During the month of December there were a number of moments which caused me to pause and give thanks. These are just a handful of them. Gifts given and received, from every angle.
I admittedly can struggle with some low-grade anxiety as we near the fiscal year-end at The Dale. This has lessened over the years, though has never entirely gone away. I think it is a mix of remembering when we had so little and wondering, as we grow, if we will have what is needed. Tossed in is a sense of awe at how people support this community and a desire to trust for our daily bread. This year, aware that we were behind, I felt the all too familiar pit in my stomach. Then, surprise after surprise came and by December 31st, we had…enough.
One Sunday he showed up at the referral of a friend who has long been connected to The Dale. We spoke at length about his hunt for housing while living outside. I wasn’t sure that he would stick around for the service, but he did. During the passing of the peace he shook my hand and said, “I feel warm in a way that I did not expect”. At the end, as he gathered his belongings, he stuck a small stack of coins in my hand for The Dale. “It’s not much, but it is what I have to give”. I told him it was a LOT.
We have always had to be creative when it comes to preparing our Christmas meals. There are many components and limited kitchen capacity. This year we had a revelatory experience. Blythwood Road Baptist Church funded the meal. A group of three chefs volunteered to do the grocery shopping and all the cooking, while people from Christ Church St. James came to package everything up. This all freed the staff team to be working through other items on our to-do lists. It was a beautiful example of partnership and provision.
We embraced while standing on the sidewalk during our meal-to-go. She had just candidly told me about all the reasons why Christmas is hard. As tears ran down her face and welled up in my own, we held each other in silence. Then another person, who also finds the season brutal, suggested that we sing. And so, we did. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”.
A friend who I’ve known for as long as I’ve been in Parkdale made me this:
A woman desperate to give her grandchildren presents asked if we could help with toys. We had just given away what we had but offered to keep our eyes open for options. A friend connected to a children’s space in Parkdale reached out to ask, “do you have anyone who needs toys? We have more than we needed”. The grandmother and I walked over to take a look and ended up leaving with age-appropriate goodies. She then pulled out a piece of paper and slowly read a note that someone had translated on her behalf, as English is not her first language. It was her gift to me.
Experiences like this are not a rarity at The Dale. I cherish being a part of a community where the complexity of life is not ignored, and beauty is found in its layers. I cannot help but reflect on this as I consider heading into a new year.