Dear Inner Circle,
Has Easter died? That’s been a question weighing on my heart for a while now. There is a sudden realisation that the world is radically connected. As never before, we have seen that the behaviour of just one effects all. On the downside, if ever there is a squabble in a supermarket aisle, someone captures it on their mobile phone and the media present it to us as typical; when what is really emerging behind the scenes are gentle acts of kindness that are small enough to knock on a door and big enough to change someone’s world.
Australia is taking this situation seriously. Massive numbers are isolating themselves. It’s not just fear of ill health but genuine concern for others. Many are caring for older people or young children or people whose health is already compromised. For all of you remaining at home to care, you are making the compassionate and courageous choice. Who would have thought that an act of love would be to forgo giving your child the opportunity to embrace their grandparent? I have spoken with many grandparents who are not afraid of death but have refrained from connection as they do not want their grandchild to bear the burden of guilt if they infect them. That’s the decision we face now. In our efforts to be a part of the cure, we all bear within us the doubt that we may indeed bear within us the problem, no matter how noble our intentions.
There is serious pressure on Wayside Chapel to shut. Most places who serve the poorest in the city have already shut and people who need a shower and a change of undies; who are looking for affordable food; or who need human support through these bewildering days, have worked out that Wayside is their only option. There is a quantum increase in the demand on our staff and services just as they, too, are concerned for their health, becoming fastidious about sanitising hands and keeping physical distance to meet all the health guidelines. This perfect storm has seen hundreds of our older volunteers isolate for good reason, as we have told them to stay home. Those who remain on our frontline are coping with a double workload and half the horsepower, yet twice the heart. A week ago we sat together in our hall and when I presented our team with what is facing us, they all stood together in unison and responded with a resounding “yes we can” moment. They stood to choose love over fear, and in doing so they chose life over death for the people we serve.
But will Wayside shut? I guess the day we stop expecting soldiers to protect others for the good of all, we’ll shut. Perhaps when all health workers decide to self-isolate rather than follow their destiny to bring health to the community, we’ll shut. There are always some who will run to fight the fire while everyone, understandably and rightly, run away. Wayside will take every precaution, yet we’ll continue to serve the most vulnerable. The humanity of us all depends on it.
We have certainly changed how we serve. In the mornings it is all about hot showers, emergency care, clean clothes and then takeaway lunches for the ever-growing number of hungry bellies arriving for support. Then in the afternoons we hit the phones and the streets. Our teams have given compassion legs and are now visiting those who are trying their best to isolate but for whom the waves of loneliness are causing a burden that is threatening to tip them back on to the streets – or even their existence. Our teams deliver care packs but their real gift is their presence, that through a fly screen door or from across a driveway says “You are not forgotten, you are loved, hold on!” As a beautiful and wise friend reminded me this week, “This is not survival of the fittest – it is about the strength of the connected”.
I want to express my sincere thanks for the donations we have received so far towards our Emergency Appeal. The very fact that you are thinking of others, at what is a difficult time for us all, speaks volumes of your kindness and commitment to your community. And for that, I thank you. For others who haven’t given yet, I ask that you make a small sacrifice to keep our workers and homeless community supported throughout this crisis. I ask that you continue to stand with us to choose love over fear, life over death and donate if you can to our Emergency Appeal now.
Thank you for your kindness, our beloved Inner Circle.