The Gift of Foolishness

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Dear Inner Circle, 

Sometimes it is hard not to be overawed and overwhelmed with the legacy of the people who have been a part of Wayside Chapel over the course of our approaching (in 2024) 60 year story. I have to confess that some mornings the old imposter’s voice still gets a run in my head, though usually silenced by an espresso, age has taught me to make peace with him and use his critique as an invitation to choose contribution over cowardice. There are many good teachers and books that encourage us to embrace the gifts of courage, vulnerability and imperfection. Well, let me share with you my unique gift of stupidity. 

Sunning ourselves in the courtyard “horseshoe” area outside Wayside the other day was a small crowd. Amongst us was a new and nervous face standing quietly to the side as the conversations began to flow. In an attempt to draw him into our conversation I noticed that his brand new shoes looked just like a pair I had recently been eyeing off. “Nice shoes, brother, where did you get them from?” The courtyard suddenly fell silent for what seemed like a Wayside eternity (three seconds) only to be broken by an outburst of laughter from everyone there except me. A good friend slapped my arm, “Oh Jon, how have you even existed to this point, mate? Take another look at him!” The joke was rippling outwards and more laughter was erupting all around me as I was sitting in the middle none the wiser. Then I looked again at the man, and realised he was in a fresh prison outfit, wearing prison issue shoes that everyone there but me recognised in an instant. “Oh no! Sorry bro,” I uttered as he joined in the laughter, my head now in my hands. Another Wayside regular added, “Yeah welcome mate, that’s the man in charge of this place, he’s pretty cluey hey?”

In embarrassment I leapt to make amends. One of our compassionate team had kindly brought out a pair of jeans for him that I noticed were way too big, and in that I sensed a moment of redemption was possible. I leapt into action and ushered them both aside and made my way towards our front desk, “Let’s get him a pair that actually fits OK?” They both stopped and shared a fresh laugh, “No need, I am going to wear these over my trackies to keep me warm in the park where I’ll sleep tonight.” When will I ever learn that the best way out of a hole is to stop digging?

As the tension broke, an open sharing about prison and sleeping rough ensued, and this man’s face visibly relaxed as he recognised he was in just the right place and amongst company who understood his plight. Well, all except perhaps for one! As he fell into the conversation someone brought out a leather notching tool to add a few holes to a belt that could fit the oversized jeans. A few women nearby joked “That woulda made a great weapon to protect me when I was on the street!” To which a friend added “I didn’t need any weapons to keep me safe on the streets, my moods kept me safe every time!” More roaring laughter was shared. My heart both broke and warmed at all that had just transpired. In that moment I realised that my contribution to this moment of building a community of solidarity was to provide it with a foundation of naivety.  

Sometimes all it takes to make someone feel connected is to be a fool, and I am often happy to unintentionally oblige. In the midst of another heavy news and election cycle I thought it best we keep this week’s note a little lighter than usual.

Thanks for being a part of our Inner Circle,


Rev. Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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