Thursday, 16 October 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
Laughter is an essential part of Wayside. If you read everything written about Wayside and viewed all the YouTube clips and studied our 50 years of history and weren’t laughing at least some of the time; you would only reveal that you didn’t really get our essence and our mission. We cry a bit and we’re familiar with death and grieving but we laugh. We never laugh at people but we laugh. If our mission was to manage people, laughter would be the first casualty but our mission isn’t focused on fixing or indeed anything that’s short term. Our vision is for a healthy community; a place where everyone belongs; a community with no ‘us and them’. At our best, we laugh at ourselves and declare that you can fail and still be ok.
A normally quiet man approached me a couple of days ago and asked, “Hey Rev, What’s the difference between me and God?” My head was really in the next meeting due to begin in a matter of minutes. “I dunno” I said, “What is the difference?” “Well” he said slowly, “God doesn’t ever seem to imagine that he’s me.” This beautiful man snapped me back into the present moment and I burst into helpless laughter. What a precious man and what a great joke. A fellow in the cafe saw me laughing and stepped over near me. Although he’s struggled for years with mental health issues, he’s an extremely intelligent fellow and has a dry, sharp, sometimes wicked sense of humour. “There was a beautiful young actress that stabbed herself to death last night”. I wasn’t sure now if the conversation had turned serious. “That’s just dreadful” I said, “Who was it?” The man looked around the room like he was trying to recall the name. “Um, um it was Witha… Withas…Withasp…” I said, “Do you mean ‘Withaspoon’” I asked. “No” he said, “With a fork”.
A couple of times a week, corporate teams come here for a ‘charity day’. The other day a group of maybe eight people were here from AMP. I chatted to a couple of them about how the day went for them and they raved about our Marcus. Actually, Marcus has been doing this work for some years and I’ve never once had anything less than a rave review. He spends the morning explaining Wayside, who we are and what we do and some of the issues that are everyday for us but complex and difficult sometimes to understand. Marcus then walks the group around our neighbourhood, pointing out various aspects of Kings Cross and explaining many of the important places and issues along the way. The highlight of the day happens when the team prepare and serve lunch to our community. In that hour the only agenda is to serve lunch and meet people.
Generally we offer a day of engagement that can be truly transformative for people who live in a tidy corporate environment. Many have told me that they have walked into the place a bit concerned and with judgements like, “Why can’t these people work hard just like me”. People find these few hours quite grounding. They meet many people at lunch time and find out that they are just people; good people; cranky people; thankful people; people. Most groups leave here knowing that in their own lives it might have been quite different if not for the support and backing of people in their lives. One lady I spoke to this week said, “This day reminded me of my own past life”. That remark made me a little anxious, “I hope we’ve not caused you to be unsettled”. “Oh no” she said. “It’s made me see how far I’ve come and how much I have in my life”. Maybe you’d have a work team that would like a team building exercise that is a stretch and also fun. Maybe it would do your team good to take their minds off the politics of the office and be reminded that some people sleep on the street and do it pretty hard. If you’d like to arrange a day like this for your team, contact Marcus.Ross@thewaysidechapel.com.
We think the future will be about teaching people to look for business opportunities and learning to apply their labour for profit. There is nothing easy about this project but we have already had some success and witnessed the transformation that takes place when people find they have skills and know how to use them. We’re offering a job right now at Wayside for someone who can help us push this further for us. If you think this is something that you could do and you’d like to be a part of Wayside's team, apply for the Social Enterprises Manager job here.
Late yesterday afternoon I heard a conversation that began, “You better give me my money back you little ‘f*** c**** s***** f****’”. In a unit directly over the road from us lives a man that must be a professional opera singer. He’s a tenor and has a fine, powerful voice. Most days he warms up his voice and sometimes sings some stirring piece of opera. As the conversation yesterday heated up about someone who owed someone else money, the language turned into something that would embarrass a wharfie. But as the language rose, so did the tenor across the road. The beautiful operatic voice stretched to higher and higher notes as the language got bluer and more threatening. I did nothing to intervene. I paused and recognised another funny moment. In a weird way, the amazing voice and the street fight were a perfect combination reminding me that I live and work in one of the most colourful and best communities in this country. All this and free entertainment too!
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,Graham
PS. If you missed the Spring edition of our On the Verge newsletter in the mail, you can view it here.
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?
2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist
21 August: Saving souls
14 August: Squeaking out
7 August: A time for turning
31 July: You're okay
24 July: Happy tears
17 July: Let's aim higher
10 July: Gristle and good
3 July: The joy of not knowing
26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?
12 June: Longing for riches
5 June: When you least expect it
22 May: Finding home
15 May: Flying
8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues
1 May: Skuse the French
24 April: Lifting the curtain
17 April: Collective love
10 April: Cardiac arrest
3 April: Awe struck
27 March: You're invited to something special
20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss
13 March: It's all happening at the wayside
6 March: Love makes all the difference
27 February: What goes around
20 February: The joy of being empty handed
13 February: Loving the growth spurts
6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside
23 January: Some criminals have class
16 January: Wonderful surprises
9 January: Ready, set
19 December: Thanks for an awesome year
12 December: Mission and wishin'
5 December: The ups and downs and all is well
28 November: Kissed by the community
21 November: Our cup runneth over
14 November: A revelation from wayside
7 November: When excrement happens
31 October: I am therefore I think
24 October: We are surrounded by heroes
17 October: When you least suspect
26 September: A wayside wobbly
19 September: Knowing a gift
12 September: Advancing at the retreat
5 September: A little dose of good
29 August: Fighting with a feather
22 August: The boom is just beginning
15 August: True riches
8 August: Small is beautiful
1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views
25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside
18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage
27 June: Holy ground