I’m not always sure how to describe a Monday Drop-In, other to say it is most often a wonderful riot of activity. There is a large crew of people who show up first thing to get the room set up and the food underway. People chop vegetables. The same woman always cooks the meat. Coffee is put on. Souad, our Kitchen Coordinator, describes what the meal is for the day and reminds all of her “munchkins” and “angels” that she loves them. A small group of people gather in the corner opposite to the kitchen to make music: sometimes rather ambient, sometimes a mix of Beatles and Dylan, sometimes an Italian aria. On this day people danced to “This Little Light of Mine”.
Throughout a Monday people drop by to say hello or ask for a token. Some come (including me) to share their challenges and maybe ask for help. Others sit quietly in the same spot every week, drinking tea or coffee. Many people enjoy chatting. While there is more often than not a general sense of calm of Mondays, there are most certainly moments that are anything but, such as heated exchanges that need to be de-escalated. The thing that I love about the drop-in is that it belongs to the community. The lunch happens because of them. Even conflict resolution is shared.
At around 1:00 pm this past Monday 45 young people from around Ontario and Michigan showed up to experience the drop-in. I met them outside and suggested that people enter incrementally in smaller groups, look for a spot to sit and enjoy lunch. As I surveyed the full room I was struck by the beauty of the hospitality of The Dale community. One visiting group member turned to me and said, “you don’t need to serve me, let me do it.” To which I and others responded, “no, enjoy letting us serve you.” At one point I noticed large groups of youth scattered around the room, surrounding individuals telling their stories. Though our visitors could have easily and capably taken on the work of the lunch (getting it ready, serving and cleaning-up) they instead were hosted by us.
At The Dale we are playing with and trying to turn on its head the idea of “charity”. Many of us are accustomed to being on the receiving end of charity: others have what we need and give it to us. The problem is that too often this robs people of the opportunity to give. In other words, too often charity is a one way street. We believe that every person, regardless of their circumstances has something to offer. As humans we need to both give and receive. Monday was an opportunity to model this with 100+ people. For me, it was like charity remixed.