What difference does it make?
I hear this asked a lot. It’s a good question. What difference does The Dale make?
Most times this question is followed by: Are people getting off the street? Are people finding sobriety? Are people moving from substandard housing into something better? Are people no longer “poor”?
The answer is yes, no and sometimes. Nothing like a straight-forward answer!
The reality is that the people of The Dale are all on a journey, me included. Some of the changes that we experience in one another can be almost imperceptible: one less drink in a day, choosing to remain calm when slighted by another, paying a person back the money that was borrowed instead of running. Some of the changes are more obvious: coming to church regularly, finding the resources to make a crappy apartment feel more like a home, going to detox, mending an estranged relationship.
I know people who have gotten off the street, who are now sober, who have decent housing and who are leaving poverty behind. I celebrate them and the healing they have received. I also celebrate the things described above: the arguably less dramatic changes, though no less real. Notice too that all of the changes listed are ones that are not simply for those who fall under the poverty line. We all need to manage addictions, pay back debt, create home and mend broken relationships.
The Dale is a little, wandering space where people can discover what it means to co-journey toward a deeper wholeness in Christ. Jesus does not promise an easy road, nor one that ends with middle/upper class life. The journey is not a straight-line: it is marked with fumbles and missteps and requires patience and grace. Sometimes we need to call each other on bad choices while offering accountability and creating healthy boundaries.
Some of my friends have acknowledged that prior to being a part of The Dale they had NO one to talk to, that prayer was not an option and that life felt incredibly dark.
To me, this sounds like a difference is being made.
I had all four of my wisdom teeth out recently. As well as it went, it was still no fun. I had avoided getting the teeth extracted for a long time, in part because they weren’t giving me any trouble, but also because I couldn’t imagine carving out the time in my schedule for the required recovery. I finally couldn’t ignore the dentist any longer, having discovered how it felt to get a bad infection. So, a few Tuesdays ago I headed to a clinic where I was put under for the operation. I have no recollection of the procedure, only that a mere hour later I was wisdom teeth-free.
I’m on the go a lot. I spend the early part of most mornings making Cate a lunch and seeing her off to school. Work is varied: I go to drop-ins, attend meetings, do administration, write, prepare for Sundays, fundraise, participate in street outreach and offer pastoral care. I’m home for Cate after school. I teach a few young people how to play the piano. I take care of our home. I cook. I have lovely visits with my Mom. The list goes on. You know what happened after I got home from that Tuesday appointment? I crashed on the couch where I proceeded to do NOTHING except allow Dion to take care of me. That first day I could barely keep my eyes open.
On the Wednesday I mistakenly thought, “Great! I’m sore, but this wasn’t so bad!” Those are always famous last words. Sore turned into pain: nothing out of the ordinary, though no less real. My left side decided to swell, while my right did not, making me look like a lopsided chipmunk. I was sure I’d be back to work by Sunday, only to be proven wrong. I went to a portion of the Monday Drop-In and learned quickly from the good-natured snickers of my friends that I looked rather out-of-it and wasn’t quite myself. I was told to go home.
I find that when I am forced to slow down I am reminded that my value cannot reside in my doing. I am loved by God simply because I am His child. I am loved in my home not because I do the laundry or make lunches (though those things are appreciated). I am loved at The Dale not because I have a schedule full of admin and meetings (though those things are necessary). I felt anxious about not making it to work, only to discover that the community wanted only for me to take the time to get better.
I love being busy and generally enjoy the challenge of keeping things in balance. I am grateful for the work that is mine to do. I am also grateful that something as strange as having my wisdom teeth out could serve to make me slow down and help me to just be. How amazing that we are each valuable, regardless of our To-Do lists. My mouth is much better now and so I am back at it. Even more reason to rest in this truth.