Dear Inner Circle,
Increasingly, I find myself talking in board rooms or before work-teams or to middle and senior managers about Wayside’s mission and how it lives in our work and organisation. I have a growing sense of disquiet, knowing that our mission doesn’t live in a formula nor a set of values. The danger for Wayside and especially for our senior leaders, is in believing that our mission lives in a set of words. Generally, we Waysiders like our words and our values. “To create community with no ‘us and them’” are words that point to the awesome. Paradoxically, I suspect the more we cherish the words, the faster we fossilize the mission itself. The more we believe we master our mission, the faster the mission itself evaporates through our fingers. Our mission cannot be preserved in formulas of any kind. It can only be proved true. It can only be “done”. We can only begin each day as beginners and begin each day as if it is our last opportunity to live our mission.
To “create community with no ‘us and them’” is not an act of reflection. Our mission is not made real when it is pondered nor preached about. It can only be done. Our choice is to be beginners, or idolators. Our mission only lives when it is in front and while we are on our way. Oddly, to be on our way requires of us endless unromantic acts. Front line workers take people for showers and do battle with the systems that exclude poor people. Front line workers confront people who constantly seek to break our rules or gain some advantage. Front line workers constantly hope for meeting. Maybe today someone will realise that there are people here with them and for them. Managers manage staff who can’t always see that order and rather uninteresting arrangements in an organisation are important if the organisation is to avoid digging its own grave. Sometimes people so believe that they are alone, that they come through our front doors insisting that they be treated as a four-year-old. Often our front line workers carry a sadness for a life wasted and opportunities lost. Little do they realise that their sadness itself is a beautiful gift to the world. The sadness is the price of love, expensive but free. Just as baffling at times, managers have to manage people who so believe they are alone that wrong motives are assumed and silly things are said and soon everyone feels defensive and hurt. It must be a royal pain to have a CEO that keeps reminding our people that it is their job to love. Sometimes love says, “Stop” to the four-year-old that is about to run onto the road. Sometimes love warns of dangerous behaviour but always love desires to meet. Love begins with wonder and ends with wonder. Love suddenly sees the other. A community with no ‘us and them’ is always a surprise. No formula gets us there and we leave the moment with no formula. We cannot say to others, “You must know this”, we can only, renewed by the vitality of our mission lived, turn away from our mission, in order to prove our mission. It can only be done. It can only be lived.
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