Dear Inner Circle,

It’s good to be back at the beginning of another year with you. Whilst this is the first note of the year it certainly isn’t the first time that we have been open. We haven’t closed at all throughout the entire Christmas and New Year period thanks to you. Through your generosity, our wonderful staff and volunteers have kept our doors open for those who’ve needed it most, every day through what can be a very difficult period. I am grateful to all of you who worked, volunteered and supported us so generously. Every day lately we have met new faces, some fresh, most not so fresh. You can take comfort in the fact that people have been made to feel welcome when they have had nowhere else to go, and have found a community with open arms. Thank you also to everyone who made our Christmas Day celebrations in Kings Cross and Bondi possible – from those who turned up to those who gave their time. My gratitude for you knows no bounds.

Holidays have always had a way of laying bare what lies closely beneath the surface of life. A gentleman made an appointment to see me over the New Year’s period which was quite unusual. He showed up in a tailor-made suit and as we exchanged niceties he proceeded to list out his successes in life and talk about the harbour views he enjoyed as a result of them. “I used to think I was better than all those people sleeping on the street, but last week I came home to find that my wife and son had left me, she’s been warning me for a while that she was going to leave, but I just wasn’t listening. I was too busy providing what I thought they needed, but I realise now it was what I needed. My house is now empty, and I am empty. If home is where the heart is then I have no home, just like the guys sleeping in the park”. 

So often people point out of my office window to some of our visitors below and tell me how they “know” they shouldn’t be unhappy, because they think they have so much more than those living on the streets. This strikes me as peculiar, as often the people being pointed out are having a great time, having learnt how to find joy in the midst of suffering. Living in an “us and them” world creates false distinctions that separate us. There is no correct formula for a good life. We should focus our efforts on framing a new conversation that moves away from the “shoulds and oughts” to the quality of our lives. The year has opened with another celebrity tragedy and we mourn for her. If there is any lesson to be learned from this it is perhaps that, no matter how much we own, or how much power we have, or how great we look, when you get lost in the dark, none of it provides any light. We desperately need a new conversation. We need more places where there is no “us and them”. As we celebrated together at our Christmas Day Street Party there was incredible joy as the dividing walls came down and we couldn’t tell “who was who” in a conga line going up and down Hughes Street and it didn’t matter anyway. There was simply the unbridled joy of dancing together. That’s the power of Wayside, we aren’t a crisis centre, we are a centre at the heart of the community with a heart for the whole community, and there is life to be found by the Wayside. 

A man picking flowers out of a bench
The run to the end of last year was a hectic one but thankfully amidst it all there were moments that grounded me. I arrived for a TV interview with one of my daughters in tow (probably to impress her).  I was early and struck up a great chat offline with the sports reporter and together we analysed the state of test cricket. He agreed with my impressions and joked that he should interview me as well. After the interview about Wayside’s Christmas I headed to the car with my daughter. The sports reporter bounded up to my car, no doubt, I thought for a fleeting second, to make me an offer. Breathless, he looked me straight in the eye, “I’m here, please don’t drive off, sorry I’m late”. As we spoke a car pulled up behind us, “Sorry mate, I thought you were the Uber Eats guy.” There wasn’t even the slightest recognition that we’d only be talking moments before in the studio. My teenager burst out laughing, “Oh dad, that’s the best thing ever…can I have some butter chicken please?!”

Thanks for being part of the Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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