On a trip to country NSW recently, one of our Board members, wearing a Wayside t-shirt, fell into a conversation with a local businessman. He told a story about how once when he was away from the supports of family while studying at university, he had slipped into difficult days. A family tragedy played a part in a fall to homelessness. He then told a story of how Wayside Chapel in Bondi was the place that he found love and support and how it became his oasis and turning point. A new and successful life had begun because Wayside was in the right place at the right time for him.
A different businessperson contacted me to say that instead of arranging a boozy Christmas party this year, his team agreed that they would invest in people who spent their season serving others. He explained that he too had a mid-life crisis. “It’s easy to get speed wobbles while in mid-life” he had said. His wobble was far more serious than the standard phenomenon and so this story might easily have turned into a tragedy. He told how he had been in Kings Cross and found love and support from our people. For this man, Wayside was again, the right people in the right place at the right time. Now with a beautiful family and at the helm of a successful business, he wanted to help us do what we do for others.
This week we gathered around a dear brother. This gentle soul had a long life of struggle and his final struggle was with cancer. From a young age, this fellow was in Kings Cross, caught up with all that comes with addiction and ducking and weaving around cops like Roger Rogerson in those days. He lived in squats, brothels, parks, and the street. For him Wayside had been the only place in all his years where he didn’t have to look over his shoulder and where he could eat a meal, have a shower and find some peace. No one judged him at Wayside for his sexuality or his appearance. To my surprise he said, “I could always come to Wayside and pray!”
His battle with cancer ended a couple of days ago. When I visited his death bed, a nurse said to me, “You’re from Wayside right?” I guess my t-shirt was a bit of a clue. “You people haven’t stopped visiting this bloke. As soon as one leaves, another one of you show up!” His last days were spent surrounded by love. Some sang our favourite songs like, “There Is None Like You”. Some prayed. Some just held his hand until he took his last breath. Many kissed his forehead and thanked him for his life.
So, since the 1960s, Wayside has aimed to be present for people when they fall. Do we have any guarantee that the chances we take will deliver good human outcomes? None! Do we lose more battles than we win? Probably! But Wayside will always rise in the face of challenges, just because it’s right whether we win, lose, or draw. The stories of love prevailing over self-hate are a tonic but we’ll continue to embrace ‘love over fear’ especially this Christmas season.
Last Christmas none of us had any inkling that the strange flu-like cluster reported overseas would impact our world, leading to a tomorrow none of us could have imagined. Many will not be with family, some perhaps ever again. Our hearts are with you. May the hole in your heart be filled with the unexpected. I’ll leave the last word of 2020 to Leonard Cohen, from a hymn we live into on a daily basis here, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. Love can never be regulated, it can only be received. I suspect that’s the lesson that a teenager’s unexpected pregnancy can teach us. That is my prayer for you tomorrow, my beautiful Inner Circle, thank you for another rollercoaster year from our gutters to your ears.
Wishing you all a safe and happy season. I’ll write again in the New Year.
Pastor & CEO