Inner Circle


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Dear Inner Circle,

It doesn’t matter how hard you squeeze a sweet fruit, it will never yield bitter juice. My dear old Mum didn’t know who we were when we visited last week but she lovingly accepted the attention that appeared to be in her honour. We sang her “happy birthday” and talked a little about the achievement of her 90 years and then we asked her to say a few words. She really struggles to find any words but she said, “The good life comes from being ‘terrible’ in little things and ‘terrible’ in big things”. She clearly wanted the word, “thankful”. The message was clear enough. In some ways, the greatness of this lady is still seen even in a frail 90-year-old with advanced dementia.

All my life Mum filled our home with stray people. She collected the people that no one else wanted to know and she loved them. As kids we knew that Mum’s love for us was never diminished but that we were not the centre of the universe and that it was not going to kill us to make room for her stray people. Ken was one of Mum’s strays. Ken was a gentle man who loved cricket and was a walking encyclopaedia of cricket history but almost impossible to communicate with on any other topic. I met Ken thirty years after he’d been part of our home. All those years later all Ken could talk about was the kindness he’d known in my home. Even his gestures and words were from my home. It became obvious to me that while my brothers and I found it a bit of a chore, when Ken visited our house, Ken came home. Merri was another stray who visited our house often. I loved Merri and she loved me. Dear, intelligent, creative, Merri. Years later when I heard that Merri had taken her own life, I was heartbroken. I knew that in the years when Merri was in the company of my Mum, that she had a Mum. I knew that when she was in our home, she had a home. Some of the people who visited our home were lovable and some were really difficult to love; people who were “problems” wherever they went but “people” in our home. The story of Ken and Merri, and hundreds more is the legacy of this confused 90-year old-woman who is still today, “thankful for little things and thankful for big things”.

Sitting in our cafe the other night, I witnessed the change from our Community Services Team to our Twilight Team. It happened to be a rather difficult day. We’d had more than our fair share of raised voices and fights over nothing much. On days like that people often blame the full moon but the truth is we really have no idea why some days are so hard. By 5pm people were tired and fed up. Suddenly our Twilight staff appeared wearing coloured wigs and silly hats and began organising a bingo game. It would be hard to imagine a more difficult crowd to work with than this tired and cranky group. At this time of day, those who don’t have a bed in a hostel or somewhere safe to sleep have no chance of finding one and are left feeling anxious about the night ahead. I fell in love again with people who worked this crowd and transformed it into a bingo game and eventually a laughing crowd. Our best breakthroughs happen in odd moments. Sometimes they happen while our hands are dipped into the garden upstairs; sometimes they happen in cooking classes; sometimes they happen in a bingo game. I saw people who were cranky with each other begin to enjoy each other’s company. I share this for the primary reason of saying, “thank you”. We have no funding source for the Twilight Team and many of you gave generously during our Christmas appeal to ensure we could continue the program this year. Thank you for making this wonderful work, quietly transforming people’s lives every night, possible.

A few years ago we released a coffee table book called, “Stories from the Wayside”. It’s a book of beautiful pictures taken by some of this city’s best photographers. I looked at it again this week in the company of one of our staff members and as we turned the pages we were both quickly recalling stories. You can flick a page in a moment and recall a story that would take a month to tell. We both had a sense of the privilege that was ours to have shared in so much. At the same time we were saddened to flick the pages and say, “They’ve gone now” over and over. At least a third of the people pictured in the book are now deceased. Wayside is a place where the fluidity of life is stark reality. It probably helps us to make the most of our moments because you really never know around here when your meeting with someone will be their last. Some might find this depressing but I find it rich and rewarding and a gift that keeps me awake. We’ve probably got 50 copies of this beautiful book left. It would make a beautiful gift and you can buy it here.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Rev Graham Long

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

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Previous Inner Circles


19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory


18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

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

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given



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