Dear Inner Circle,
Walking into our building the other day I heard sobbing. It was the kind of sobbing that comes from the boots, through the heart and out through the throat. It couldn’t be ignored. I looked around to find a young fellow, I’m guessing perhaps 30 years of age, doubled over and between sobs, saying that he can’t find a way off the street and that he is at the end. I saw that he was talking with Kate, an angel visiting from heaven and a staff member who makes all of us look good. The young bloke couldn’t have been in better hands. I got on with my day but happened to be downstairs again in the mid-afternoon. I could hardly believe it when I heard the same voice, sobbing once again. This time the young bloke was talking to John who was also in tears. They both turned to me and quickly explained that this time I was hearing sobs of joy. The young bloke had just been offered a one-bedroom flat by the public housing authority. In just a few minutes the young man displayed the key to his new place as if I was having trouble believing the story. In just a few minutes it became clear that the difference between this being a story of success or being yet another story of suicide on the streets, is the achievement of our Community Services team and particularly, John.
Guard against the constant drip of the media that would cheat you out of your humanity. Sometimes I’ve been involved with something that has included a politician and I’ve been astonished by the venom that is poured out upon them by social media. Once Tanya Plibersek made a wonderful gift to me by speaking at an event for which she had to sacrifice her time with next to nothing to gain for herself. After the event, social media was deluged with comments assuming the worst and lowest of motives. It was wrong and a judgement not against Tanya but against our culture that is losing the possibility of seeing anything positive. This week the Prime Minister spoke with a homeless guy in Melbourne and put five dollars in his begging cup. In our mainstream media followed accusations that the PM was “stingy”. This story was reported around the country and was even reported in the New York Times. Now I never tell anyone to vote for any political party and I don’t mind when people criticise government policy or lack thereof, but to call Malcolm Turnbull “stingy” is an outrage. When I came to The Wayside Chapel, we had next to no staff, taking more risks than Evil Kanevil by running seven days a week in the hands of uncoordinated, mostly unsupervised, good-hearted volunteers. Our building was 40% condemned and deteriorating by the month. I conducted weddings standing in an inch of water in our old Chapel. We seriously considered whether Wayside had met its end. Yet we rebuilt the place, beginning with literally not one dollar and we finished the project debt free. We got some help from Premier Rees and from Kevin Rudd, greatly assisted by Albo, who will always be held in high regard around here. But half the project was funded by private citizens and the first two to jump in with us were Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm has been here many times, sometimes with cameras and many times without. He’s put on an apron or sometimes just sat and spoken with homeless people in our community. Many times since those days when we were on the brink, the Turnbulls have helped us with breathtaking generosity. I happen to know that the help we’ve received is just the tip of their charitable iceberg. “Stingy” is not a word I’d ever use to describe our PM. Imagine the story in the media if the PM had put $100 in the cup? Our culture will be crippled and miserable when we become incapable of seeing an act of compassion.
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