Stories Matter: Tales from The Dale

We have not seen her in a while. She is striking, with an amazing sense of style. On this particular day we spot her hanging out with other people we know on some familiar steps in the neighbourhood. We immediately get chatting and hear about some challenges with her housing situation, a place just around the corner that she wants to show us. She is very transparent, and wants us (and you, the reader) to hear about her years in the sex trade and the toll it has taken. As Joanna and I listen, rain begins to pelt down. Before we depart, our friend hands us each a sunflower. Mine has just two yellow petals left. “I know they’re not beautiful, but it’s my heart. I honour you each with them.”

It’s his birthday. He feels surprised, while we feel grateful, that he has lived another year. His extended family is not in the city and want to remind him that he is loved, and so they send me a video of people sharing birthday wishes, peppered with photos of various eras of his life. The hope is that we will be able to find him so that he can view the video on my phone. Fortunately, it works out. He looks so pleased. I can’t shake the smile off my face.

We first met while he was living in an encampment in Parkdale. Always trying to beautify the land on which he lives, this friend erected a birdhouse close to his tent and excitedly shares about regular gray jay sightings. Over time his art fills the space, canvases leaning against every available surface. Now housed, I get audio messages on social media from him when too much time has elapsed between visits. We always greet each other with a hug.

Whenever the weather is good, we meet outside for our Sunday service. One day a squirrel is positioned in the tree right above me. I have no idea what people are looking at, only to learn there is certainty it is going to land on my head. Another day a woodpecker attaches itself to the shed just feet away from us. It sounds like a (very loud) percussion instrument and persists its pecking throughout our prayer time. At first some of us muffle laughter, until the comments start to fly, nearly derailing the service. Finally, a community member determinedly begins to pray, with as loud a voice as she can muster, “I just feel SO grateful because I have never seen a woodpecker in real life. How amazing.” The bird begins to quiet, almost as though it is giving thanks back.

Our plot in the community garden is taking shape. A neighbour and friend who is always willing to lend a hand decides to build an enclosure for it to keep out the animals that want to take one bite out of everything. One of our only strawberries gets eaten anyway. Our neighbour will not be deterred. Upon hearing the news of the strawberry, he marches over to fortify the walls. We know he keeps on eye on things when we can’t, which is especially nice given that our watering schedule (which is posted in our office) for Fridays and Saturdays says, “hope for the best”.

I think stories matter. I always try to log the events of a day either in my mind or, when I’m feeling especially organized, in a notebook. It is easy to remember the activities that divide up our week at The Dale: meals to go, outreach, fund-raising, etc., but it is all the moments that happen at and in-between these activities that breathe life into this community. I am so grateful to be a part of the web of stories that occur at The Dale. Life here is rich, and full of gifts like sunflowers, birds, garden plots, hugs, and beautiful people.

Inhabiting a Neighbourhood by Sharing Space, Inside and Out

When The Dale gave up its own space a decade ago, one of the first questions people asked was: where are we going to go? A legit wondering. At the time, I didn’t yet know. Fortunately, the weather was improving and so I said, “if we have to, we’ll have drop-in at the park”. I also started to knock on the doors of buildings around the neighbourhood to see if there might be a willingness to open those doors to us. That was the beginning of inhabiting Parkdale in a new way.

People often ask me if we would now buy a building if we could. While I acknowledge there are definite cons to not having a space of our own, the pros outweigh them. Does that mean I am anti-building? No, absolutely not. The Dale relies on the buildings of our partners to do a lot of what we love. Also, I never want to belittle the importance of “place” for the many members of our community who do not have any to call their own. By not investing in the purchase of a building, The Dale can pour our resources very directly into what we do, while also supporting those who share property with us.

When The Dale spilled into the streets, we had the opportunity to learn from our core community about what it means to be transient. This was very important, especially for someone like me who, despite my proximity to people who are under-housed, have always had somewhere to lay my head. We also re-discovered the truth that the church is not a building. One Dale member would regularly remind me that, “we are living stones. Where we gather is less important than THAT we gather.”

I appreciate the pedagogy of my friend Jason McKinney around the power of property and the need to shift from having to holding. Jason’s church, Epiphany and St. Mark is the only building currently open to The Dale due to the pandemic (we trust our other partners will begin to re-open as the pandemic continues to settle). I see how he and his church are navigating away from the paradigm of property to the paradigm of commons, in other words they are helping create a community hub. The Dale is one of a number of organizations that reside at and co-create in 201 Cowan Avenue. I know the desire is to continue to grow in the way we all relate to and negotiate with land- land that was not ours to begin with. Together we are discovering how to deepen our responsibility and care for the ground we stand on.

Which is also why it is so important that The Dale’s largest presence is outdoors. When we were permanently housed the people had to come inside to find us. Now we go outside to find our people and it is where they know to look for us. It matters that we get rained and snowed on together, that we can share a snack in the park, that we can slow down and linger for chats anywhere along the street, that we can grow things in our community garden plot. We move from observation of the neighbourhood to participation in it.

Is this an easy way to operate? Not always. Is it messy? For sure. I can honestly say though that not having a building, which was definitely born out of crisis, has turned into one of our greatest gifts. Also true is that becoming a part of a larger community hub, both at Epiphany and St Mark and in other spaces around the neighbourhood, one of our greatest joys. We get to witness amazing things happening all over the place and grow in our awareness that love is present all around us: in and out of a building.

Roots and Wings

I remember the first time I met Kimberley (who I usually simply call Kim). She arrived in our former building and was full of energy. Little did I know then that Kim and I would develop such deep friendship and camaraderie. She has been on the whole wild journey that is The Dale. Along the way we have shared countless cups of tea, brainstorming sessions, and walks by the lake. Kim has seen me in the depths of grief, and the heights of joy. We have accompanied one another to things that required support. I even had the honour of baptizing her in Lake Ontario.

At The Dale we talk a lot about how everyone is invited into full participation of the community, and that this looks very different for each of us. We celebrate how unique we each are and the various gifts we have to offer. This is not static either- what we might have the capacity to bring at any given time can change. Kim is a wonderful example of this. She knows her nomadic spirit might call for a while, but she always comes back, willingly inhabits a number of different roles, and arrives as herself.

I am pleased to share what Kim has written about finding a home and developing roots at The Dale. Kim- I am grateful for and love you.

“Anyone who knows me will certainly get a good laugh to hear that my home community and church literally has no walls of its own. Kind of ironic given my nomadic spirit and need to go on adventures a few times a year. The Dale Ministries became my foundation when I could not fit in anywhere long enough to put down roots to build a home.

When I returned to Toronto after being away for several years, I needed to rebuild my life and figure out how to put down some roots. This was at the same time that Erinn needed some self-care time away from work. Since I had a background in community development work, I was able to step into an interim staff role until she was ready to return. When she returned, I decided to stay and continue to be part of the church community that had become dear to my heart, never realizing that her return would also bring a huge change to how we did things. In order to stay stable and grow we would have to leave our home base. In Erinn’s wisdom and inner strength, she knew we could do it and continue with our community while embracing our need to become mobile. So, we downsized our belongings and literally spilled out into the streets, leaving our footprints (in chalk paint) along the sidewalk. We became nomads without walls.

This change strengthened our community in ways we could never have imagined! We connected with other organizations in the neighborhood to host our drop-ins and we met in the park on sunny days and our community grew and developed into a strong extended family for many of us.

In spite of our circumstances we became stable in our mobility, looking out for each other and “breaking bread” with one another when our hunger for spirit and community needs were high. And we grew! We have continued to grow, even reaching a point where we have needed to take on additional people to help in order to continuously build around our shared community needs. We now have an outreach team which I feel so honoured and proud to be part of.

I now have ROOTS. I now have a home base that has embraced my quirkiness and I have developed strong WINGS because of it. I still have my adventures and yet I also now have my foundation in my spirit as I return to a community that embraces me as I am. Ironically I am the most stable I have been in my life and I am so grateful for how the Dale Ministries has shown me the light at the end of the tunnel, and that I can now say I am home and WE are family!

Blessings, Kimberley”

Erinn and Kim

Keeping it Real on a Sunday

It’s a Sunday at The Dale. The first thing we do is get the “nave” ready, otherwise known as the sanctuary, for our gathering at 2 pm. Songbooks are placed in every other row. A small wooden table is positioned at the front, on which we put two plates: one with bread and one with little plastic cups containing grape juice. There is a candle too. A community member routinely trims the wick and shaves down the sides, a skill learned earlier in life and now part of their Sunday role. A basket on a stand is placed to the left side of the table for our offering. 

There is a beautiful grand piano that I get to play during the service. Behind me is a community member who plays the guitar (he likes to call it his “godtar”), usually with an amp precariously placed on a stool. This friend prefers to do the intros and likes to wail throughout. We invite people to choose songs at various points in the service. We usually start with at least three, because folks LOVE to sing at The Dale. 

We mean it when we say, “come as you are”, and so everyone arrives with a variety of things going on. Sometimes this is especially messy. It can mean having hard conversations in the foyer, or dealing with a conflict, or simply listening because someone is desperately sad, or leading a person to a spot where they can begin to sober up. Sometimes I am the one who feels overwhelmed with life, which is true on this day. 

Given all of this, we choose to start our time together in silence each week. Though the space is not always entirely quiet, the point is to begin the work of settling our own hearts and minds and re-adjusting our gaze. Then we sing, we offer one another peace (which is helpful on those days we aren’t feeling very peaceful), we are given opportunity to share what we are grateful for or are struggling with, we pray, we listen, we offer gifts (everything from money to coupons to mittens to little notes that say, “I will give a smile to everyone I see this week” or “I will help hand out the meals on Monday”), and we share communion. On this day a disagreement occurs between two people but is rectified during the prayer time with astonishing transparency and repentance. 

Today we considered the parable of the Prodigal Son. Which son do we identify with? The one who left? Or the one who stayed? We think about how we sometimes do unhealthy things that we need to stop doing, and also how we are invited to turn away from the failures, guilt, or regrets that bind us to the past, the sorrows and losses that keep us from being fully alive, or the fears that control our lives and keep our world small. We are invited into the warm embrace of God, whether we are the brother we went away, or the one who stayed. 

There is a strong rhythm to our time on Sundays, though each week is unique. We are co-creating something special: a place that is as safe-ish as possible, and where room is made for the sacred, all are welcome, and voices too often marginalized are centred. I am often moved to tears when I look around at our beautiful motley crew. They know how to keep it real and push me to do the same. For that, and our shared journey, I am deeply grateful. 

My Friend Ronnie

I’m not sure when I met Ronnie, though it was most likely more than a decade ago. I can’t remember a time in Parkdale without his bellowing voice. For a while it seemed he was everywhere: I would roll down my window as I drove past the corner of Dunn and Queen to shout hello, only to see him moments later at the Health Centre, and then again by the Library. I would tease him about how much he got around. With a twinkle in his eye he’d say, “oh, you know me- always around. I’m a fixture.”

Ronnie would routinely come to our Monday Drop-In, always sure to greet us as he entered the room. He loved to chat. I learned a lot about the art of checking-in with people because of Ronnie. No matter what he was going through (and it was often a lot), he would stop, look me in the eye and ask, “how are you, love?” He would then ask about life in general, my family, Cate, and finally, about my heart- in other words, how was I coping? Oftentimes he would chat and listen for so long that others would try to interrupt. His response would always be, “can’t you see I’m not done? I’m talking to my people”. 

Ronnie also taught me about asking for what you need. He was not shy in this regard. He would follow up any request with an acknowledgement that though we may or may not be able to help, it mattered to him that we would always try. Whenever possible, Ronnie would do anything to help us too. We liked to finish conversations by acknowledging the importance of journeying together and taking care of each other. “That’s it, love: we gotta help each other”. 

In 2017 Ronnie’s mobility declined. He would show up to Drop-In using a rickety walker, more often than not with a story about constantly tripping and falling down. It was clear that he needed a mobility scooter, and so in true Ronnie fashion, he asked for us to try and find one. I will never forget the day we actually got what he needed and presented it to him. We were all crying. It didn’t take him long to make it his own, including a sticker on the front that ironically said, NO FUN.

Just this past Sunday the Dale team was walking the neighbourhood. Ronnie was seated in a familiar spot, but obviously not doing very well. We talked, trying to sort out what would be the most helpful for him. As we prepared to keep walking, Ronnie grabbed my mittened hand and pulled it to his face. We stayed like that for a moment, as I rested my free hand on his head. He wanted me to bless him. We both said, “love you”. As Meg and I moved along, I shared about how that interaction was scaring me. Ronnie really didn’t seem okay. 

Yesterday we learned of Ronnie’s death. I am still in disbelief. Wanting the news to be false, we have waited on sharing this until now. Oh, Ronnie. The block will not be the same without you. Thank you for everything: the check-ins, the little gifts, the laughs, the tears. You were the opposite of NO FUN. You lived life hard, and I so hope that you can now enjoy some much-deserved rest. I am very sad that Sunday was our last interaction, and yet you made our parting visit one I will never forget. 

Ronald Paul Gallant 1964 – 2022

A Decade of The Dale

This year marks ten years of The Dale. A decade. I can hardly believe it.

Rooted in a history much longer, The Dale grew up and out of what was Parkdale Neighbourhood Church (PNC), formerly Parkdale Baptist Church. Many people contributed to that chapter of life in Parkdale, and it is to be honoured. Similarly, I want to honour this most recent chapter and the journey it has and continues to be. We are excitedly planning ways to celebrate this milestone over 2022.

In 2012 we faced a decision: close or reimagine ourselves. At the time, I was invited into the role of Executive Director and Pastor. I felt a deep sense of call to say yes, though I was admittedly terrified. As the sole staff member, I was tasked with coming up with a plan. I believed the way to formulate a way forward first required listening. I met with community members. I had coffee with people doing neighbourhood work. I knocked on the doors of organizations, businesses, and churches both in Parkdale and around the city. I walked the area incessantly. It was out of all these interactions and a LOT of prayer that a plan to re-boot was birthed.

I recently re-read, through tears, my proposal to the Board. Here is a taste of it:

Informed by the community, I propose:

That PNC close all operations, excluding the Monday Drop-In and Street Outreach. We do not want this community to feel abandoned. The Drop-In is our single largest program. We can seek out a location, i.e. Epiphany and St. Mark or Bonar Presbyterian that might allow us to use space for free, one day a week. In addition to this, we can develop teams of people to be present on the street.

That we pare down our expenses to food for Mondays, a negotiated salary (that I will fundraise) for myself and a fund to allow me to take potential supporters and community members out for coffee, etc. While an office in the neighbourhood would be helpful, I can envision working on my laptop in the Parkdale library and from home. I will commit to remaining very visible in the neighbourhood. I will also commit to develop a fundraising model.

That my time be primarily used to create a working group of current community members to revision and strategize for the future, including a possible name change and rebranding (i.e. logo, website, etc.); to get ourselves organized administratively, including incorporation and further development of the Board; to meet with potential funders; to research possible partnerships with other organizations and encourage our current partners to stay the course with us; to seek out a new space in the neighbourhood; and to effectively communicate with our current network of supporters (financial and otherwise) through personal visits and newsletters. 

That we plan for this process to take up to a year. However, we can establish “markers” that we will need to meet at certain intervals throughout the year. If it becomes evident that this process is not working, we can re-evaluate and begin the process of closing down. 

I truly believe this is an opportunity to build upon the exciting work that has long existed at PNC. We have deep roots. We have a beautiful, resilient community. We have endured much. We can rise up. Consider these words from an Advent reading that I have repeatedly returned to:

“Think of the seed. We commit it to the darkness. And a new plant emerges thanks to what O’Donohue calls ‘the ancient symmetry of growth: root further into darkness and rise towards the sun. A life that wishes to honour its own possibility has to learn too how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence. Letting go of old forms of life, a tree practices hospitality towards new forms. It balances perennial energies of winter and spring within its own living bark. The tree can reach towards the light, endure wind, rain and storm, precisely because it is rooted.”

Whew! And now here we are! I can confidently say that the last ten years have been evidence to me of God’s grace and provision. This work is built on that, along with the participation of so many people. To the Board who took a chance and dared to dream, to the staff team who heard the call to come, to every partner, volunteer, and supporter who said yes, to the core community who showed us how to shed our walls and be church around the neighbourhood, to my family who understood my fear and supported me to still take the risk: thank you. Together we have witnessed a phoenix rising out of the ashes. As soon as we can, let’s have a party.

The Gift of Enough

Whenever we plan an event at The Dale, there is admittedly a little nervous energy that accompanies it. That is how I felt as we launched our week-long on-line Community Registry, an opportunity to purchase much needed items for our people. Part of the anxiety was feeling a little out of practice- we didn’t do a fundraiser last year, a choice that felt right given the pandemic and the outpouring of support we were receiving. Another part was that doing anything like this requires that you put yourself and the place that you love out there, which can feel…vulnerable.

Fundraising is not easy, and yet it is also something I cannot imagine giving up. It teaches (sometimes forces) me to step out in faith, to rely on God and others, and to use every bit well. When The Dale was crawling out of crisis years ago, I would fervently pray, “give us this day our daily bread”. Each day was an act of trust that there would be enough. Enough never meant a bag of riches, it was having the $2 to buy some milk for the drop-in coffee, or the exact amount needed to pay a bill, or a surprise donation of food that could be transformed into a meal for over one hundred people. This past week reminded me of how grateful I am for all the people who have given, sometimes out of their own relative little, to make sure The Dale has enough.

For me, the Community Registry was an opportunity to show this same kind of care to others. We loved the idea of creating an event with multiple benefactors: a donation to The Dale = a purchase from a restaurant = a meal for a community member. Having been an organization acquainted with living on the edge, we recognized the challenge faced by so many local businesses because of Covid. Also, we wanted to share about the needs of our community, as identified by them and not assumption.

Now that the event is closed and the final bits of administration are underway, my initial apprehension has subsided and been replaced with deep gratitude. I am thankful for every person who shared about the Registry, who covered it and The Dale with prayer and good thoughts, and who made a purchase. I was regularly shocked at the reach this all had, oftentimes seeing social media posts made by people many degrees of separation away. As a team we can’t wait to place large orders with our restaurant partners, gather the purchased items, and distribute everything to our friends.

Just yesterday I was chatting with a community member who desperately needs a mattress. It was amazing to be able to say, “when can we deliver one?”. With a grin, he said, “I was just telling someone about you girls. I said, they are small, but somehow things come together and happen.” To which I laughed, explaining the group effort (which includes him) that is The Dale. Every supporter is a part of the beautiful tapestry of people that helps make things happen. You are each a gift.

Postscript: for those wondering, the Community Registry raised $11,105. Taking into account donations made to the Registry, but not on-line, we are up to $12,265!

A Win-Win-Win: How a Community Registry Can Impact A Neighbourhood

Every Thursday we pop by the walk-up take-out window of Capital Espresso, a local coffee shop that for years has provided The Dale with their very tasty day-old muffins. We chat a bit, pick up whatever they have to donate, and oftentimes leave with a free drip coffee in our hands. Our relationship has deepened over time, slowly learning one another’s names and one another’s schedules. Before Covid we would rejoice if we could grab a table to de-brief after a drop-in. During Covid, we like to look in the window as we pass by on outreach, waving to our friends. Not too long ago we had money to purchase a large order of freshly baked muffins to give out at our meal-to-go, an opportunity to give back after being shown such generosity over the years. It felt like everyone was winning: The Dale felt so happy to offer support, our community got a treat, and Capital Espresso’s baker got to rise early to make a sizeable order for the first time in months due to the pandemic.

That experience sparked an idea. What if we could do this again? What if we could purchase food from a larger variety of restaurants in the neighbourhood in order to keep feeding our community who is well acquainted with food insecurity, while supporting businesses so run down by Covid? The Dale has always believed that something beautiful happens when sharing food: conversations happen, relationships form, and a unique sense of community is developed. While we grieve that we can’t sit around tables as we would like right now, we celebrate that food keeps us connected throughout each week.

I am very excited to share that from June 21st to 27th The Dale will be launching an on-line registry, a place for you to discover what our needs are right now and support us in meeting them. In addition to items like socks and sleeping bags, we will be highlighting a variety of Parkdale restaurants, all of whom have agreed to be a part of this project. You might be in a position to make a donation that will cover 50 meals from Ali’s Roti, or one gift card for Momos from Loga’s Corner, or 25 breakfast burritos from Rustic Cosmo, or muffins from Capital Espresso. Imagine the impact on both our direct community and neighbourhood partners!

One of the core values of The Dale is “full participation”. We believe that everyone has something important to give and receive, and that we can each flourish when supported to bring our full selves to the community. We think the same is true for our broader network of support. Your role in this Registry might be to tell someone else about it, or to buy an item, or to cover our efforts in prayer and good thoughts. You might be inspired to order from a restaurant local to yourself, which we would love to hear about. We are grateful for whatever way you are able to show up.

Please do save the dates!

An Office for The Dale

I have been carrying my “office” in a backpack since 2012. It began because of the decision to extinguish as much expense as possible at what was then Parkdale Neighbourhood Church. At the time we were in financial crisis, uncertain of what lay ahead. I had been tasked by the Board with re-imagining our vision and way of being in the neighbourhood. One of the first things I suggested is that we give up our rented space, purge most of our belongings, and spill into the streets. That was the beginning of The Dale.

Near the beginning of my career I developed a friendship with someone who had spent most of their teenage years and twenties living outdoors. I distinctly remember their shock that I didn’t carry basic necessities at all times: “what do you mean you don’t have what you need in your bag?!” For this person, survival required forethought. The gift of that lesson still resonates with me, and most definitely impacted The Dale’s ability to become a community without walls. Though I admittedly don’t carry everything I could, I do have the following with me at all times: a pencil case, a tiny stapler, post-it notes, paperclips, scissors, a laptop, a USB, a backup drive, two files for active paper work, stamps, envelopes, and screen cleaner. I also have three American dollars tucked away, bills that were a gift from someone when things were especially desperate. I recall making the decision to place them in our petty cash so that should things get even more desperate we would have it to exchange and use as a last hurrah. They remind me to never take for granted what it means to live on the edge AND how far we have come.

Today I set up a printer in our new-to-us office. Yes, our OFFICE. The space became available to us in the building that has housed us since the beginning of the pandemic. It might not be a long-term thing, but it is a thing right now. Even as I write this, it all feels surreal. It is a surprisingly bright, basement room that we are able to make our own. We have even been gifted WIFI access by other tenants in the building. Grace upon grace.

I often share that the decision to become a nomadic community, a choice born out of crisis, has become one of our greatest gifts. Our people, who in large part understand what it means to be transient, gave us the courage to step out in faith and have taught us so much along the way. With their help, The Dale has come to more fully inhabit the neighbourhood of Parkdale. We have partnerships with a wonderful variety of organizations. By keeping our overhead costs extremely low, we can pour our resources into our programming and directly impact our community. Over the years we have slowly yet steadily grown, not unlike a phoenix rising from the ashes. When I step back and try to take it all in, I am filled with gratitude and awe.

I don’t think I will ever stop carrying my office in a backpack. I used all of the familiar contents today at the new desk, but I didn’t leave them there- I put them back in my bag, thinking again of my friend’s counsel to stay prepared. The Dale needs to remain nimble. If anything, having an office hopefully just increases our agility. Now we have a place to stash our backpacks while we stay spilled out in the neighbourhood. As one person once said about where to find The Dale, “just look for them on the street, natch.” May that continue to be the expectation.

A Van Named Morrison

The Dale van, affectionately known as Morrison, is being retrieved by Joanna from our parking spot that is a quick walk away from our primary space. Morrison is a long-term dream come to life. Years ago, the idea of getting a vehicle was birthed as a way of further embracing our nomadic nature. As a church and community organization without our own walls we want to fully inhabit our neighbourhood. Being on foot has served us well, though there have been times when we simply couldn’t carry everything we needed to, especially for example, when helping a community member move into housing. 

Morrison is a white cargo van, the smallest in a line used largely by businesses. Someone once commented that The Dale had gone “postal” because it is the same type of van used by Canada Post. Another told us, with a grin, that it looks like a toaster. Whatever your thoughts on the appearance, to us it is a beautiful: the result of much hope, hard work and a lot of prayer. 

Today is a Wednesday and we are loading Morrison with sleeping bags, blankets, socks, hats, hand sanitizer, Gatorade, snack packs of peanuts, and pepperoni sticks, a collection of things purchased through a grant from the United Way. We also have stacks of sandwiches, made by people from Christ Church St. James, and “Winter Kits”, made possible by money raised by students of Rosethorn Junior Public School during their Spirit Week. Our work is clearly made possible through the support of a wonderfully varied network. 

Olivia and Kim, a member of our Outreach team, load their arms with things, as they will walk ahead to connect with people and let them know the whereabouts of the van. Joanna and I drive the van to one of our typical spots, in the parking lot of a little strip mall which includes our partner, The Salvation Army Thrift Store. Today there is no spot, and so we drive to another location, alongside an area where many of our friends hang out. It is a nice day, one that suggests Spring is not too far off, while still being brisk. 

We have conversation after conversation with people, while distributing the contents of the van. People repeatedly comment how nice it is to have access to new things, while even getting to choose the colour of Gatorade they want to drink (everyone has a strong opinion about which one is best). I am reminded of the privilege of choice, something that I all too often take for granted. More often than not, people decline what they don’t need, preferring that it go to someone who does. 

By mid afternoon we are done. We tidy up Morrison, compare notes from the day, and comment yet again, “how surreal is it that we have a van?” As we close up the back with a satisfying clunk, I give thanks: for the donor who made the vehicle possible, for everyone who contributes to keeping it full, for The Dale team (both staff and volunteers), for the community who inspires us, and for the astounding provision of our Creator.