Dear Inner Circle,

The harshest punishment the State can inflict upon someone is solitary confinement. Hundreds of years of this practice have shown that few minds can endure this punishment for long. Loss of community is a particularly devastating loss. Plenty of agencies provide food or other emergency provisions, but not many create community. The worst aspect of our pandemic is the effect on the mental health of so many people who relied on us, not just for food or a morning shower but for companionship. Nothing is more human than a conversation. Even the kind of harsh or mad conversations that are a feature of this place are a serious deprivation. “You low-life f, where’s the f’n $10 you f’n well owe me”, although offensive to some, is still the beginning of a conversation. The loss of conversation, the loss of small talk, is a deprivation. “How’s your cat?”, “How’s that pain in your back?”, “Did you sort the issue with police?” and the like are the stuff of life. The deprivation is being felt by the whole Wayside community, including visitors, staff, volunteers, and including me.

There was one good news meeting for me this week. A phone call led to a quick arrangement to meet in an outdoor café. I was met by a young mother who last time we met was a lost little girl. From the first minutes we met I could see that the young woman was vibrant and alive, enjoying motherhood, confident to look me in the eye and keen to tell me her story. It seems this flower began to bloom when she fell in love with the right person. Gosh, how often have I observed that it’s all about with whom someone falls in love. There is a kind of attachment that aids and abets a person’s demise or there is the kind that allows a person to “be” and to flourish. Relationships seem to aim down or up. It’s really that simple. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but to know someone who sees you, knows you, and loves you, regardless of your faults, makes all the difference. The evidence was right before my eyes as this young mum cared for her little one and told me of her new life.

Here is a cracker of a story. Someone phoned to tell me that a 6-year-old neighbour of one of our volunteers, knocked on the front door, asking if he could borrow a Wayside T-shirt. His school was having a “Dress as a super-hero” day, and he thought a Wayside tee would do the job for him, even if it was big enough to be a dress. I want to meet this little kid and give him the smallest T-shirt we have. I love him for choosing not the kind of heroics that “leaps over tall buildings, faster than a speeding bullet, fighting the never-ending battle for truth and justice etc” but the kind of heroics that are never accompanied by fanfare and brass bands. I know our Wayside T-shirt is cool, but I’m keen to meet a kid who thinks servanthood, humanity, and volunteering are more heroic than Superman.

I wanted to let you know that next week is National Op Shop Week and in celebration Wayside Chapel has officially launched our online Op Shop nationally today. I’m really proud to announce that stylist, actor, model, sustainability advocate, and long-time supporter Christian Wilkins has just come on board as Wayside Chapel’s new ambassador! He appeared on Studio 10 this morning to let you know that you can browse our eclectic, affordable, quality, pre-loved, high-end fashion collection online, knowing that every dollar spent goes back to Wayside Chapel’s programs and services to support our community. Support us by shopping our collection here.

October to Christmas is always a sprint at Wayside. I need to rest up to finish this crazy year, as best I can. I’m taking a couple of weeks off and will take a break from this note while I’m away and hope that if I can get a quick camping trip in with my daughter, then I’ll be one lucky dad.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

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