See You Soon…

Ian and I found out I was pregnant on the evening of February 20th this year. I remember that night very vividly, and probably always will. But I remember thinking then and for the first good chunk of my pregnancy that it would feel like forever before I got here, to this point. On Sunday I will be entering my 9th month. It will be just four(ish) weeks until we meet our girl. Now that I am here, it seems like it came so fast. Time is funny that way.

This week is my last official week of work before I start maternity leave. When I was about half way or more through being pregnant, I was starting to get anxious about what time away from work would look like. Erinn and I had a meeting and came up with a plan that very much eased my mind. The first week of October would be a regular work week, and the second week of October would be a sort of “phasing out”. This would be a time for me to come late and leave early, not attend any meetings, not bring my keys… just to take the time to sit and be with people without worrying about work duties. Again, it seemed like so far away, and yet here we are.

As I have written about a few times in this space before, I have been so cared for by my community. Especially in the last month or so when pregnancy has started to get the best of me, they hold me tight and make sure I am okay. I will be forever grateful for their loving care. This Monday I took some time after lunch to sit with a couple of my friends. The room had cleared out pretty fast this day, so it was just the four of us at a table. We were chatting about Rice Krispie squares of all things, and I was writing out a recipe for my friend Jane*. Suddenly, she said that she wanted to pray for me. Jane is wise and brave and sweet and knowing. She put her hand on my arm and the two others followed suit. Jane often prays in a quiet, calm voice. As she prayed over me and my baby, my other friend at the table prayed at the same time in tongues as he often does. I listened and was so moved by their sudden willingness to pray over me. This is my community. They know Jesus, and they know how to love really well. I am so grateful to learn from them everyday.

This whole week has felt pretty weird to be honest. I know each day is my “last” of this and “last” of that for a long while, but it feels like I will always remain in this time of just being pregnant and working the same as always (I know people say that near the end of pregnancy it feels like it just lasts forever even when you’re so ready to be done!). Even last week at our staff retreat, it was odd in some ways to be planning ahead, for things that I won’t necessarily be around for. I know I will be back eventually and that I will visit, etc. But a year is a long time. I know there will be conversations had without me, that my participation will be from afar, that people and things will ebb and flow and change as they do and should. I just hope and pray that I can remain both here and there – here at home with my baby soaking up time and learning how to be a parent, and there at the Dale with my community, my people, my team. I will miss them deeply.

This has been such a year. Being pregnant has been a journey… in confidence in my body and bonding with this being that is so close, yet so far. I have learned at work to be more confident in a variety of ways, in my role at the Dale and fundraising to name a few. Ian and I are still learning how to be together and what it means to love each other well as husband and wife – something that takes a lot of work and time and effort. And a lot of my friends have passed away… too many. Wally. Keith. Dallas. Paul. Sharky. James. Rondine. Dane. Robin. And sadly there have been so many that I’m looking at the list wondering if I missed anyone. They deserve to be named and remembered. I know a year is a long time and in the next one that I will be away from work there are more that could be added to this list. I pray for a break from the grief and for peace for my communities that have lost far too many.

What I am trying to say is that a year is a long time. In this year I have learned so much about myself and have grown in my capacity at work. And in the next year I will learn new things as a mother of a daughter who I cannot wait to meet. I will be taking a break from this space after this post for a while until the next time when I introduce you to our baby (!). I am grateful for all those who have tuned in week after week, who have read my words from the heart, who’ve shared my posts, who’ve commented and prayed and loved me. Thank you. This is not a goodbye! It’s just see you soon. I pray that you will be well.

As always, peace to you.

I will continue in my fundraising efforts in my leave from work, if you would like to join me financially on my ministry journey. I fundraise all of my salary in order to be able to work at The Dale. If you would like more information about this, please reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. Contributions can be made one time via cheque, cash or through CanadaHelps, or monthly through PAR.

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Camp Retreat

A couple weekends ago we took a group of community members to Camp Koinonia near Parry Sound for our annual Fall retreat. This is the third year I have gone on retreat with our community, and each year has provided me different experiences, opportunities to connect with people, and memories. We like this retreat time as it provides all of us refuge from the city which can be loud, stressful, and hectic. It gives us a glimpse into the beauty of nature, opportunity to eat three meals a day together, and time to sit in front of a fire.

Each year has shown me again that community life comes with it’s own ups and downs. Just because we all take a bus out of the city together, doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory. We still have to learn to be together and live with the challenges we carry whether we are in the city or not.

I’ll admit, there were some hard things about this year at camp. Those things deserve to be acknowledged because they are part of the experience. People can have a hard time leaving the city no matter how much they want to go, and that built up anger can get taken out on us in different ways. This is hard sometimes. But as I try to always remember and write about here, things can be hard and good at the same time. And camp this year was good. We got the sense that overall, our folks left feeling refreshed, happy, grateful, and renewed. People took pictures, went out on the water, swam, collected stories, and talked about all those stories for days after we returned.

There are lots of memories that I will cherish this year from camp. From Ian needing to be pulled to shore after trying a faulty water toy, to working on a puzzle with different groups of people over the weekend. From sitting around the fire talking about enneagrams, to Jo’s friend Sarah visiting with her kids which has become a yearly tradition. From bonding with my community, to stepping in front of arguments. These moments are all valid in their own way, and I would not trade the experience. I am grateful for this annual retreat away and hope we can continue to make it as accessible and fun as possible each year.

View of the lake at camp

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Did you know I fundraise money to be paid for working at The Dale?? If you would like to walk this journey with me and support my ministry financially please get in touch. This can be done by monthly or one time donations!

Riding (Waddling, Rolling, Strolling) for Refuge

If you’ve been following my journey at The Dale for a while, you may know that each year we participate in the Ride for Refuge in order to raise money for our general fund. The Ride for Refuge provides a platform that The Dale and many other organizations use to help raise money for their specific needs. Without the Ride, The Dale would have little capacity to do a fundraiser this large, as it takes a lot of work, planning, and money to be able to organize an event like this. This is why we partner with the Ride for Refuge.

All of the money that The Dale has in its general fund is a direct result of fundraising efforts. Erinn does a large amount of speaking, networking, grant writing, and fundraising to support our organization. As a team, we help her by participating in and creating events that raise money (such as our annual online auction and this ride) for our general fund. On top of that, we all as a staff team must fundraise through our own networks to raise the money for our salaries. The Dale is not supported through any government funding. It all comes from generous people such as yourselves who sustain us financially, as well as in prayer and friendship.

The money that we raise that goes towards our general fund helps support our programming in many ways. As many of you would know, The Dale does not own a building space. We partner with many community locations to hold our programs and meal drop-ins. This means that we aren’t spending large chunks of money maintaining a building space because we don’t have one! The money that we raise goes towards buying some food for our meal programs (we do need to purchase some food other than what we are donated from Second Harvest each week). It also goes towards purchasing supplies such as water and socks for our outreach walks that we go on weekly or bi-weekly, especially in the winter and middle of summer. Another thing this money is used for is our community retreat that we go on each Fall – we take a group of community members to a camp for a weekend as an escape from the city into the calm of nature. This requires a bus and a cost to the camp. We also use the money to help with individual support such as buying emergency grocery cards for community, cleaning supplies if we are supporting someone clean their home, or linens for people just moving into a new place. Those are just a few of our weekly/monthly/yearly expenses.

The Ride for Refuge isn’t just another event to me where I show up, walk, and go home. I know that the money that we raise is actually going somewhere important. It’s going towards providing wholesome food to my friends who may have otherwise not had breakfast on a Thursday morning. It’s going towards making someone’s place just that much cleaner and more habitable. It’s going towards experiences of joy and retreat at camp each year. It’s going towards meeting people where they are at on the street, and offering a water bottle as a way to start a bigger conversation. These are all things that I have a hand in as a community worker at The Dale. So please know that when I push these events on social media and email you reminding you about the Ride, I’m doing so because this event is an annual event that make such a large difference to us as a community. The more money we raise, the more opportunity we have to walk alongside people in support each week, to show people that they are valued and cared for by providing a meal where we can all sit at the same table and eat together, to show up for people in order to show them that they too can show up in the best way that they know how.

I am asking you to please support us this year as we try to raise money for our organization through the Ride for Refuge. You are so welcome to come and ride/walk with us on October 5th. All it takes is signing up and raising some money for us through your own networks. If that is not possible for you, I would ask you to donate towards my participation in this event by following the link below or sending a cheque. I will be walking (more like waddling at 8 months pregnant!) 5km this year. You can always reach out to me for more information. I hope this post helped answer any questions you may have had regarding the Ride or where your money is going. Please know that any support you offer us, financially or otherwise, is always held so close to our hearts and deeply appreciated. You really are making a difference in someone’s life.

You can donate at this link: walk.w-ith.me/meagan

Thank you!

A group photo from this year’s annual retreat.
Ian and I about to bike 25km at last year’s Ride for Refuge!
A photo from an Open Stage last year, one gathering where community can show off their talents!

One Good Reason.

I try to keep up with this blog so that I post once a week, or so. The past couple weeks, I feel like I have been struggling with knowing what to write. This can happen sometimes, for various reasons, and I try to forgive myself for not coming out with a blog once a week. However, if the next week I’m still struggling, it gives me good reason to sit and reflect on how I’m feeling. I can think about what is causing the writing block, what feelings are maybe overwhelming me that I’m trying to put into words, or what some good things are that happened the past couple weeks. I value that this blog has become a space where I can be really vulnerable and honest, and that my words are met with love and care.

I guess in my reflection this week, my mind brought me back to a few days ago. Ian and I were having breakfast together one weekday morning. We have come to cherish this time together where we can eat a meal side by side, check in about how we feel, and pray together. This morning we had Spotify music on in the background and a Lady Gaga song happened to come on called, “One Million Reasons.”

There was one part that stood out to us, and the lyrics are like this:

“I bow down to pray
I try to make the worst seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all this worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay.”

If my memory serves me, Ian and I had been chatting about the heaviness we have been feeling about work and life in community. With all the deaths happening, memorials to attend, the heat of the summer beating down on our friends living outside, and the general awareness that our friends in community are experiencing heavy things, we felt really weighed down. Sometimes these jobs we have can feel hopeless. Ian works in a similar field of work that I do, and we both know a lot of the same folks having worked in the same places over the years. When people die all in a row, when people miss important appointments that you show up for, when people are caught between cracks in a system that is very broken… you start to feel like the point is lost. It feels like there are a hundred million reasons to walk away somedays.

However, the last line of the song ends in what feels like hope. Maybe we all just need one good reason to stay. One reason to stay where we are, to hold on a little longer, to hope for the best, to see the good. It can be hard to find somedays. But there are good moments amidst the heavy things that make our hearts feel lighter.

Ian helped house a couple people the past two weeks. This means there are a couple less people living in shelter or in unsafe spaces. He is advocating daily for people to to feel safe and cared for. It is hard work, and even the act of doing this advocating is a miracle in a system that is very broken. All people deserve love and care.

There are many good moments that happen at the Dale that make our hearts feel lighter. People are growing in their capacity to care for each other and practice their conflict resolution skills, for example. Others are practicing being sober, even if only for a day. That is a really hopeful thing. Some are working on cleaning to make their living situations better. They are learning to advocate for themselves and we get to walk alongside them in support. I am learning to find my voice, and say what I need. This comes through a lot of work around not trying to manage everyone’s emotions, knowing what I need, and being respectful to myself and others in that process. Good things are happening, although slow and steady, and they are all good reasons to stay.

Our friend made a beautiful sign for our team a while back, and I forgot to share it here. Now seems like a good time. He created an “office” sign for us in a corner of one little room we use as storage. The sign lists our names, and says, “Anyone need help, come to see one of us. We will help you all.” This person put a framed picture of Jesus next to the sign, and a little fake bouquet of flowers near by with a chair for us to sit down. English is not their first language, but you can see that they tried really hard to make us this sign that communicated that we are here to help. I am grateful for my friends at The Dale who care for us in such different ways, from asking us how we are to making us little office signs. We walk through a lot of hard things together, and do a lot of learning with one another. But they are the ones that also give me one good reason after another to stay. All I need is one good reason. They are mine, and that is enough.

Our sign, and Jesus.

Did you know that I fundraise my own salary at The Dale? Would you like to support me in my ministry here so I can keep working and increase my hours? You can do so by PAR, online donation, or cheque. Please contact meagan.gillard@gmail.com for more information.

A Tough Year.

My friend Paul would often show up at Sanctuary in the clothes that he wore to work because that’s where he was coming from. That meant that they were covered in dirt and paint. I would poke fun at him by saying, “Paul, you have something on your shirt.” He would look down in shock before realizing I was talking about the paint smears on the front of his shirt that were permanently stained there. This joke never failed to amuse us.

The other day on the subway, I saw a guy in his work clothes. He was covered in paint smears. The first thing that came to my mind was the joke about him having something on his shirt. I immediately thought of Paul and my heart ached for my friendship with him. I miss him all the time.

It has been a tough year. I’ve heard this over and over from my colleagues and I know it to be true. Between The Dale and Sanctuary we have lost too many friends this year than I can count on one hand, maybe even two. It’s becoming hard to keep count, and that’s a bad thing. My colleagues are tired. My communities are grieving. We can barely stop missing one person before quickly losing another, often having two memorials simultaneously.

Please pray for us. Pray that we will find strength to miss people well. Pray that the loss will stop soon. Pray that people stop dying of living outside, from preventable deaths, and tragedy. Loosing friends to old age is hard enough, let alone to murder, overdose, cancer, lack of affordable housing.

I am sad. I am trying to remember my friends well and hold the heaviness and joy of the lives they lived and how much they are missed now that they’re gone. I don’t know exactly how to do this well but what I can do is try. I can pray for healing, I can cry, I can remember. And I know that this is really hard, for me and for my colleagues who came before me who have lost so many more. Please pray for their hearts. Let us help each other hold the weight.

I don’t know how to end this one, and I know it’s pretty heavy. I don’t write this for any kind of sympathy. I think part of me knew when I started writing that I needed to ask for prayer for us all at The Dale and Sanctuary. I never thought I would attend so many funerals or memorials in my lifetime. They never get easier. Hold us in your prayers as we go into next week – there are two memorials happening one day after another.

Peace to you, and peace to me. I’ll be praying. Please join me.

Searching for God.

I have been feeling overwhelmed. There are a lot of things these days making my brain and my calendar full. Between preparing for a baby, walking alongside friends, feeling heavy for things going on in the lives of my Dale and Sanctuary communities, being a wife, and just growing a person inside of me and all the emotional ups and downs that comes with, I have had a harder time coping with my regular anxieties.

This is not to say that I do not have a support system. I am very fortunate to have people on “my team”, walking with me, checking in, and holding me up. But I find that feeling of breaking down, thinking “I can’t do this today”, and wanting to back away slowly and run coming to me more often than I would like. This is one way my anxiety manifests itself, and some days are harder than others to put one foot in front of the other.

As a team at The Dale and at home with Ian, the topic of intentional prayer has come up for me. I think God is trying to tell me something! I have always had to work harder at praying. But I have been trying to pray with more intention, and ask God for help. Erinn has talked about this with us, and recently preached about it at church. When we cry out to God for help, it doesn’t mean that our checklist of things will fall into our laps. It means we will learn that we don’t actually want this or that, but that we just want God to be present. In those moments where I find that I just can’t walk further, I pray for a strength that I really don’t have on my own. When the tears won’t stop falling, I pray for a peace that passes all my understanding. And it has been coming. I wouldn’t be here without it.

I know that God listens. My little mind has been noticing more and more that he is hearing me and working in surprising ways. From blessings from people when I least expect them, to a healthier relationship forming between Ian and I, to my feet being able to move one in front of the other… He is with me. I don’t expect that all my dreams and desires will come true. But I am learning to ask for God to come and how that is the most important thing we can ask for. For Him to come and show His face so I can feel a calmness through my anxiety and a strength when I can’t find it. To show me peace and to know that I am not in control, no matter how much I want to be. All I want is to know that He is there. And I am learning to give up my control of all the things happening around me, and let Him show me that He is the one with the power, deserving of all the glory.

Ian and I have been praying with and for each other each morning after we eat breakfast together. I am grateful for a husband that holds my hand and asks if he can pray for me, who reminds me that we can actually talk to God and reach out for help, and that this is a really great thing to do with intention and when we are sitting there full of tears not knowing what to do or say. We can always say, “Oh God. Please help me.” I’ve been saying that to God so often that I’m sure he saying back to me, “I’m right here! Can’t you see me?” I am grateful that He never leaves or forsakes me.

I encourage you to reach out prayerfully this week, and really seek God. He is there! I know this to be true.

Peace.


Did you know that I fundraise my own salary to be able to work at The Dale? If you would like to support my ministry here, please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com. You can support me by monthly PAR, cheque, or CanadaHelps online donations. Thanks!

Of All the Places…

I must say, working at an organization with no actual physical building has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life. We like to joke that the only “walls” we own are those surrounding our little PO Box at the Canada Post down the street. While there are many great things about having a building and a space to call your own (such as having your own office, knowing where things are and only having to walk down a hall to find them, having easy access to a bathroom, etc), there have actually been many more perks to being out in the open and “spilling onto the streets.”

There is a whole history behind why the Dale is now a nomadic church, however I will save that for another blog since it is an important story that deserves it’s own space. I will say however, that I have heard it was quite the experience being displaced from a building, having to get rid of much of what was owned, and spilling onto the streets and becoming nomadic. I would not know what it would be like to experience homelessness. But in the way the Dale became a nomadic organization, it was eye opening and relationally important for us to know what it was like to be evicted and out on the streets.

That being said, there are many…. funny things about not having our own space, as you may have heard me describe over the years. Having our food for community meals in various buildings, having to remember if it was coffee from this or that cupboard that needed replacing, carting meat around because it needs to be thawed in one building and consumed in another, knowing where washrooms are if we are having a drop-in outside, remembering to bring all 5 of our keys incase we need access to a certain place on a certain day… these are all the little things we have to endure by being housed in multiple rooms and locations.

We have met in coffee shops, back rooms squeezed between shelves, the backseat of Erinn’s van, alley ways, and other people’s offices/kitchens. We have cried in grocery store line-ups, prayed behind freezers, and caught up in pews at many churches. Our computers have been opened at Starbucks, pastor’s offices, and basement kitchens. Staff meetings can be any and everywhere there is a chair or spot on the floor to sit, bonus points for a coffee maker. We have had drop-in and church in parks, side rooms, and the backs of thrift stores. We have 2 fridges and a half, 1 freezer, many shelves, 2 cupboards, multiple buckets and baskets, and stuff being contained and paired down over and over by multiple hands. There are four staff, hundreds of community, too many volunteers to count, lots of tears, many outbursts, a lot of laughs in a single minute, and so many gracious people opening their doors, tables, chairs, floors, kitchens, basements. We are a group of mushy and banged up hearts.

We are blessed. Wednesday morning we usually meet at a church in Kensington to work on admin stuff. We sit in the kitchen that lives in the basement and work for hours sitting at a table facing each other. This morning we were moved upstairs due to use of the space, and were shown an office with three chairs and a table, plugs for the computers, water, coffee, generosity, and love. We were cared for, and this is just in one seemingly simple way. I am grateful that this is the norm for us. I also recognize that we are privileged. Many of our friends who are outside on the streets are not shown the same hospitality, are not invited in, are not shown care. And I hope that by care being extended to us, that we can then offer extended care to many who are looking for a seat at the table. We can all squish in, move over, pass a cup down, and share the love. We wouldn’t be surviving without it.


Did you know that I fundraise my own salary in order to be able to work at The Dale? I am currently working 16 hours a week, and continue to fundraise in order to raise my capacity for work at The Dale. If you would like to become a financial supporter of my ministry here, please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com. You can donate by PAR, cheque, or CanadaHelps and this can be done monthly or once!

Joy in Experience

My (not so little anymore) brother, Matthew , came to spend some time with us at the Dale last week and this week. He is just finishing grade nine, and was very keen to get some of his required community service hours completed. So he asked if he could do some hours at The Dale and it all worked out for him to join us for a couple of weeks.

I must admit that I was a little nervous for him to come and be with us. I think I will always see Matthew as my five year old little bro, even though he is growing up and maturing into his own person. So to picture my little brother coming to drop-in with me, which can sometimes be a tense environment (even though also quite lovely), freaked me out. What if he saw someone yelling at me or upset? What if he saw something he wasn’t used to (which may as well be most things since we grew up in the suburbs of Brampton)? What if this that and the other thing? There could have been so many things that my mind made up that would make this a disaster for my brother. As per usual, my mind wondered to the worst instead of thinking of the best.

So now as I sit here reflecting on the time he was here with us, I can say that it was really beautiful. It was beautiful for me to witness, and hopefully beautiful for him to experience. Here are some highlights:

  • We went for an outreach walk on Matthew’s first week, and stopped for quite a while to talk to our friend Tom*. Tom was laying out in the park in some shade and we talked to him a long time about books. Matthew discovered that he had the same taste in books as Tom, and they got to chatting about some classics that I haven’t even heard of. For the rest of the night, Matthew kept mentioning how glad he was to have met Tom.
  • At our Tuesday drop-in, we had to move to the thrift store inside due to possible rain which means we sat at the back and brought out the Scrabble board. Matthew played with a few other of our community members and apparently it was his first time ever playing Scrabble!
  • As we moved into his second week with us, people started to recognize my brother and would say, “Hey, Matthew!” and shake his hand.
  • I think it was an adjustment for Matthew to learn that part of serving can actually be sitting and chatting with people, rather than always doing something with your hands. Our kitchen volunteers welcomed him with open arms on Monday to help in the kitchen and then I really encouraged him to sit down during the meal and after to talk with people. I know this is hard! But he did it, and it was a joy to look across the room to see my brother sitting and laughing with my friends.
  • Half way through our drop-in in the park yesterday, I noticed that Matthew wasn’t beside me. After a brief moment of panic, I looked around and saw him sitting with his new friend, Scott*, chatting away. He asked me near the end of drop-in if we would see Scott again, and was so thrilled about their conversation. I had tears come to my eyes.

I am grateful that Matthew was willing to step out of his comfort zone and hang out with me this week. I feel blessed to have shown him what I do for my life’s calling and I hope this is an experience that he remembers as he gets older and can process community work in a different way, and all that comes with it. I am grateful for my community and their continued generous hospitality which they extended to my brother this week. It was a joy to have my little bro hang out with us. I am proud of him!

Peace to you this week! I pray that you are able to find joy in new experiences.

My salary here at the Dale is fundraised by me! If you would like to partner with my financially, you can do so by cheque, PAR or CanadaHelps online donation. Please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com to chat more.

A Baby Changes Everything

As many of you already know, Ian and I are expecting a baby in early November. This is definitely an exciting time for our family. We are filled with many emotions that one may normally experience when waiting for the arrival of their newborn… excitement, happiness, fear, joy, fear, love, fear… I’m sure you can see a theme! In all seriousness, becoming a parent is a lovely yet terrifying thing – at least from my point of view. I have, however, found deep joy and encouragement in sharing this experience with my Dale family.

To be honest, when I was approaching the end of my first trimester and getting ready to share with my community that I was pregnant, I was really nervous! I think it was a mixture of anticipation in sharing a secret that I kept to my close friends and family for so long, to wondering what people’s reaction would be, to worrying about what kind of personal space boundaries I might need to set. You see, I wasn’t just sharing with a few people in an office that I was having a baby. I would be sharing with my close community families, those at the Dale and Sanctuary, which encompassed maybe over a hundred people give or take. It felt like a lot.

I wanted to be sensitive as well to the fact that a lot of people have mixed feelings about children. From the loss of kids, maybe trauma around childhood, to a number of feelings surrounding parenthood and motherhood. I felt like I wanted or needed to hold my joy close in case someone’s sadness came pouring out upon hearing my news. What actually ended up happening was that I was met with so much love, joy, protection, and care. It was, and continues to be, so beautiful. I feel grateful.

Upon telling people that I was expecting, I was surrounded with care from the beginning. My job can be very physical. We are often facilitating drop-ins on our feet, preparing meals, doing dishes after, doing outreach, helping people clean, etc. My community at the Dale has made sure I don’t lift anything too heavy, that I sit down and take breaks, that I eat something. I am asked so many times a day if I’m alright, how I’m doing, if I’m tired, if I need anything. I have had to really set down my pride, to be honest, and let people love me. I am used to being strong and independent, and its not that I am not these things now, but growing a human does make you slightly more fragile in some ways. My people are really showing me how much I am loved and how much our little baby is loved in the ways they look after me. It really is a reminder of how much we hold up the idea of giving and receiving at The Dale. I am receiving a lot of love and care, especially these days, and being in friendship based ministry and community continues to be such a blessing to my heart. 

I have been grateful for all that has come from this experience. I have experienced people’s deep care for me, and received small gifts for our baby (including a painting of frogs with glow in the dark painted lily pads). I’ve heard motherly advice, and been asked questions about what how I am feeling. There have been handshakes and hugs, but also silent nods or funny comments that I’m not really sure how to take sometimes. I gather all these things in my arms and know that this baby will be a gift, not only to me, but to all of us I hope in some way or another. I thank God for his love shown to me through my community, and for unexpected places of joy and hope. I pray for all those experiencing loss, and those who have had really hard experiences with family and babies. I know that these things are not to be held lightly. I pray for my community, that I can care and love them as much as they love me. I think that’s what it’s all about really – learning to love each other well, through our joy and pain, fear and excitement, happiness and sorrow. 

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement over my family. We feel deeply loved.

My salary at the Dale is fully fundraised by me! If you would like to financially support me in this way you can do so by cheque, PAR, or Canada Helps. Please reach out to meagan.gillard@gmail.com.


James.

I got a call early this past Sunday morning to let me know that my friend James Smith had died in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was a member of the other community I call home, Sanctuary. James had called Sanctuary and it’s people family for almost as long as my lifetime. Upon first hearing the news, I thought that James had gone to rest after long battles with his health. However, to my shock and confusion, James was murdered just after midnight early Saturday morning.

It is hard to discuss the details of James death, and think about the man who has been arrested as a suspect, so I will spare you the details as you can find them on the news. I will however share a little about James here as a way to remember him, and share a photo. The description and photo they used on the news was undignifying and not an accurate description of the gem that was James Smith.

I met James almost six years ago when I first started hanging out at Sanctuary as a student. He has (and will always remain in my mind) been seen sitting on the steps of Sanctuary or along the side fence, hanging out with his pals. James was a fixture at Sanctuary, someone I thought would always be there, somehow. We didn’t have a lot of long conversations, but that was something I liked about my relationships with James – I could often sit beside him quietly and comfortably and not say too much at all. James was thoughtful and loyal, and really funny. He had these sayings that cracked people up, and a wide grin and chuckle that would make all his face whiskers stand out. I always picture him sitting outside McDonalds, and if I asked if he wanted something he would blurt out, “A cheeseburger!” and flash that grin right at me. It was hard to miss.

I could say a lot more, but some things are better left to memory. There are a lot, a lot of people who have a James sized hole in their hearts this week, and forever. He had many friends, and impacted a world of people with his sweet smile and charm. James was many things, but he was especially a friend. I walked by the homeless memorial yesterday which can be found inside the Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre. I looked at the last page of the memorial and saw James Andrew Smith, the very bottom name on the list. As I looked up further on the list, I saw a handful of other folks that I know that have passed, and that was only one page of a memorial that is growing each week. The one thought that has been granting me some elements of peace this week is imagining James entering the gates of Heaven, humbly greeting his creator which he was ready to do. I picture him walking upright and well, something he was struggling with lately. I see him greeting his friends, all the ones that have gone already that we miss here on earth. I imagine them all together, no longer sick and hurting.

James was killed. He was taken swiftly and unfairly. As a community, we will never get the goodbye we long for. We will never see him on our steps again. We will never be able to get him a cheeseburger and see his amazing smile. There are so many things left undone. I hope that James is safe and comfortable. He will be missed down here, there is no doubt about that. May he rest easy.

A photo of James and I from a few years ago close to when I started at Sanctuary.