This week our little chapel was packed as we buried a man who spent the better part of his adult life living on the streets. There were people from all walks of life crammed in, all eager to share their memories of how this man had changed and enriched their lives. He was born a refugee in a war-ravaged Europe, arriving in Australia, only to be removed from home and made a ward of the state soon afterwards for truanting from school. Ultimately, when you consider what it must be like, living on the streets, you could be forgiven for thinking that his life was full of mistrust and misery. However, the tributes, the music, the tears and the laughter were more heart-felt than I’ve heard for any person…and I’ve been to many funerals. So many told stories of a man who changed their lives and challenged their notions of what it means to live a good life. He did not do this through an ideology, but through a life well lived. One companion from the park wept as he shared how this man had awakened his long dormant ability to trust people again. In the words of the man himself, “If I can do something and it is the right thing to do, then I will do it”. He didn’t explain anything; he didn’t preach truth, he just lived it. I’m not easily surprised but this day touched the deepest places in my heart.
Taking a snap shot of someone in a moment and calling it the whole movie creates a theory of someone in our minds. Often our theory bears no resemblance to the person but we use it to justify our actions and inaction and it perhaps bolsters our sense of just how clever we can be. This happens in families just as much as it happens to people we walk past in the street. If we are lucky, our theory of someone can collapse and we are free to meet them without judgement and love them where they are at in their life at that moment. At Wayside we work hard not to develop any such theories. Our energies are better invested in seeking to love people and fighting hard to never give up on anyone. Recently someone I now consider a sister shared with me how on her worst days, she challenged all those around her to love her and they rose to the challenge. She is a new person, “I’m no longer driven by the past but drawn by the future.” Breathtaking. How lucky am I to find my life by the Wayside!
You are a pretty special inner circle,
Pastor & CEO