The Tragedy of Violence/The Challenge of Love

It is all over the news: a van, moving at high speeds, intentionally drove along a more than one kilometre stretch of sidewalk in Toronto’s north-end, killing ten people and injuring numerous more.

I have been thinking about this traumatic, violent event a lot. For this born and bred Toronto girl, it touches my home. I read an account of a woman who was left unscathed, while the friend walking alongside her was swept away by the van. I walk these city streets all the time…it could have just as easily been me. For too many, it WAS their loved one. Tragedy has struck close.

One of the reasons I feel so sad is that while we begin to process and grieve this incident, other incidents are already underway. There is a trail of carnage in this world. It is shockingly easy to feel as though violence will always only touch the “other”. But as Mr Rogers so aptly said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

So what does that even look like? I am admittedly overwhelmed. The problems seem too big, too pervasive, too bleak. And yet, there is light piercing through the darkness. It comes when people choose to listen to one another, to extend hospitality, to share resources, to weep when the other is weeping, to hold one another to account in love. We are invited to respond to one another’s needs. It isn’t easy. The best things rarely are.

Tonight I grieve for the victims here in Toronto. I pray for those left behind, the ones who saw it all happen, and the neighbourhood as a whole. I pray for the man responsible and against violence. I also pray for the many people who are intimately acquainted with tragedy across this globe. You are not simply the “other”.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7





Becoming Three: A Year with Meagan

One year ago today Meagan joined the staff of The Dale.

Meagan’s first day was, shall we say, unique. Months prior, I had been scheduled for a colonoscopy (ahem). We had wondered about delaying Meg’s start so that I could be fully present, but she was ready to go. Because I was going to be sedated, she and Joanna agreed to be the ones to pick me up and get me safely home. The sum total of what I recall after they picked me up?…sitting in my living room, eating scrambled eggs that Joanna made, and me saying, “I have a feeling I’m not going to remember anything I’ve just said”. Not exactly the way I envisioned welcoming Meagan to the team!

Looking back, I’m somehow grateful for the opportunity to greet Meagan in such a vulnerable state. I knew that Meagan, though for different reasons, was feeling vulnerable too. Choosing The Dale was a leap of faith for her, one that required joining a small staff, getting to know a whole new community and doing fundraising for the first time. I remember one of her earliest prayers before a Monday Drop-In: it was simply for peace and a friend, both things that she desperately wanted.

I have said this to Meagan privately, but I also want to say it here: today I celebrate and give thanks for her. I am grateful for her courage; for her quiet strength; for her calm, solid presence; for her humour (she regularly cracks me and Joanna up); for her ability to process things which then reveals such wisdom; for her active choosing to be transparent, even when it’s hard; for the way she loves our community; and for her friendship.

Meagan, the last year has truly been a study in contrasts. We have experienced joy, sorrow, loneliness, community, and that’s just a start. Building relationships takes time, even when it feels like it shouldn’t. You are doing such patient work, slowly and carefully developing trust with a lot of people. I hope you feel enfolded and aware of how deeply you are loved and valued. I know the life we have chosen and been called to is not easy. I often think of the way CS Lewis describes Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Is he quite safe?…’Safe?’ said Mr Beaver…’who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good’.” This journey is not safe AND it is so good. I’m glad we’re doing it together.

PS If you ever have a colonoscopy, Joanna and I will be there to pick you up.




Rescuing Food, Restoring Community

When asked, what difference does Second Harvest make to The Dale Ministries, I always reply, “we could not do this without them”. Take the Monday lunch a few weeks ago: there were fifteen different fruits and vegetables in the meal our community prepared. Souad Sharabani, our volunteer kitchen coordinator, beautifully described it during the announcement period right before serving, reminding everyone how important it is that they “eat the vegetables first! Munchkins, angels, I beg you!”

At The Dale we believe a unique kind of community is built around a table. For someone who is largely isolated, having to pass the potatoes can create a sense of connection. The hope is by returning each week, that same person might come to know the others who have also gathered. We also place a high value on making healthy, nutritious food available, the kind that access is limited to amongst people who experience poverty. The day of our fruit and vegetable-packed meal, a person sitting across from me said, “this food tastes like it was made with love. I haven’t shared a meal like this in years“.

Second Harvest is the largest food rescue organization in Canada. They are reducing the amount of food waste by recovering it before being thrown out. Every Sunday we receive a delivery of food that has been salvaged: oftentimes cases of produce, sometimes meat, bread, and dairy products, occasionally treats like baked goods, juice or even ice-cream sandwiches. It is good food, just maybe surplus or near its best before date and therefore removed from retail shelves. Our menu is built on what we receive.

From September 1, 2017 to February 28, 2018, Second Harvest delivered 11,870 pounds of food to The Dale, a donation valued at $29,675.00Isn’t that incredible? Those numbers give shape to what I mean when I say we can’t do this without them. Together we are reducing waste AND hunger, with a whole lot of love mixed in.