We chatted briefly one Saturday morning. She was sitting on her walker across the street, looking intently at the meal-to-go we were doing uncharacteristically on the weekend. We had met before on a few occasions but didn’t yet know one another’s names. As we conversed, I learned a little about her life and some of the hardships she faces. “I am more than just my challenges. I really want to do something. I would like to volunteer”.
Today Maria (I have permission to use her name and tell this story) came to participate at our Breakfast. For a long time, our friend/core community member Ash was the one to hand out the meals, freeing the staff team to connect with people and stand in and with the line. Since Ash’s death, we have longed for someone to assume his role. He so embodied it, that to this day we say, “who wants to Ash today?” Well, on this morning the role went to Maria.
At The Dale, we talk a lot about how important it is to both give and receive. We invite people into full participation of the community and celebrate that we have a shared responsibility for it. Too often people are robbed of the opportunity to give by being kept on the receiving end of charity. Everyone though has gifts to offer.
While the line was still active, I went over to Maria to see how she was doing. Her response? “Today I feel like a real person. I love this”. Her whole demeanor softened as she greeted people and handed over brown paper bags of breakfast sandwiches, muffins, juice boxes and fruit. Many people she knew by name, having lived in the neighbourhood for many years. I asked her if I could take her picture, to which she said an emphatic, “yes, please!”
As the breakfast rush slowed, another person encouraged us to close our eyes and soak in the morning sunshine. With our heads back we collectively noticed how good it felt to pause and feel the warmth. Maria watched and reminded us that looking up at the moon and the stars, “is just as beautiful as looking at the sun”. I thought of that as the moon made its appearance tonight. As I again tilted my head back, what came immediately to mind was Maria’s contented face. May we all know, as she does, that we are more than just our challenges.