Dear Inner Circle,

“This is the place where you are welcome, this is the place where you are loved.” This message is the most important and the hardest one to deliver in a lockdown where public health requirements and personal connection intersect, often in tension. Every interaction has the capacity to build up or tear down worlds, and our frontline staff know that all too well as they meet all who come here. The law guides us but love leads us. Every decision being made through this time is done through the lens of asking the question “What would love do?”

There have been noticeably more calls for care and support through this lockdown. For Sydneysiders, I don’t think our psyches were prepared for this one. So love leads us to reach out. Today I was with someone who had sought my pastoral care. From the moment we met masked up in my office, he couldn’t stop telling me “I shouldn’t be…”. He was referring to the fact, that, even though he had suffered great losses, and still had a job and a nice apartment, he was struggling. He kept on waving in the general direction of the line-up of people waiting for a shower and a meal outside as a gesture of those who he thought were more deserving. If there is one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that it is important to never “should” on yourself. Loss is loss and it hurts, regardless of what someone else is experiencing. Mental health struggles do not discriminate. I recently read an analogy that we aren’t all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm. Some boats are big and some are small. Big boats get stuck and need small boats to guide them out, and small boats require the shelter of the bigger ones. We are in need of each other.

I was with someone else today who has received a terminal diagnosis after years on the streets, knowing that her already worn-out body will only accelerate her demise. Fully vaccinated, with a mask on and a pastoral licence, we hugged and marked a precious moment when she broke the news. She has lived all her life with shame. Whilst shame is socially prescribed, it is internally held, so the act of acceptance, of “other-acceptance” over “self-acceptance”, is what holds the ultimate power to heal shame. I silently prayed that she experienced a little healing of her shame in our moment together.

I am constantly amazed at the capacity to love and forgive the small and sometimes not so small altercations that can occur during the difficult moments we are all sharing in Sydney. As I headed home the other night I was walked to the train station by someone who had just been yelling at me earlier in the day. “I know youse love me, which is why I feel ok to lose my cool sometimes, just remember I f&*n luv youse all too.” What would love do? Sometimes it’s to be a safe harbour where people can fall apart knowing they can be loved back to life.

Thanks for being part of our loving Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen

Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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