Dear Inner Circle,
Many years ago, my wife Lisa and I found ourselves in a season where we were taking a lot of young people into our home as they were entering the last leg of the HSC. Many were the first in their family to attempt this feat, and bravely realised that they needed an environment where they could focus to achieve their dreams.
One girl who stayed with us we knew was destined for greatness, all she needed was the right environment to flourish. So Lisa tutored her and fed her and loved her through her final years of high school. They weren’t all smooth sailing, fair to say that when she first came to us, she had never heard of the concept of house rules, and tested nearly all of them out to see if they were real. One night during a bout of insomnia I found her sneaking back into the house. She was startled to see me, and when asked what she was up to, quick as a flash smiled and said, “I needed a morning jog!” We laughed but I expressed doubt that the heels she was wearing were the best running gear for her feet.
We stood together through thick and thin, and she is now navigating the challenges of having a young family with a career. We keep in touch these days and she recently called just to let us know that what she appreciates most about those years wasn’t the tuition, the food, or even the roof over her head, it was simply that “You kept showing up for me”.
There is a hidden value to showing up, it is a form of resistance to a world that seems hellbent on enshrining our feelings as the arbiter of our actions. Showing up is an act, and the actions of love, often precede the feelings. I think anyone who has lived with someone through their HSC can attest to this truth. The finest leaders keep showing up for others, through their best and worst. I see it every day as our team leaders plan how to support each person who comes to Wayside.
Life rarely unfolds in the way we envision. Despite our best laid plans, our journeys have a knack for asserting themselves, veering off into unexpected paths. This week I had the privilege of meeting a friend who has been coming to Wayside for as long as he can remember, as it’s a place that has become a touchstone in his life. He once wisely observed, “No one dreams of being homeless and on the streets when they grow up.” Showing up for him has meant that as his own plans crumbled, almost on a daily basis, there was a place he could always return to and be greeted with a smile – even if he couldn’t muster one in return. I would like to tell you what an amazing life he now leads, but that would be dis-ingenuous and disrespectful to him and his unique path. He, in his own words, is “doing okay, and from where I’ve been, ‘okay’ is f*#%ing brilliant, bro.”
This same spirit of resilience echoes in the story of our much-loved Byron Gray, whose journey of recovery has touched us all. His path was arduous, with memories of waking up on platform 18 at Redfern Station in the depths of addiction, before he came in for a cuppa at Wayside last year, and in his own words, “never left”.
Showing up can lead to remarkable transformations. Fast forward to now, and Byron has come a long way. He’s still housed, he’s got a job working on a boat, and is also giving back to his community through volunteering. As he marks 21-months of sobriety, he’s celebrating by taking on yet another endeavour — running the City2Surf for the first time as part of Team Wayside. Please get behind him in his challenge, I know he’d love your support.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Listen to the audio recording here: