Dear Inner Circle
Yesterday a small group came together to scatter the ashes of a precious member of the Wayside Chapel community in Bondi. His name was Jimmy and he’d been around for as long as anyone can remember. If you’re a Bondi local, you might have seen him busking on Hall Street, making his harmonica sing, or careening around, carefree on his bike.
Jimmy wasn’t just a member of our community; he was a part of its heartbeat. Though he found himself estranged from his 12 siblings, we were touched that one of his brothers joined us at the memorial service held in our Bondi chapel in July. He expressed gratitude to the Wayside family for embracing Jimmy throughout the years.
Today, I wanted to share some reflections penned by Jacq, a community service worker from Wayside Bondi, who had the privilege of knowing Jimmy well.
“A free spirit, Jimmy chose to live in a cave, metres from the sea. He’d sleep at night to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks and wake to the sunrise, visiting Wayside Bondi daily for meals and a shower. Milk and four sugars – everyone knew his coffee order. He was always on the lookout for the perfect pair of jeans and had an eye for a sharp snazzy shirt. Regular volunteers knew which donations to set aside for Jimmy.
Allocated one the few precious lockers reserved for rough sleepers to store their valuables, Jimmy used his to store his collection of rocks and pieces of sea glass. They were special to him, and he would cradle one in his hand examining every nook and cranny as though it were a jewel.
Jimmy had a heart attack and after a stint in hospital he turned up again in Bondi where staff found him lying on the ground outside the gate. Attempts to find him suitable housing were unsuccessful, Jimmy was not one to be ‘caged’, and some months later he was found beside his bicycle having had a stroke. He was no longer able to live at his beloved Bondi Beach and was moved to a care home where – despite losing his ability to speak – he persuaded someone to drive him to Wayside Bondi every week to hang out with the visitors and staff. Occasionally he would attempt an escape for the beach, manoeuvring his wheelchair down the street or persuading someone to push him.
He usually came on a Wednesday and enjoyed a game of bingo with old friends who looked out for him, pushing his chair to the table with the best view, helping to mark off the numbers when his hands wouldn’t obey him and always ensuring that he won a prize. Jimmy would give away his prizes to friends and to other residents in the care home – usually hoping to trade for cigarettes. The care home staff were at a loss to understand how some of the residents were obtaining packets of Tim Tams, smart new beanies and even a cute little model combi van.
It’s valuable to remember that many of our visitors have families – children, siblings, parents – who, for various reasons, can’t assist their loved one and rely on the support Wayside provides. Our care for one person, touches the lives of countless others.”
We all have our unique paths, and yet, there’s an interconnectedness in our journeys. It’s stories like Jimmy’s, shared by those like Jacq, that remind us of why we are all here, why Wayside exists, and the difference that genuine care, love and community can make.
We’re grateful to you for sharing in our joys, our losses, and our collective stories. Wayside is richer and warmer because of each of you.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
P.S Reflecting on Jimmy’s journey, it becomes evident how vital your support is to people experiencing homelessness and social isolation. Please consider showing some love to those doing the 28km Long Walk Home on 7 October, like our inspiring visitor ambassador, Scott. You can read more about Scott’s story and sponsor his efforts/donate to his walk here.