I’ve been listening to a song lately that includes this lyric: “Show me how big your brave is”. Every time I hear it I wonder how big my brave is and am struck by the bravery and risk-taking I get to witness every day amongst The Dale community. I suppose as I stare down the end of a year and the dawn of a new one this phrase is particularly poignant because I am looking both backward and forward.

At this time last year I couldn’t have imagined how all the things that needed to happen in Parkdale were going to happen: finding enough funding, making sure the buildings that had housed us in our time of crisis were okay with us staying, keeping up with administration while being fully present to people, discovering the right name for us and actually announcing that PNC was to become The Dale. I will confess there were moments when I wondered what the heck I was doing, when I hid in our little storage space off the drop-in and cried, when my incessant praying became exhausting. Fast forward a year and I’m wondering again how everything will happen and am having the same moments of fear and doubt. I’m trying to remind myself that I know this feeling and that it will be okay; that I am invited again and again to choose bravery over timidity.

Whenever I doubt, I just have to stop and look around. I know people who slept outside last night and braved the cold in a way I cannot even imagine. I have friends who are reaching out to family members they have been estranged from even though the risk is they will be rejected again. I experience people coming to church on Sundays and actually confessing their wrongs or doubts or fears IN FRONT of everybody: no masks, no claiming to be something they are not. Just yesterday a friend had an epiphany that it was time to get well, sought help, found a bed in a recovery facility and actually went. Is it just the first step in a long journey? Yes, but I think we can all relate to the first step in anything usually being the hardest.

The Dale resides in a place very close to the edge. We remain in existence, in part, because as a community we have been willing to think outside the box. We have few belongings, are nomads in the neighbourhood and depend on others to support us. God is doing a good work here. The community itself sets the tables, cooks the food, makes the coffee, plays the music, creates the art, participates in discussion, etc. Our Kitchen Coordinator Souad is a volunteer, while Joanna (Community Worker) and I raise the funds for our salaries. Some might think us crazy.

I prefer to think of us as brave (though I personally don’t feel like it much of the time) and the recipients of much grace and blessing beyond ourselves.