On the wall near the café in Wesley Mission at 220 Pitt Street Sydney, you can read the following words attributed to John Wesley:
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
How do we do this 300 years post John Wesley’s plea? How can you make that difference in your own corner of the world, when you are dealing with your own issues, looking after family, juggling work and caring roles, and at times struggling with your own mental health issues that can strike any of us at any time?
Judy Small, an Australian songwriter and folk singer, now a retired Justice of the Federal Court Circuit in Victoria working and writing songs in the area of social issues wrote a powerful song in the 1980s. This song has always rung true during my four decades of working in the margins.
Her song encourages us to be:
Just one brick in the wall
One brick in the wall you may be
One voice in the crowd
But without you, we are weaker
And our song may not be heard
One drop in the ocean
But each drop swells the tide
So be your one brick in the wall
Be one voice in the crowd
The one brick in the wall.
(One Voice in the Crowd: Judy Small)
In 2019, I started a small project Uniting Hats for Homeless with my colleague Brian Woodhouse where we began making beanies on looms for homeless people and those doing it tough in winter. It began as we wanted to honour our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts who were wonderful craftswomen and we had inherited their wool and unfinished projects.
A simple idea. One brick in the wall.
To date, our project and it's now 360 Facebook followers and beanie makers across NSW have made 5300 beanies which have been distributed to rough sleepers and others.
The project has extended to Hats for Homeless looming and knitting Hubs through Corrimal and St Stephens Uniting Churches and a strong community group in Lilyfield that meets weekly to make beanies, share together, and then distribute our beanies with love.
For those who make the beanies and those who receive them, there is warmth in the small act, the small act of kindness. There are many examples of how we can bring joy to others in simple small ways.
Of course, we acknowledge that through our work in the Uniting Church and its agencies we do many larger acts and projects that change the lives of those we serve and those we advocate for.
But never forget you too can be that …One Brick in the Wall.
I love the words of Jesus who reminds us in Matthew’ Gospel (25:35-40):
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Pastor Susan Russell is the Chaplaincy Convenor at Uniting