Dear Inner Circle,
Life by the Wayside really has no “typical” week, it moves at the pace of life. Sometimes frenetic, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes serene, and other times rapturous, often all in the same moment. Yesterday, I was drawn into a conversation with a man who, by his own admission was a shadow of his former self. He was so deeply lost that he was in a place where all he could see were the negatives. Learning to be with someone in that space is no small feat. I often remind myself that the phrase, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no ill, for you are with me” does not come with a promise of rescue, just the reassurance of accompaniment. What it doesn’t tell us is that sometimes being an alongsider also means being a holder of the venom that can come from a broken heart. There is a team with love all around him, but he just cannot see it right now.
From this moment I went to visit a man who I consider a brother. As I approached the gates of the prison, I went to the wrong door, and an overzealous perimeter guard yelled at me, “Oi, where are you going? I’m not too tired to chase you!” A stunning thing when you consider he may have thought I was breaking in! I found the correct entry and was soon catching up with my friend over a cup of tea, sharing laughs and struggles. He’s the kind of person who, even after months apart, you can pick up where you left off, without skipping a beat. He told me a tale that would entertain a packed arena, which ended up with him confessing to an undercover policeman about a recent indiscretion. I would have been in stitches, if it hadn’t meant he had breached his parole, and was the reason he was back inside.
As our time ran out, he shared with me an idea he had. The flame had been lit within his heart and he intends to see it through. I have the privilege of hearing a lot of dreams, many are good for the soul and won’t see the light of day but are enough to spark forward momentum in a life. Then there are the rare ones, the pearls that you immediately know can’t be stopped by a road train at full speed. His was the latter and I can’t wait for it to come to come to fruition. From the inside of a prison, he can see clearly life’s possibilities.
On the way home I heard a dull thud as a young man ran into the side of my car to save his tiny dog that had escaped. I pulled over and tried to get him to the hospital, but he limped away as fast as he could, “Sorry about your car, but no cops or hospitals please. I’ll be right.” What a day! I thought I was okay but 20 minutes later I found myself in a stupor, surrounded by a half-eaten bucket of chicken and some burger wrappers. On tough days I eat my feelings and turn to food for healing.
Beyond food there is a deeper hunger for a loving community and being surrounded by lively conversation. On Friday night I joined 50 visitors, staff and vollies for our 7th Annual Slam Poetry Competition and it was just the tonic I needed. It was the full Wayside experience – heart-warming, heartbreaking and truly hilarious. We heard powerfully about the joys of ageing, the desire for love, the disdain for a sympathy that is a “push away” rather than an empathy which is a “move towards”. A man who recently arrived from Iraq joined us for the first time, expecting something familiar from his home, but left in amazement. “This is nothing like I expected, but it was good!” was all he could utter in his broken English. Next time we hold one, please consider coming along and joining in the fun. It’s the best entertainment that money can’t buy!
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Listen to the audio recording here:
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