Thursday, 20 March 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
Not 20 minutes ago a young, good looking man was sitting out the front of Wayside. As I went past I asked him how he was doing. “You didn’t care about me the last time we talked,” he said. I’m pretty certain I’d never set eyes on this fellow before. I sat next to him and asked how I’d disappointed him. “I needed help, I needed advice and you didn’t give it,” he said. The anger eventually left him and I sat talking to a sad and unwell man. A profoundly disturbed young man has found himself in a world that makes no sense. All of his relationships have broken down and he is truly alone and sleeping rough. Our workers are on it as I write and I hope to hear soon that they’ve found the right path for him. He’s someone’s boy.
Our homeless population in this city is dramatically increasing. The City of Sydney has reported a 26% increase of people sleeping rough in the past 12 months. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had government ministers visiting homeless shelters and talking about abolishing homelessness altogether. Could homelessness be eradicated? Of all the problems facing modern western democracies, surely this ought to be one of the simplest to sort. Compared to putting human beings on the surface of the moon or making progress with climate change, putting a roof over everyone’s head should be relatively easy.
The problem is in understanding the cause of homelessness. The trouble is that we are blinded to the real cause by our fashionable tendency to blame victims of ills for the ills themselves. It’s clearly the fault of homeless people themselves. They should take responsibility for their own lives. Gosh that’s easy to say! The problem is that “responsibility” is a noun that describes the activity of “responding”. In an interesting verbal double flip, we excuse ourselves from responding to homeless people and then blame them for their lack of responsibility. I am not arguing that the community should supply homeless people all they need without effort on their part but I am arguing that “connection” is the key.
We create homelessness. We don’t desire homelessness but we create it by what we desire. It’s pretty clear that what we desire is ever increasing inequity. By any measure the gap between the rich and poor grows relentlessly. Does this happen by accident? Is some kind of Darwinian force of the strongest grinding the weakest into the ground at play here? Or is it just what we want? I promise you that we will get what we want. We’ll reward the super rich; we’ll watch executive pays skyrocket while ordinary pays are diminished. We’ll make welfare payments to the super rich and we’ll cut the poor from benefits where we can and all of our ills will be laid at the feet of the poor. Our shock jocks and our shock journalists will keep pouring venom on those who can’t defend themselves and we’ll learn to despise those we refused to help. Fasten your seat belts, this could get ugly.
So you, our inner circle, are the hope of this country. I urge you to cling to a high view of our culture and of our shared human goodness. I urge you to get out your feather and fight. Insist that by doing what is right and humane, we build a country and a culture worthy of our children and our grandchildren. Hold on tight. We must resist our current trend that is turning our familiar “fair go” into a message of “f’n go” or “get out of my sight”. It isn’t just refugees who will be banished. If our leaders deny humanity, it will be up to us to rescue it, insist upon it, see it and bring it to being. My beloved inner circle, we’ve got a job in front of us.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
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