The last number of months have been in some ways a blur. I know there is much to process, except knowing where to start or finding the space to do it is a challenge. In many ways, things feel less crisis now, though we are not out of the woods. At The Dale we have created a new routine, one that is generally running smoothly and allows us to continue being as present as possible in Parkdale. Maybe it is this strange settled-ness that has me able to be more contemplative about this time we are in.
I recently heard someone describe technology as a “flimsy surrogate” for real life relationship. For those of us with access to the internet, we have learned that there is no substitute for being together in real time. For those of us with no access, we have felt an even deeper disconnection and isolation. I suspect that we have all, to varying degrees, rediscovered that we need each other. For too long our world has placed a high value on independence and individualism, making it easy to be disconnected from life and others. Now that things have been turned upside-down, we long to touch and be touched by those around us.
One of the things I most miss at The Dale is being able to gather together for a meal. While we believe strongly in food security, our meals are also never intended to be exclusively about what is on the plate. Think of the connection that is built when a family is routinely able to eat together. There are always different roles: some cook, some set the table, some entertain, some clear and do the dishes, some ask, “would you like coffee or tea with dessert?”, some initiate a conversation about the weather or the news or what’s going on in their heart. In helping and serving one another relationship is formed. A book I recently read said it like this: “True service is not a relationship between an expert and a problem…It is a relationship between people who bring the full resources of their combined humanity to the table and share them generously” (Remen). I love that.
At our Sunday Service, we have always talked about how God has given us each good gifts and that we are invited to give back a portion. Taking this posture means learning to acknowledge that we are all built to both give and receive. I have witnessed our community’s commitment to this over the last few months. People have shared encouragement in written letters, emails, phone conversations, and while standing in line to receive a meal or on a street corner. Prayer is happening spontaneously. All sorts of things have been donated to be redistributed, including clothing, books, and grocery cards. We have a growing stack of art that has been produced. Music has been made in the park. Birthdays have been celebrated with small gatherings.
Has life looked and felt different at The Dale lately? Yes. Do I miss how things were? Most definitely. I wonder though if what we are learning now will only embolden us to be an even brighter reflection of what God calls us to be in this world, that more space will be created for people to bring their full resources, and that our need for relationship and community will be better understood. One of my many prayers is that of Micah 6:8: that together we will act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our Creator.