I have recently enjoyed a number of opportunities to share the story of The Dale at events around the city. Every single time I have found myself in conversation with people about what it means that I am both giver and receiver in my community. The belief that we all, regardless of our circumstances, have something to offer is foundational to everything we do at The Dale. Today was no exception.
I sat across from someone in deep distress who took a moment to look right at me and acknowledge that he sees my own pain too. It has been in our mutual sharing that we have earned one another’s trust. While our burdens are very different, we recognize that the heaviness of the load is similar. I believe this makes both of us feel less alone.
Feeling slightly defeated by an exchange with someone who was very angry, I turned to re-enter the drop-in. An older man who I hardly know walked right up to me and proceeded to offer what I can only describe as a blessing. He gave thanks for the lunch, encouraged me to know that Mondays matter, described the good things he sees in me and prayed that I might know deep happiness. To those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that I welled up with tears and choked out a thank you.
I received a poem from someone and a piece of chocolate from another. Though I had no expectation of being repaid, I got handed a crumpled $5 bill. I was firmly hugged by two women whose mantra to me was, “Shalom. We desire peace for you”. Busily connecting with people in the drop-in, I stopped to take in the sheer number of volunteers making everything in the kitchen happen and felt overwhelmed with gratitude.
Mohammed, a recent addition to the community, showed up to help before we were even open: a full hour early. Every time he finished a task, he asked for another. He has a great laugh and often remarks that Joanna and I are “funny” (I’m not certain if this is because he likes our jokes or thinks we’re weird. Either way, he makes us smile). Ready to go home, Mohammed shook my hand and assured me he’d show up to tomorrow’s drop-in early too. “I help you and you help me. That’s how we do this”.