“I can remember my life before The Dale, but I can’t imagine my life after it” said my friend. All I could do was nod, smile and allow the tears to well up in my eyes. The words I thought to say got lodged behind the lump in my throat.

I took a long look at this person and was reminded of the journey we have shared. He was brought to The Dale by another friend who is now no longer alive. I remember that first meeting. In fact, I even have a picture of it. He seemed cautious about us, maybe even perplexed, which is why I was so surprised that he returned. Five years later and he’s at every single thing we do.

The transformation that we have been witness to in the life of this person is dramatic, though it happened (and continues to happen) incrementally. The anger that admittedly still takes up some residence, is managed in a better way. We can talk about difficult things AND laugh. He is learning to pray. We have been allowed to help with finances and housing. A lot of fun is had. The Dale has become his place of belonging.

This kind of community building helps fuel my passion for this work. It isn’t easy and more often than not, extremely messy. From an outside perspective I can imagine that it sometimes appears to be happening at a snail’s pace. But it’s in those little moments that hope begins to shine: when an apology replaces anger, when one decides to stay instead of flee, when a person identifies their gifts instead of only their perceived deficits.

For me, some of the best things in life have taken a long time to develop and nurture. My closest relationships are with people who have been willing to talk through the hard stuff, sometimes again and again (and again). At The Dale we endeavour to slowly build these type of friendships, the kind that last and as my friend says, might even leave you feeling like you can’t imagine your life without them.