I started last Saturday with getting a massage. Doing this always feels like some amazing luxury that I don’t really deserve, except I know that it helps keep me healthy. Apart from my heart, I tend to carry my stress in my shoulders and neck. 2016 has been pretty heavy thus far and on this particular day we were about to have our annual February Feast, an event that is bigger and sometimes more challenging than anything else we do. Seeing a massage therapist felt in order.

Before heading to Parkdale I stopped at The Gateway to pick up the turkey Second Harvest provided for our feast. We simply don’t have the kitchen capacity to cook as much turkey as we need (150+ people), so my caterer friend Sammy has his crew do it in the kitchen of this Salvation Army shelter. This relieves much of the “feast stress”, so I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me as the meat and a bucket of drippings for gravy were loaded into the car.

When I arrived at the drop-in, Joanna acknowledged that she too was feeling some angst about the night ahead. We went to the storage room and took a few moments to pray, for: enough food to go around, volume issues with the Open Stage portion of the night to be well managed and peace to prevail. We both took a deep breath and went back to helping set things up.

What transpired next was a reminder of why I love being at The Dale. We had more hands than we even needed to set up the room and cook the rest of the meal. The room totally filled up in time for our 6 pm start. Everyone got to eat and while some were concerned that their portion would be too meagre, it wasn’t. A few situations threatened to erupt, but were solved without major incident. The Parkdale Villager (our local paper) surprised us by sending a photographer to document the night. There was music and dancing.

One of my favourite moments was when my daughter Cate got up to share a song. As soon as she started to strum her ukulele and open her mouth, a hush descended upon the room. From my vantage point I could see how everyone stopped and really listened, erupting into encouraging applause at the end. The pride that I feel for Cate was reflected back to me in the eyes of the community. It was beautiful.

Joanna and I high-fived at the end of the night in acknowledgement that we’d been witness to God’s presence and our team at work. I realized the stress I was carrying in the morning slowly dissolved as I took notice of so many good things: the provision of Second Harvest, turkeys being cooked for us, a relaxed kitchen crew, a man being able to eat for the first time in days, a sense of celebration and fun. I’m hoping the memory of this Feast will linger for a long time.

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