He’s usually loud, oftentimes shouting expletive heavy disjointed thoughts. It’s common for people to recoil, maybe out of equal parts fear and annoyance. We sometimes need to draw significant boundaries for him at The Dale (to varying degrees of success). All of this is why seeing him clear-headed and wanting to be helpful at a drop-in this week was so encouraging.

My heart is big for this person. I actually feel very parental towards him, and I don’t think I’m imagining that he’s content to feel like my kid. Sometimes our conversations are silly- he does make me laugh. Other times we talk about the significant pain he carries around: of being abandoned, abused and alone. The most difficult times are when he’s practically spinning like a top, telling stories that don’t make sense, but are spotted with the very real pain I just described.

Yesterday he set up the tables and chairs for our Wednesday Drop-In. He brought out mugs and made sure there was ketchup and syrup to accompany scrambled eggs and pancakes. He created individual servings of sliced oranges in little plastic bowls. He asked everyone in the room if he could get them a coffee, even someone who most days considers this person an enemy. The two of them ended up having a smoke break together.

Later in the day I was needing to describe our work to a person at the Charities Directorate in Ottawa. He wanted me to clarify how we define being a community. I kept thinking about the morning: how my friend wears his brokenness so close to the surface that he can’t hide it, that he keeps trying to work out the pain with people who won’t shun him, that on good days he knows he is safe to fully participate, and that he wants to take care of us just as we take care of him.

This friend left before the drop-in was done. Before exiting he said, “Cate needs to come so we can draw pictures together again. You know, I want good things for her. For you too. Tell her I helped today”. Well, I told her. And now I’m telling all of you, because this is the kind of moment that The Dale is all about.