The Dale’s story is being shared by others with some frequency as of late. There have been a number of articles written, none of which we’ve pursued beyond being open to participating in the process. I have to admit that it is equal parts wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because our philosophy of ministry and community is being discussed; terrifying because it might be possible that we be misrepresented (this hasn’t happened, I just know it could) or misunderstood. Further, it could appear as though The Dale is being put on some kind of pedestal, or worse, that I am being put up there with it.
I have been involved in this kind of work since before I finished my post-secondary education. I have seen and think it important to acknowledge that in this sector there lives the real danger of arrogance: the kind that arises out of living and working in an edgy environment, believing that we somehow “get” life more than some. This can get fed too when others applaud and say, “It takes a special kind of person to do this work- it must feel so good to be constantly giving of yourself”. Compliments are not a bad thing to receive, they can turn sour though when turned into an inflated ego. Plus, it’s not true: this is not about me just giving. It is more often about me receiving more than I ever give.
I desperately want the narrative of my life to be one that mirrors the life of Jesus, one where success has a decidedly different definition than the world’s. Jesus taught on hillsides, spent time with those considered undesirable by polite society and quietly healed illnesses and hearts. I don’t want my life to be about how much money I make or the amount of stuff I accumulate. I am repelled by the idea of celebrity. Sadly, though I want to be like Jesus there is a real internal battle for the opposite.
Which is why it will always be of the utmost importance that I remain close to the street, for here I am reminded that I am no different. My every day life is spent doing what many would consider mundane: I chat, I cook, I clean up spilled coffee. I also see and do things that some might not have the opportunity to do: I help someone dumpster-dive or accompany someone to court or hold the hand of someone detoxing. There is nothing glamorous about what I do. I also know that any number of my Dale friends would do the same for me.
One of the greatest gifts of all the publicity is that it reminds me of what’s important: being in a community where we can acknowledge our brokenness and decide to journey together toward deeper wholeness in Christ, humbly and with inevitable missteps along the way.
Just a short time ago a member of The Dale received an eviction notice. I’m carrying around a copy of it at his request. He is being told to leave because it turns out his home is actually an illegal rooming house. He’s mostly mad and scared. I’m decidedly sad.
This kind of story is not unique.
We all want to see our friend housed, it’s just that the challenge of finding a place that is affordable, clean and devoid of bugs is astoundingly hard.
So, imagine my amazement when he decided to help me do some dishes at the drop-in this morning and earnestly said: “I know I need a place. I could probably find one far away, but I can’t go. Nothing can replace the surrogate family I’ve found here”.
His words went right through my heart. I felt my determination to find a good housing situation become even more fierce. I was also reminded that though we have no walls of our own, The Dale is indeed becoming a place of belonging and home for both my friend and for me.
On the days where I feel like I can’t keep going, I’m going to remind myself of this.
At a recent Sunday service one of my friends prayed, “I am SO angry about the violence in this world”.
I am too.
I am angry that I discovered this horrendously long list when I thought to see how many ongoing armed conflicts there are. In this global age, when the world is becoming smaller, I am mad at myself for not being more aware.
I am angry that there is footage available on the internet of men being beheaded.
I am angry that too much violence is overlooked or underreported because it is happening to people who aren’t considered newsworthy.
I am angry that it is so easy to become desensitized to violence and the grave consequences of it.
I am angry about the violence that we inflict on one another with words instead of weapons.
I’m not sure what to do with this anger, except to turn it around and consider ways to promote its opposite. I believe that we have all been called to love our neighbour. Loving our neighbour does not mean that we always agree, nor is it easy. In fact, sometimes it feels close to impossible. Loving is a choice that requires patience, communication, and yes, the willingness to turn the other cheek.
I was reminded of this kind of love when my friend, full of prayerful honest rage, hesitantly agreed to have me pass her the stole we use and close the service with a benediction:
“God, even though I’m angry, be with us. Bless us. Help us to love.”
Just over a year ago I introduced you all to Katie in A New Baby. As quickly as Katie arrived into our lives she was taken away. Many of us gathered around the new family with deep hope that they could remain intact. However, foster care was deemed necessary. In a moment life changed for a baby, her parents and by extension, The Dale: Heartache and Hope for Baby.
Many of you offered very practical support during the first week of Katie’s life. You gave diapers, a stroller and car seat, clothing, books and money. You filled cupboards with food for tired parents. We made sure that all these things got to and then went with Katie. I was routinely moved by the outpouring of love for a child hardly any of you met.
This past week I received word that Children’s Aid has decided Katie can come home. Today we got an amazing gift: Katie (who is now a toddler) and her mom arrived at our Thrift Store drop-in. I think I would have fallen over had I not been already seated. There was a palpable sense of joy in the room.
It looks like we might still get to be a part of the village that helps raise this child. Join with me in prayer and hope for Katie and her parents.
I’ve been on a bit of a self-imposed break from writing. I realized near the beginning of August that I was in need of some rest from regular life. I decided to turn off the computer and phone, hide out a bit, enjoy summery drinks, swim, read, knit and fortunately for me, hold a few of my friends babies for extended periods of time. Holding a brand new person is a good way to remind oneself of the preciousness of life.
I have missed this though. I tend to process via talking and since talking isn’t always an option, writing has become my next best option. Sitting here now I don’t even know where to start with all that has happened over the course of the summer. The time has simultaneously sped by and crept along. Strange how it does that.
I am very aware of time as I look at my daughter Cate. I’m laying beside her as I type. She is no longer a baby- of this I’m reminded, especially when I look at the newborns in my life. Cate is about to enter grade seven, a grade I vividly remember being in. I wonder aloud how I can be the mother of an almost twelve year old. In parenting the years go quickly while the moments seem long, similar to how I feel about these few months of summertime. Sometimes I fear that this kind of passage of time will not allow me to remember all that I want to about Cate’s growing-up years, except for maybe the many mistakes I have made along the way. I’ve been considering how backwards it is that I might recall the worst instead of the best. What I really want to do is remember the entirety of the experience.
I guess if there is one thing from my hiatus I would like to share, it is this: I have been reminded of the pleasure of living in the moment. I have stared at the stars, slowly sipped coffee and sung while strumming my ukelele. I have laughed with friends, sat quietly in the corner of each of our drop-ins at The Dale and relished in the sounds of our wonderfully diverse community, been on dates with Dion and played with Cate. Rather idyllic? Well, yes and no. I have also wept, attempted to manage crisis, double-booked myself, been to funerals and struggled with fatigue. Living in the moment doesn’t promise everything will be easy. It does however, help me to appreciate it all in a different way.
Kind of like what happens when I stare into the face of a baby.