Waiting for me as I walked into the building this week was a well-dressed man. He knew who I was and asked if I could spare him ten minutes. I stared intently into a handsome face, wondering who this was and if I should be greeting a long lost friend. We walked to a cafe and he began by saying, “My Mum was a rigid atheist all her life until she met you and came to faith. Before she died she told me that if ever I was in trouble, I ought to find you and…I’m in trouble”. My next question was, “Who are you?” When this man was just a little kid, his mother had been a victim of domestic violence and I had played some part in finding her a safe place to live. As he spoke I recalled a clear image of his mother. She was a quiet, intelligent and articulate woman. I remember that she had a brood of children but I couldn’t remember any of their names. I recall that others in my community at that time showed great kindness to the woman and that she seemed to warm up once offered the context of a safe place. It is a complete surprise that this fine young man would say that his mother, “came to faith” and that my actions had such a strong impact on her life. I don’t remember any discussion about faith but I do remember a woman who at first shook like a frightened rabbit, but slowly built confidence. You just never know the effect your life is having on people and the older I get, the more I am surprised to hear stories from some who I‘ve barely known.

Part of the Wayside philosophy is that humans should always be, ‘on their way’. To have ‘arrived’ at any spot in life is of little importance compared to the joy, the striving and the flourishing that comes from being on the way. For this reason we employ a few people whose role we describe as ‘pathways’. The job is to get alongside people and help them identify ‘a next step’ and most importantly, to move their feet. We’ve long said around here that salvation doesn’t come from the understanding of anything. We have no interest in what people believe. Salvation comes not through the head but through the feet. Where you go or don’t go matters much more than what you believe. So our Pathways workers just try to find the next step toward employment, toward housing, toward the healing of relationships, toward the end of toxic relationships, toward healthy eating, toward exercise, and the list goes on. It doesn’t matter how well a person understands the mathematics of poker machines, there is no freedom to be had except through the exercise of the feet that takes someone away from the pub. Each of our people employed in this role would admit that their working life is always a case of three steps forward and two back but sometimes, sometimes there is the kind of victory from which few would ever turn back. We celebrated this week a woman who finally graduated with an arts degree from university. Photos of this woman in her cap and gown mean more to our Pathways people than their own diplomas and degrees. An achievement ought to be measured by how far a person has come and if the starting point was one where all the odds were stacked against them, then the achievement is all the sweeter. We celebrate this wonderful achievement and now our workers are still walking alongside her and talking about the next step.

This week has been National Reconciliation Week and the theme has been Grounded in Truth. These are strange days in which we live when some parts of the media bring this message in the context of, “what could we possibly lose?” The confounding thing for me is to ponder just what riches we would gain from this week and from the process of reconciliation. I’ve just finished Bruce Pascoe’s book, “Dark Emu” and I think it ought to be compulsory reading for all Australians and especially all school children. Gosh, we’ve been fed such wrong information. We’ve cooperated in a myth of ignorance and fear. It’s not an easy thing to look soberly at our history but now is the perfect moment to begin. I urge you to get the book and read it. It causes me a streak of pain whenever we sing, “Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free”. One of our greatest gifts as a nation is that we are not young. We share this land with the most ancient cultures on earth. The indigenous nations of this land have wisdom we have barely begun to plumb and their skills to live sustainably and in harmony with the animals and plants of this land are yet still a treasure for us, if we have eyes to see it. In this important week, I honour and give thanks to our senior Aboriginal staff person, Will Gordon, who leads a most culturally sensitive, pioneering program here at Wayside. Thanks Will and to your team, you are legends.

That’s about it for this week. Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Jon

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