Dear Inner Circle,

This week, would you believe it, is National Op Shop Week. There really is a week for everything, isn’t there? Many of you would know that our op-shops in Bondi and Kings Cross provide a hub for our community and some of the unsung heroes of Wayside work there. They come in, day-after-day, to perform what to the untrained eye appears to be an exercise in sorting and heavy haulage. What they really are doing is gently reminding us that greatness comes in different forms. Make no mistake, they work long and hard, maintaining smiles on their faces as they sort through mountains of donations with love, care and thoughtfulness – with each pile destined to either be emergency clothing for our visitors, or to be sold in our op shops with all profits going back into providing the support for the people who need it most. One of the highlights of my day is popping in to say good morning to the team, as they have such positive energy, but also to hear the many stories of their encounters with people they meet along the way.

A young woman enters the shop, after years of escape and survival, and after working with our Pathways team, she has proudly received a call up for a job interview. Our Op Shop team gets to work, going above and beyond to find the perfect outfit for her to wear, regardless of what the job is for, to ensure she walks out looking her best and feeling confident. I see a woman emerge, with tears in her eyes and pride in her heart as she strides ahead into her new future feeling at least a foot taller – and with the heels to match.

A young couple nervously comes in, tightly clutching each other’s hands, about to get married but without a cent to their name. Young love rarely does the maths, and neither should it. Our team come to the rescue whisking the bride-to-be out the back to the storeroom, where a secret stash of jewellery, shoes and the not so rare “never used” wedding dresses are stowed away for occasions such as this. They will fuss and fawn over the bride to be, as they kit her out ready for the occasion, make-up and all. Like all good weddings, time seems to slow down as she finally walks down the aisle looking like an angel. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. On one occasion the groom nearly fell over exclaiming, “Who the $&%& is that!?” He was nearly having a heart attack and we were all laughing, at the perfect snapshot of a Wayside Wedding.

I’ve seen them receive clothing from grieving partners who have loved and lost tragically, the items donated with such reverence and care that it has provided comfort. I’ve also seen them keep aside entire wardrobes, that have turned up suddenly at our shop in the case of a sheepish enquiry after a lovers quarrel. I do love that in these more ethically minded days, where wardrobes are carefully donated rather than dumped on the street when indiscretions are discovered!

We have customers who come in daily to our op shops where friendships are forged for a lifetime in this thriving community. For many a lonely shopper, our staff are part-counsellor, part-stylist, part-friend. The door is always open and they are welcome to just “be” without judgement. Greatness lies in the humility of our little op shops, and our staff’s ability to attend, in the middle of chaos, to the young lovers, the not so faithful ones, the grieving spouses, the young professionals, local fashionistas, the unemployed, the struggling – giving kindness and respect in equal measures.

So this week I pay homage to our op shop staff and encourage you to pop in someday for a shop, or to donate, so you can see some of their magic at work. You can find address details and opening hours here.

Thanks for being a part of this Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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