19
Apr
2018
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Dear Inner Circle,

How does someone embrace life when a ghost lurks within, pointing out the history of failure and disappointments. How does someone who gets a glimpse of life’s potential overcome an active inner monster, trampling over the ruins of broken relationships? A man who has lived on the street for years has recently been housed and we had a conversation this morning. Although he was pleased to be housed and recognised what a significant step he’d taken, he told me that his anxiety was off the scale. It took a while for me to understand what caused the anxiety in what should have been a happy step forward. Slowly it became obvious that the addition of a roof over his head meant the loss of his community. This change seemed to occur just the right time when he’s had some success of not using drugs. He found himself longing for the community of the street, while at the same time dreading the community that normalises drug use. His need for companionship and social support seemed to invite the circumstances where he would lapse again into drug use. “Your greatest weapon” I told him, “is to call things by their real name. Anyone who is willing to see your life collapse on a fast track towards your death, is not a "friend". We talked for a while about what a friend is and is not. He expressed gratitude for all the support he’d found at Wayside and I was comforted to know he has people here who care for him.

Staff and volunteers often tell me of encounters with people that make our spirits soar. One story this week was of a man who had only just nursed his wife to her death. She was a Wayside supporter and on her deathbed, she told her husband that she wanted him to buy some blankets so that the winter would be a bit easier for the people we support. The dear man duly presented himself to our front desk this week, blankets in his arms and tears in his eyes.

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12
Apr
2018
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Dear Inner Circle,

Friends, volunteers and staff sometimes bring people to my office because, “they need to talk to Graham.” Some awkward meetings have taken place at times when it has become clear that the meeting was less than a voluntary act. This week as I walked into my office I found a young woman, who looked as surprised to meet me as I was to meet her. This professional young woman was crying, unable to make eye contact and probably wishing she was anywhere but my office. It’s weird to encounter someone resisting what isn’t asserted. She didn’t have much to say except, “I don’t know who I am anymore”. With eyes that darted around the room, to the floor, then around the room again, she told me that she’d recently lost her job and a partner. A relationship that had begun with all the intensity of a wild movie had dissipated to a point where the young woman felt invisible in her own home. “Why do people forget to love?” was a question that almost vomited up from the depths of her soul. Eventually we looked at each other. What a face! What a mystery, that this face had been entrusted to another who had stopped looking or perhaps more correctly, stopped seeing. I didn’t fix anything, nor did I claim to know how to. The woman cried and talked a lot and I expect that really eased her burden. However when our faces met, I knew we were truly present to one another. She was not an interesting case for me nor was she a problem to be solved. She was herself, awesome, and beside me. I doubt that we’ll meet again but I will never forget her name and I simply appreciated the gift of her presence. I know she left my room a different woman because when she left, I was a different man. We were gloriously useless to each other and yet each added something priceless.

One of our more famous street dwellers stood up from her bed when she saw me walking past yesterday, she embraced me in a moment of tender silence. I said, “You are a good...[read more]
05
Apr
2018
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Dear Inner Circle,

Unreserved joy and support has flooded in all directions since we announced that Pastor Jon Owen would be my successor as CEO and Pastor of the Wayside Chapel. Months ago I had a conversation with David Gonski who is often referred to as, “The Chairman of Everything”. He asked me who my successor might be and at that point, I had no indicator about where our Board’s exhaustive process might terminate. He said, “Don’t appoint a manager. Appoint someone who is inspirational.” I indicated that his response surprised me, as he knew how large Wayside had become. He followed up by saying, “You can teach an inspirational person to manage, or you can hire the right skills to help them, but you can’t teach a manager to be inspirational.” My spirit soars because our Board chose an inspirational person to lead Wayside into the future.

Thank you for the hundreds of messages of thanks and congratulations. It is such an honour to be stopped on the street by so many who just want to wish me well. The only compliment that’s hard to hear is something like, “Well, you really built an empire.” I have no defence to this statement as clearly we’ve grown dramatically, but we’ve only grown because in this age where some people are busy building walls, our mission of creating a community with no “us and them”, captures people and speaks to a deep longing for a better world. If I leave behind executives or managers who are set on growing their empires, I’ll nurse a sense of deep regret, for we who have been captured by the awesome become the greatest of all human contradictions when we think we have a franchise.

Keep reading here.