Dear Inner Circle,
Surely the highest honour that could ever be bestowed on me, came last night when
I was the guest of honour at a dinner given for me at Wayside Youth. I was invited
to this event weeks ago and excited kids had been cooking all day. A beautifully
presented meal was placed in front of me and there were a dozen or so young people
sitting at the table. These kids are homeless and the love and thought they put
into every element of this meal was a gesture of paralysing dimensions.
Some acted as waiters, some gathered plates and some washed up while dessert was
prepared. At the table one of these kids said casually, "Mum told me that I was
the mistake of her life". In a tone that belonged to a discussion of the weather,
one after another of these kids echoed, "Yeah, my mum told me that I was the
biggest mistake of her life too". One girl said, "My mum would rather take drugs
and prostitute herself than be my mother. I was placed in care at 6 years old and
I remember it clearly. I was in foster care until I was 11 and then I ran away and
ever since I've been looking after myself on the streets." There was no competition
for sympathy here; indeed all of this was considered by most to be barely worth a
mention. Everyone thanked me for coming to dinner. Two girls told me, "You save
people without knowing it, Graham." "How could that be?" I asked. "Well, you don't
know us but you've saved us by giving us somewhere to be and people to care for us."
I so wished I could have recorded that statement to send to everyone that helped us
get this building up. The achievement is not just the construction of a building,
but that young lives are literally being saved.
It's not just our young people who yearn for the family they never had.
A woman in her late fifties said to me this week, "I want my mum" and it came
from such a deep place that she shook while saying the words. She'd never known
her mother. A fellow in his forties said, sometimes yelling and sometimes sobbing,
"I'd do anything to have either my mum or my dad say, 'well done, I'm proud of you'"
A man told me this week that his father preferred to gratify himself in him,
a kid and his son, rather than with his wife. This is almost too difficult to write.
It's been a week where joy and sadness has been poured out together.
A beautiful man who was volunteering with us yesterday was sharing some
of his story. The conversation covered long, merciless abuse as a child with
stories of sick anger that was cultivated by a sick father and uncles. To hear this
was a violation through my ears. Yet the man is doing well. He is an inspiration to
any who have eyes to see and he spends all of his spare time helping us at Wayside.
He talked of many sessions with psychiatrists and psychologists and how they all
recommend significant medication. I asked him how was it that he is doing so well
and making such a good contribution to life. His face beamed and in his heavy
accent he said, "No psychologist that I've met seems to know that while my past plays
a part in who I am, it is my future that is most formative." I wanted to embrace him and
dance around the table where he was working.
The Wayside Warrior of the Week Award goes to...(drum roll...opening the envelope)
Margaret Butler, Managing Director of Blueprint, which is a trendy gift shop just
around the corner. Blueprint will be donating 20% of all sales from
Thursday 8th, 15th and 22nd December to Wayside as part of their "shop for love"
Christmas campaign. In typically generous style, Margaret will put on prosseco
and panettone for shoppers from 6pm to 9pm each Thursday. Margaret said yesterday,
"Wayside is a big part of our community and it gives us a wonderful sense of
involvement to support Wayside, especially at Christmas." Last year, Blueprint
raised $10,000 for Wayside and they're hoping to do it again this year.
What an uncalled for act of community spirit. Sword on the shoulder,
"Arise, Dame Margaret!"
The way has been light and the way has been heavy. Heavy with meaning!
Thanks so much for being part of our inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
The Wayside Chapel