So far this year, 63 everyday Melbournians have joined us on one of our 17 outreach nights. No night is the same and our night leaders have been blessed to see miracles happen through acts of kindness. However, I am constantly reminded that acts of kindness can come from anyone, and at any time.
At the start of each night, we make a conscious effort to explain the importance of positive engagement with our friends. We often remind our volunteers that despite the fact that there are 3.8 million people in Melbourne, the interaction we have on the night may be the only positive interaction the people we visit have all day or even all week. How we conduct ourselves is incredibly important and we are proud and thankful for all of our volunteers who have come through the Outreach Program.
Kindness is making the first move. It is saying, “Hi Peter, I see you, and I care.” Positive interactions transform lives and can be powerful.
A friend of ours recently told me that his birthday had just passed but instead of it being a joyous occasion, it was a difficult time for him. On that night, I was leading a big group of students, who were volunteering through the Brotherhood of St Laurence school program, and before we left our friend for the night I asked all the students to sing “happy birthday” to him. I will always remember that look of surprise and the smile on his face when we finished and it felt like we had truly touched this individual.
A few months ago, a volunteer asked to leave early because she was not feeling well. We found out later that her health had deteriorated after she left our company and the only person out of the hundreds around her, to go up to her and offer a drink, was a lady sleeping rough that night.
The last story I would like to share with you was when we encountered a man in a hospital wheelchair on Swanston St. As we were on the phone to the hospital to make sure the man was going to be ok, we witnessed a passer by hand him a tightly sealed sandwich. It was not long before we noticed his struggle in opening the package but before we could navigate through the crowd to assist him, one of our friends, also sleeping rough, popped up and opened it for him. They were complete strangers.
Through my time leading groups on our Outreach Program, I have come to find that kindness can come at any time, on any street corner, and I would encourage everyone to do our best to dole it out in handfuls.