The Cohesion of People

November 15th, otherwise known as Fundraiser day, was a blur of activity. Every once in a while I told myself (or Joanna reminded me) to slow down and take a look around the room, fulling ingesting what was happening.

I saw children: some just walking, some toddlers, some school aged dancing with the kind of abandon I wish we retained as adults. I saw my friend James, an artist and core member of the Dale selling cards adorned with his art so that he could give us a “cut” of the profits. Another friend, Norma was selling jewellery for the same reason. I saw people bobbing for apples, playing cards, throwing sponges at a target with a brave volunteer’s face as the bull’s-eye and tossing ping-pong balls into jars. I saw people dressing up at the photo booth and getting their faces painted.  I saw a table of beautiful pies for auction, some made by friends, others made by Wanda’s Pie in the Sky- a little shop in Kensington Market. I saw people enjoying bowls of chill and pieces of cornbread, those who eat with us on Mondays in the Drop-In and those who don’t. I saw people square dancing. I saw people reading about where the donations we receive actually go. I saw The Lovelocks take the stage. I saw so many different people doing whatever it took to make sure the event went smoothly.

As is true with any event, we will need to determine what worked and what we might do differently in the future. The time for that is coming. In the meantime, I want to celebrate all that was good. I have not forgotten that just a couple of years ago The Dale (then PNC) almost closed. We have been through a lot and come a long way. What kept bringing tears to my eyes throughout the 15th was the variety of people present and how you couldn’t tell who was who: The Dale community, Board members, supporters, volunteers, neighbours, friends and family. It has been this kind of cohesion, this kind of coming together that has brought The Dale to the present day. I do not take this for granted. Now I want to slow down, take a look around and imagine what’s next.


It Takes a Team

On Saturday The Dale is hosting a big event that we’ve dubbed our Fun Fair Fundraiser. A lot of planning has gone into this. Like, A LOT. Most of it done by a team of people, namely Ben and Gen (I just realized their names rhyme). They have brainstormed, made lists, produced written material, found donations, the list goes on. I’ve never experienced having a duo like them do so much for an event like this.

Hannah is a woman bringing her food prowess to the kitchen so that people can purchase something savoury or sweet. It’s a big job and she’s taken it on. This, after just completing a large event last weekend. Megarrah is producing banners for each game stall. The Lovelocks are coming, despite a busy day for them. John and Tom are doing the sound. The square dance caller is booked. Sean is willing to sell drinks. Melody and Michelle are making pie. Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, a shop in Kensington Market is rounding out the pie auction.

Our core community is rocking it too. Our regular kitchen team is showing up early Saturday to help Hannah. Terry, a former professional sign maker is busy at work for us. Tim designed the invitation. James wants to sell his art so that he can be a part of keeping this place going. I can’t tell you how many people have said, “I’ll do whatever you need me to”. Our Board of Directors will be face painting, taking pictures, setting up bales of hay and doing whatever else they can to help.

Joanna is doing such a variety of things for Saturday that I don’t know where to start. I have no idea what I’d do without her. I couldn’t do any of this without Dion and Cate, who are present, helpful and so encouraging about The Dale in general and about this event specifically. Cate is assisting me in making props for the photo booth and is sure that if we have enough moustaches on sticks everything will be well.

Each time I see that a friend has shared the invitation or hear that someone is sending a donation or discover that someone is able to come I am thankful. The Dale works because of what I’ve described above: it is a community of people, both at its core and more broadly that fully participates. It’s during a week like this one that I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude at that reality.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.03.15 AM


Building Community that Calls to Account

I grew up listening to CBC Radio. It was on much of the time in our house. When we’d go to our family camp [cottage] we’d position the rabbit ears on the little radio in the kitchen in order to hear Peter Gzowski’s voice. Turning the radio on makes me feel nostalgic and somehow “safe” as a result. In my own home we regularly listen to The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean on Saturday mornings. I admittedly love that Cate knows Tom Power and Rich Terfry or, “Stir-Fry” as she likes to call him. Though I don’t know Jian Ghomeshi beyond his voice, he like Gzowski, felt like one of my CBC friends, which is why I’ve been somewhat glued to the news this past week.

I’ve read a lot of the commentary that has accompanied Ghomeshi’s firing, the initial public support, the multiple allegations of abuse, the mounting evidence against him and the extreme fallout since. The only thing that I am glad about is that this has ignited a conversation about changing rape culture, while being so sad that it took this.

Because of the nature of my work at The Dale and the faith that informs how I do it, I find myself wondering ‘what next’? What next for Ghomeshi? What next for the women he harmed? What next for the culture that for too long has turned a blind eye to sexual offences? What does restorative justice look like? I journey alongside people in Parkdale who have been either or in some cases both, offender and victim. There is nothing simple about answering the ‘what next’ question in situations that are this painful and complex.

I’m not sure how to answer the questions that have been stirred in me. I do know this has served to solidify my desire to live in community where we can call one another to account. I need people to tell me when I am messing up and help pull me back on to the right track. Of course, this isn’t a fail-safe plan. I can choose to go my own way even with people telling me I should do otherwise. My hope though is that by being surrounded by people choosing to love me (and I them) that I might avoid having to hit the proverbial bottom. Or, if I do go to the depths, that I will have people there to pick me up.

I find myself weeping for the women who have been wounded deeply; for those who have spoken out and for those who haven’t. I wonder where Ghomeshi has retreated to. How is his family? I am still listening to conversations in coffee shops and grocery stores that go much like this: “Those women are gold diggers. What happens behind closed doors is none of my business”. I ask incredulously, “Really”?

Here’s the thing: we cannot live in a bubble. Our actions, whether we or Ghomeshi want to admit it or not, impact others. We need to learn how to be repentant when we hurt one another. Our culture makes it easy to believe that we are only responsible for ourselves, that we deserve to do whatever makes us happy. I would argue that our lives are much more entwined than that. We were created to be in relationship. As author Henri Nouwen once said, “The mental and spiritual health of a community depends largely on the way its members live their most personal lives as a service to their fellow human beings”.

May we work to truly take care of one another.