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Good Works in the Community: Building Relationships

Relationships are precious. Communication is so important. A short video clip I recently viewed showed pre-school aged children in a café striking up conversations with complete strangers with ease; portraying the importance of relationships, chatting and forming friendships. 

Some highlights of the Jesus in the Modern World course (JMW) offered at the Senior School is in the response of the students to situations in which we find ourselves. The afternoon we left Geelong’s McKellar Centre after our last visit was an emotional one. During the successive weeks of visits the students find themselves not wanting to leave, but instead enjoying the company of their new found friends, as unlikely as it might seem. Reminding me of a children’s book ‘Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley’, a tale of two friends, who although have hardly anything in common, are just such great friends. As we were leaving, our exchange of appreciation lead to tears. A resident, a man who had endured a tough life and has a hard outer shell walked out with me as we left. He had a tear in his eye and said; “I didn’t think I would be into this kind of thing, but I really love it; thank-you for coming –I really look forward to next time”. The simple act of spending time with another, is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive. The power of conversation, a real chat, about life is one to be cherished, and to some of the residents, a rarity. It is such a privilege we have to tap into this amazing wealth of knowledge and wisdom, in a room of ten residents there may be 600-800+ years of experience!

Good works are not always charitable works or what can be got out of actions; more so the relationships that can evolve –and that puts us on a level playing field as equals, and is a mutually beneficial activity. We are able to gain an insight of another person’s existence, their highs and lows, and really begin to grow compassion (com –together with/beside/near/by, passion – to endure, undergo, experience/Christs passion/physical suffering), and it is from that place where potential change can develop. It is through relationships that amazing understanding and compassion can arise.

Jesus walked among the people, sharing, experiencing joy, pain and sorrow. He walked on Earth fully human. He treated everyone he met, regardless of their situation, with dignity, love and compassion.

Throughout our visits to Christchurch community meals program, I have gained a new friend, Andy. Andy is a kind hearted, generous man, who thinks on a deep level, has a faith, and also happens to be experiencing long term homelessness. Andy agreed to join us for some time during our JMW Sleepout earlier in the year where he shared with us some of his story and his talents. Sharing time with Andy was an eye opening experience for all of us and allowed us to gain an insight into the complexities of homelessness. Having an opportunity to spend time with someone as a human being, to share experiences, laugh, explore, be inspired, feel sorrow and joy, can allow us to develop compassion.

Over the years, Jesus in the Modern World students have formed bonds with primary school students from around Geelong. We have completed projects together, helped each other, had a lot of fun, and were fortunate enough to be able to act as older mentors to these students. It is this mentorship that some of these students lack in their day-to-day lives. This is a part of what we are able to share and experience with these students, and we ultimately learn so much from each other. It has always surprised me just how quickly our students have formed bonds together, and within minutes, we are laughing, joking, playing and beginning to share our lives.

I often pose the question to the class ‘If Jesus were walking around the streets of Geelong today, who would he choose to spend time with –and why?’ This is the foundation of this subject, and a question I like to remind myself of regularly as I go about my own life. We are so very privileged to be able to meet some incredible people in our wanderings, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.

It is not a social norm these days to strike up conversations with strangers, especially in a world full of devices, but showing kindness, interest, and compassion is something that could be potentially life changing. The JMW students and myself have been tasked with this challenge, and found it to be incredibly rewarding.

Jane Smith
Senior School – Waurn Ponds Teacher



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