On our eldest daughter’s first birthday, we baked her a cake not fit for human consumption and gifted her a roll of wrapping paper. It might sound a bit mean, but you have never seen a kid have more fun; she rolled around and squealed as paper was ripped, slobbered on, and perhaps ingested a little. Many cultures attach deep significance to first birthdays, gathering en masse to shower a child with love and gifts that symbolise their intentions and hopes for their future of the child.
On Sunday a group of about 20 Waysiders met at Bondi Beach to celebrate a different kind of birthday; a last birthday party. A dearly loved brother is in a grim fight with cancer and the doctors have ceased treatment. You wouldn’t know it from speaking with him, he is so full of life. We surrounded him in love and in Wayside fashion sang a song that expresses how precious he is to us. One of our angels, Bronwyn, must have worked most of the night to make sure there was a tablecloth, beautiful homemade cake, and flowers for the table. The ibises and seagulls bore witness to a party filled with moving tributes and a response fit for 10 lifetimes. We then sang a “happy birthday” that gained the attention of most of the people on the beach. A healthy, wonderful celebration with chips, potato scallops, and cake.
Our birthday boy is also our hero who has emerged from the depths of despair and risen to the heights of love. Whenever anyone is tempted to lose hope, I always point to him, our dear James, for whom a life of vicious addiction has been overcome. Good news stories have been rather crowded out of our consciousness so ponder this story of hope and change. Even though the end of life looms nearby, there is no despair here but just gratitude for life and the satisfaction of victory that a smooth, comfortable life would never yield.
This week we also buried Colleen Ellicott. Colleen has been married to her husband Bob for 70 years and together they have been a key part of Wayside since the early 1970s. Bob was Federal Attorney-General in Malcolm Fraser’s government and even when his life ran at that pace, still the Ellicott’s were loyal to Wayside as their church, their community, and as the edgy place that loved so much where people from all walks of life met as one. Colleen was one of those old-fashioned Methodist ladies who no matter what bright idea Bob and others had, would work behind the scenes, doing whatever it took to make it a success. We cheered for a life well-lived and we wept with a beautiful man who just lost his life partner. You can’t meet Bob without being amazed at the people he’s met, the places he’s been, and the events of history in which he played an important part. He told me the other day, “When I met Grace Kelly, her beauty almost caught my breath but then I looked right beside me at Colleen and thought that no-one could match the beauty of my wife.” Wow!
Finally, I am delighted to announce that Long Walk Home, the fundraising walk for Wayside Chapel is back for 2020. Long Walk Home is all about putting ourselves in the shoes of people experiencing homelessness, who can walk up to 28km or more in a week, walking from service to service, looking for shelter, or just a safe place to sleep. The event motivates us to walk this distance so they don’t have to. Whilst last year’s Long Walk Home saw 500 people meet in Parramatta Park before walking the 28km to Kings Cross throughout the night, now due to COVID, this isn’t possible. That is why this year, the event will be virtual, encouraging all keen walkers to lace up your sneakers, and hit the pavement over the 7 days from Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November. You can walk a solo challenge, or grab a friend or two and walk a path of your choosing – I’m going to walk with my kids. You can tackle it however you like – 4km a day over the 7 days, try up to 10km each day over three days, or some enthusiastic walkers are doing the whole 28km in one night! It’s completely free to register and you can fundraise to ensure that Wayside is able to keep our doors open for all people in need. If you are able, I embolden you to challenge yourself and sign up here at www.longwalkhome.com.au and share it with your friends, family, and networks. I look forward to walking with you (virtually) once more!
Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,