Dear Inner Circle,

“Lazy Sunday Afternoon” is an expression that carries meaning for me but only in the same way as “flying pigs”, “unicorns” and “level playing fields”. Maybe I’ll live long enough to experience a lazy Sunday afternoon, just as maybe I’ll see this country, one day, act as one to help protect the future of this planet. Until then, Sunday afternoons are spent mostly in our Wayside café where tension, despair, joy and the whole range of human vulnerabilities are often in full view and demanding differing responses from me and our staff…all at once. To sit in our café, can often look like sitting at a table with five or six people outpouring their own version of their own reality – all at the same time. It’s a common experience for one person to have their heart-breaking, one to be laughing, one to be venting, one to be seeking advice, one to be questioning and each face looking expectantly into mine for an appropriate reaction. I sometimes wonder what my face is doing in those moments.

The greatest danger is to allow the chaos, that sometimes reigns or even borders on entertainment, to lull us into sleep or a feeling of complacency.  Regularly amid the competition for oxygen, we see human goodness soar to its highest during acts of kindness – that both humble and inspire. I understand that we all try to make sense of the world through the stories we tell. We are storytelling creatures. In fact, I think it would be far more accurate to describe us “homo-narratios” than “homo-sapiens”. It’s a process that is not necessarily related, in any simple way, to facts of history. Rather, it is a process where people are looking to find their own personhood and their own place in this complex world. In our café last Sunday afternoon, I heard a fellow say, “That’s it! I’m done with it all!” That sentence could be said in a way that indicates nothing but a passing feeling, or alternatively, it can be said in a way that stops the world. On Sunday it was clearly said in the life-altering way. Not all at the table heard this cry, but one fellow did. He invited his friend into a quiet corner away from the table and there I heard him deliver a warm, life-affirming rebuke in a gentle way, reminding him of how far he’d come in the past ten years. Sometimes a reminder like that is all that is required.

I think we are “homo-naratios” on a national level too. There is a deep link between narrative, identity and memory. Some parts of our history we are told to forget and get over, while other events we are told we must keep alive, lest we forget. Acknowledging events can strengthen identity if we can learn to see them as a marker of progress and healing. A denial of events, on the other hand, can lead to the pathology of the bully, fooling ourselves into thinking we are much tougher than we really are, but actually leaving us weaker. We still have much to learn from each other.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

PS. Just a little loving reminder that Valentine’s Day is next week. If you are looking for a meaningful gift this year, why not spread the love and give the gift of dignity by donating to keep Wayside’s socks and undies stocked throughout the year for the people in who need it most. Please donate so that we’ll have clean undies in sizes that work for everyone.

In return, if you choose, we will send your loved one a ‘Nothing says “I love you” like a clean pair of undies…!’ card. Donate here.

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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