Archives for the month of: October, 2019

This blog has been a wonderful place for me to process my thoughts, talk about life and share about The Dale. I get to use my voice, which is not something I take for granted. In an effort to share this platform (such as it is), I have decided to include more guest posts. In the past, this has primarily been a way for interns at The Dale to describe their experience with our community. I would like to broaden that scope and will be inviting a variety of people to write in this space. I am excited to encourage and support other writers!

To start, here is a piece from Joanna Moon, my beloved friend and Community Worker at The Dale.

Today we had our weekly drop-in at the Salvation Army Thrift Store “Coffee Corner”. A friend joined us who is often in conversation with herself and/or an unseen other. She is sometimes very clear, and sometimes not. Today she spoke about a lot of things, including the feeling that she doesn’t have anyone in her life to care about her. Another member of the community, “Jess”, who has had more than her fair share of struggles, replied “Yes you do! You have us! We’re here for you, if you want to hang out with us! If not, that’s your prerogative.”

Then Jess stopped, as if surprised by herself… “Prerogative?! Wow, where did that come from? I haven’t used that word in… a long time! Awesome! What a great word!” She then went on to think of other great words. A few minutes later was still coming up with words, and I heard her say, “Hope! That’s a big word. Well, it’s a little word, but it’s big. It’s a big little word!”

She’s so right. Hope IS a big little word. Jess offers me hope, just by being who she is, and by the way that she offers hope to other folks in the community.

Hope. Awesome! What a great word.

It’s rare for me to feel a sense of hopelessness, which is probably why my experience of it recently was so uncomfortable. A number of things contributed to it: Dion’s ongoing health challenges; an accumulation of grief for the too many friends whose deaths have been untimely, sometimes violent, and often preventable; the lack of space I’ve had to properly mourn my mother; the increasing awareness of how many layers of marginalization people face; my dear friend’s angst that the poverty she lives with will be never-ending; hearing about the many forms of racism that continue to exist.

I was sitting in a chair at ReImagine, a conference in Hamilton that took place last week, when my chest got tight and I began to cry. The group assembled had just listened to a profound and heart wrenching rendition of Ben Harper’s Call it What it Is (“Government ain’t easy, policing ain’t easy, hard times ain’t easy, oppression ain’t easy, racism ain’t easy, fear ain’t easy, suffering ain’t easy. Call it what it is.”)

I felt this overwhelming sense of dread in my heart and weighing on my shoulders. All the things I mention above were in my mind. I contemplated my own mistakes. I wondered if there was any way forward. It was a dark moment. I also began to worry about my impending talk, the one I needed to give in the same room the next morning. Given that we had spent much of the day acknowledging the need for further decolonization and the dynamics of power and privilege, could I dare to talk about practicing presence in Parkdale? What if I stumbled with my words or caused harm rather than good?

As hard as it was, I think I needed to sit in all that discomfort. Too often we do not provide room to lament, both our own wrong actions and the brokenness of the world. Maybe it’s because we want to appear okay, or in order to cope we have to just keep going. All I know is that whenever I think I can put my grief in a box it finds a way out. And usually when it does I have less control of it than if I’d held it in my lap all along.

Each day at ReImagine we sang a beautiful original song of lament written by Chad Cecil, that included the lyrics: we’re not okay/love make a way. Those words have been running through my mind non-stop. Collectively acknowledging that we’re not okay felt important. As we did so, there was a palpable sense of hope that re-emerged for me. I believe that all things are going to one day be made right. In the meantime, we have the incredible opportunity to learn what it means to love one another, to fight injustice, to celebrate acts of neighbourliness, and to be transformed by our Creator.

I did share the story of The Dale. I also shed the shroud of hopelessness. God reminded me in those dark moments that His light is real. I closed my talk with the words of Oscar Romero which I will do here too: “So, it is for us, we may never see end results, and what we do may in the end be very incomplete. Still we minister; still we love, hoping for the kingdom which is beyond our vision. Still we plant and water the seeds which may not be our own, but in truth belong to future generations. Still we find meaning in our lives as incomplete as they may actually be, because we participate in something much larger than ourselves, and in this hope we prophesy of the kingdom of God, we prophesy of a future that is not our own.”

Love make a way.

I haven’t written here in a little while, in large part because there have been many other things to do. I think I also needed a break from my own voice. Though, new stories are filling up my mind and slowly forming on the page.

I love telling the story of The Dale. It is a story that is sometimes difficult, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, sometimes joyous, and most times deeply good. I also love listening to the story of The Dale as told by other people, which is why I would like to share what Dion recently wrote on his own blog about Thanksgiving Sunday in Parkdale.

You’d think that people living in poverty wouldn’t have much to be thankful for.
But you’d be wrong.
Oh so very wrong.

I was reminded of that in church yesterday at The Dale. People kept listing things they were thankful for. Not big houses or shiny cars or other crap like that.
But for people.
Community.
For being alive.
One Person was thankful for clean clothes…

For me I found myself thankful for the incredible unity amongst so much diversity. There were:

Young children and senior citizens.
People with different colours of skin.
Syrian refugees and people born and raised right here in Canada.
People in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and able-bodied folks.

People who had homes and people who did not.
People who speak English and some who did not.
People with obvious significant mental health issues and others who had mental health issues a bit harder to spot.
People of different genders including someone who is transgendered.
Some first timers to the church and some who are always there.

The beauty was that amidst all of our diversity we were one body worshipping the same God. I found myself forgetting all about my own plight in life and overwhelmed with gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for.

At the end of the service one of the youngest people there requested we sing one final closing song. I will end here as it is beautiful and my prayer for this thanksgiving day.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Jesus put this song into our hearts
It’s a song of joy no one can take away
Jesus put this song into our hearts

Jesus taught us how to live in harmony
Different faces different races, He made us one
Jesus taught us how to live in harmony

Jesus taught us how to be a family
Loving one another with love that He gives
Jesus taught us how to be a family

Jesus turned our sorrow into dancing
Changed our tears of sadness into rivers of joy
Jesus turned our sorrow into dancing

Amen

To read more from Dion go to: https://www.dionoxford.com