Dear Inner Circle,

As a young kid growing up in a very white Australian suburb, I didn’t realise what I craved. Australia was a very different place then and I gave my best efforts to an impossible task – fitting in. These efforts were largely a disaster, and I still carry the scars of a ridiculously ocker Aussie accent and an abandoned mother tongue. Realising that I needed to change up my game when blending in was proving unviable, I had to choose between the only two options at my disposal for difference in those days. It was basically “Go hard or go home” – so I chose the former. I would be a clown, entertaining everyone, being the novelty. All of this was to hear what I held to be the apex of compliments, “You’re a top bloke, one of the good ones, I don’t even think of you as Indian”. It was acceptance through abolishment, and I delighted in it. I can’t tell you how much dignity I ceded at times, hollowing out my heritage and cultural self, in this doomed project. It must have broken my parent’s hearts to see me evaluate any mark of difference as a deficiency, instead of a rich source of connection and depth.

Wayside is the place that answers some of my primitive longings. From the moment of walking through the door, you are offered acceptance. It’s a place where troubled souls find rest. It’s a place that delights in the discovery of the richness found within difference. We are proud to welcome everyone with open arms, and this week we dance with our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters to celebrate Mardi Gras. Not too long ago the Gender Centre told us that Wayside is one of the few places in NSW that their clients say that they can feel comfortable being themselves, and we celebrate this diversity.

This week started with a funeral. These are opportunities to carve out time to mark and name the beauty in the lives of people who have touched us. This time we heard the stories of a woman who often took in young transgender women off the streets to care for them. She was a person who always had a heart for the hurting, offering shelter and some much needed “mumming” for kids who mostly just needed a loving embrace. She wasn’t afraid to yell at them too if they needed it. If love is to be open to the presence of another, then disappointment, heartache, harsh words and loving words surely will follow – as they are all part of life.  This was a woman who saw the richness of difference.

On Sunday we had twin 8-year olds march up to the front our little service to present me with a stack of cash. They decided recently that they wanted to do something to help the people experiencing homelessness that they meet at church. These beautiful kids held a stall and raised $556.55!!! They presented a bottle full of cash to the church on Sunday. We seem to be living in a world where the finest leadership is coming from the youngest. I was inspired and entirely blown away by the hearts of these two national treasures. On the topic of national treasures and leadership, we also received a surprise visit at last week’s community lunch from the Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Her Excellency Linda Hurley.  In the past when he was Governor of NSW and our Patron, he would often turn up anonymously at Wayside to volunteer on the front desk of our Community Services Centre, happy to be known simply as “Dave” as he handed out undies and towels to our visitors. Mostly located in Canberra these days, fewer people have busier schedules, and yet these two were here with us, making time for our people, embracing them and asking after them like old friends. When I see these things, I see our mission of “creating community with no ‘us and them'” coming to life before my eyes. I see love in action in the most unexpected ways and remain lifted and inspired.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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