let people surprise you.

let the story begin with me admitting that i upset someone on monday at lunch. it was unintentional and unavoidable – at the time i was unable to give someone something that they had asked for. unfortunately, although i tried to be as polite as i could and explain my reasoning, this person was still hurt. due to all sorts of context that does not need to be explained here, i could understand why this person was upset. the result was that i got called a multitude of names and was sworn at a few times.

my outsides let it slide. no, i wasn’t upset, i got where this person was coming from, i’m not hurt by what they said, etc etc. that was a lie. my insides were scared. and a little hurt. i was worried this would change things between this person and i. i was worried they would hold a grudge and be mad for a long time, and the truth is i knew i would most likely have to see them again on sunday, potentially alone, and i did not want to deal with the tension that might occur.

however, what happened next surprised me.

joanna and i were sitting in drop in a couple days later and i saw the person walking towards the building. my stomach fell into my big toes and my heart rate sped up. i told myself to relax but it was only about 15 mins after we had opened and we had 1 hr and 45 mins of a potentially tense and awkward time to endure together if this person came into the room. suddenly there was a knock on the door (lord forgive me, my hard heart did not allow me to get up and answer). the person walked in, stopped in the middle of the room in front of where i was sitting, and said, “i have to say something. i was awful to meagan on monday and i am really sorry about it.” they looked me in the eye, and i looked at them and thanked them for their most honest, not even embarrassed in the slightest to talk openly in front of everyone, and quick apology. they took a seat and looked at me again and said, “im really not a bad person.” i nodded and smiled at them with my eyes in the best way i could because i knew that to be true. and we returned to our normal colouring, talking, breakfast eating selves that day.

i learned a lesson that wednesday morning. we are going to hurt people. whether we mean to or not, that fact is inevitable. this person and i hurt each other in our own way that day but i let my heart be hardened. i was afraid. but my friend surprised me with her love and her ability to reconcile with me so fast. my heart should have been open to it, but i wanted to keep her anger out. by doing that, i almost didnt let her love in. and that would have been a great loss.

i am grateful for the lessons i continue to learn every day. i am grateful for my dale family. we get mad at each other sometimes. we let each other down. but most of the time, we pick each other up. we love each other. and it is a wonderful gift. people will surprise you… remember to let them.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

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a lost ring.

It happened in a split second. A new friend was visiting the Dale for the first time and generously wanted to help with the dishes after lunch. He grabbed his hand and his eyes widened. “My ring! I’ve lost my ring.”

Suddenly about 5 people were on the floor. Eyes were pacing back and forth looking for a silver ring that could literally have rolled anywhere. “Raven” and I saw it at the same time, and he crawled frantically under the table and handed the ring back to our new friend.

Raven looked at me and said, with his hand on his heart in relief, “It’s his first time here, he wanted to help, and he lost something. But we found it. I am happy now. ”

Helpful, caring, respectful, kind, open hearted. These are just some of the words that describe my friends at the Dale and I am lucky to learn from such beautiful people.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

the art of giving.

we sat outside at our one picnic table even though it was so cold and cloudy that every time the sun peeked out we cheered loudly. as usual, there was lemonade and chips and grapes and a group of mismatched friends shooting the breeze. and then suddenly, “TJ” had a surprise.

almost as naturally as if he were breathing, TJ pulled some costume jewelry out of his pocket and started handing them out to the women present at the table. he had found some jewelry in his travels and wanted to give it to us. even though it was found, it was as if he had hand picked the pieces specially for us all.

there were colourful peacock feather earrings for joanna, long feather earrings for “Betty”, a cool triangle necklace for olivia, and simple yet sweet dangly earrings for me. we took our gifts as he handed them to us, put them on right away (even if we were unsure about how they would look) and excitedly complimented each other because actually, we looked amazing. TJ was pleased, and we left feeling lighter and prettier then when we arrived.

TJ is great at giving many things, and not just little trinkets. he is great at giving the gift of music to us all every week. he is great at giving people cards for special occasions. he is great at giving words of encouragement, a helping hand sorting cutlery, or a listening ear. at the dale, we believe that we all have something to give, no matter in what form or shape, and that it is also important for us to receive gifts from our community. this is what building relationships is all about – giving and receiving beautiful gifts such as love, care, support, and joy. our friends are great at giving, and i feel blessed to receive their gifts. i am thankful for TJ and his special way of making us all feel just a little more beautiful.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

a letter 2.0

dear me,

today marks one year at the dale for you! you did it! i am proud of you. i know there were days when you thought this anniversary would never come, you weren’t sure if you would make it. there were other days it was easier, and you walked forward towards this with confidence. hold both of those days as important. they got you here.

your community got you here as well and you wouldn’t have it done it without them. some days they really had to stand behind you and push. those words of encouragement, the checking in, the grace and mercy, the love and care. be grateful for your (not so new) community that is holding you lightly on the days you feel heavy. they love you and you love them. even when it’s hard.

those people in your community that believe in you and continue to believe in you, be glad for them. remember how they give you prayer, financial blessings, encouragement… you need to keep telling your story. don’t forget that.

continue to thank god for erinn and jo. this year has been filled with many things, heavy and light, that you walked through together. death, marriage, laughter, tears, hard conversations and easily made jokes. sometimes they all come in the span of an hour. continue to be glad for the bond you are making and that you can look around and see that they are there with you still.

i know you thought you would never be able to fit in here, but you are. when someone says you are family, when someone says they did a good job hiring you, when you get called the dale girls and people mean you too… you are continuing to crease and mold your space in this community. rest in that, but continue to take your time. you now know where the tables go and who sits where. you can sit with someone and be without looking for something to do and that is a huge step for you. those things that felt so foreign are more familiar now. rejoice in that.

there are so many memories, so many people, so much loss already, and so much joy. this will not suddenly become easy. but it will always be good. one year, four seasons, hundreds of new faces, two new teammates and best friends, hundreds of prayers, thousands of steps on queen street, and one whole new year in front of you. may you learn to love people better, may you find your voice when it feels quiet, may you continue to experience grace and mercy, may you make many more happy memories, and may you remember that this is kingdom work and His hands are yours – use them well.

love,

me.


It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

no one likes a jerk.

While my coworkers are away this week, I had the pleasure of sitting in on our bible study on Tuesday night. Our community gathers on Tuesday evenings after a $1 meal at St. Francis Table and studies the Word. Lately, each week a new person offers to lead the group in discussion. This week we were studying 1 Peter 3:8-17, and there was a lot of great interpretation, debate, and conversation. The first verse we read from this portion was verse eight, which reads, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Near the end of the bible study, as we prayed over the session, our friend who had offered to pray said, “and oh, God… let us be compassionate this week, because no one likes a jerk.” It was a simple and honest prayer. We all nodded amen.

As I have walked through the rest of this week, I have reflected on this specific verse. It’s true that no one likes a jerk. But before we point fingers at other jerks, (you know, the ones on the road who “can’t drive”, those people that cut in front of you in line) we also have to look at ourselves. Peter 3:10 continues, “For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” 

I have not been great at that this week, and it has turned me into a real jerk. With a variety of things going on in my life at the moment, some of which are stressful, angering, sad, and draining, I have let my tongue become evil. I have argued relentlessly with people I love and I’ve struggled with self-worth.

Peter talked about compassion, and having it for others. I also hope he meant we can have it for ourselves. On the days that I feel down and out, when anger is exploding from my mouth and when I feel like crawling under a rock, let me seek peace and pursue it. Let my tongue be kept from evil and let me turn toward the good. That is my prayer for this week, that I would have compassion for my friends and also for myself… because really, no one likes a jerk.

Peace to you this week, friends.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

a collection of moments.

I am sat at my kitchen table over my computer thinking of what to write about today to share with you all. As usual, my posed hands have sunken and I am leaning on my elbow with my face on my hand, daydreaming about the possibilities. Coming to mind are a couple of happy, sweet moments that I want to remember and share with you. As the weather remains bleak and cold, and the winter blues continue to linger, here are a collection of happy moments. I know I will be holding them close as little glimpses of light. I invite you to write a collection of moments today too, and hold them close to your heart.

  • we’ve had a little baby bless us with his smiles around the Dale for the past couple of months. he visits us with his mom at many of our drop-ins during the week and has become a delight to all of us. he takes after his mom, with his ease and mild temperament, he is a friend to most everyone he meets. i have the pleasure of carting him around on my hip a couple days a week, and he warms my heart with his little smiles. somehow babies seem to calm a room well too, and we are grateful for our little baby friend who brings joy and light to us these days.
  • the end of drop-in today turned quiet, as people trickled out after eating breakfast with us. we sat with a few friends, and suddenly a fun game started. it was one of those games where you say, “I’m going on a vacation and in my suitcase I will bring a ______”. We sat happily laughing and shouting answers across the table at each other and helping one another remember the list of things we had decided to bring on “vacation”. The quiet moments near the end of a drop-in are usually my favourite, as some of the best memories are made with a couple people sitting around a table.
  • on tuesday at our thrift store coffee hour, we sat around the back table eating pizza out of the box, using coffee filters as plates, and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows while sitting in teams of two or three to play scrabble, and passing our cute baby friend along. it was peace and beautiful chaos.

In an effort to remember the good times amongst what is often chaos, pain, and brokenness, I am hoping to write more of these kinds of posts. I hope it finds you well, and helps you remember to collect moments of peace and joy in this busy life.

Wishing you a peace-filled week, friends.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

treasures.

I was at the Dollarama the other night and ran into one of our friends from the Dale. He was shopping around and when he saw me I greeted him, and in his normal fashion he stopped and looked at me and said in his loudest possible voice, “Hey, Barfy!”

Our friend has many nicknames, and in turn he hands them out to other people as well. Where Barfy came from, I do not know. However, I take comfort in the fact that he uses that name often for others as well!

We talked for a couple seconds as he asked me what I was looking for and asked how Ian was doing. As we chatted he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was a sparkling circle in the shape of a ring on the floor that obviously had fallen from someone’s pocket or bag and had been discarded without a care in the world. My friend picked it up, inspected it, and proudly put it on his finger. Someone else’s discarded nothingness was now a new ring. When I saw him today for drop-in, he was still wearing it on his finger.

Our friend often finds treasures. Last week he came to drop-in with a box full of discarded electronics and spent the majority of the time picking through the box, plugging in old palm pilots from the 90’s and seeing what still worked. Today he found a broken bracelet in a box of donations and helped me use a twist tie to secure it to my wrist. He thought it looked beautiful. “It’s not perfect,” he said, “but it looks cool!”

My friend has a wonderful talent for picking out imperfect things and making them great. He likes rings and hats, electronics and guitars. He likes giving nicknames to people he treasures, and making people laugh till their stomachs are aching. He sees beauty in simple things, and that is a lovely trait to possess.

I have heard grand stories of my friend’s transformation from the time he first walked into the Dale till now. Sometimes I wish I had been there to see it. While he hates to admit it sometimes, most times, he knows his softly changing heart is from the Lord. And he is changing mine, like many of my new friends have been over the past nine months.

I aspire to see the beauty in simple things, and to make people laugh. I aspire to greet people with charm and excitement, even in the middle of the Dollarama. And I aspire to see the treasures of the world, no matter how small.

From one Barfy to another, Happy New Year. Let’s look for beauty this year.

queen street conversations.

Sometimes walking along Queen Street into Parkdale gives me whiplash.

For the couple of years I lived in Parkdale, I felt able to walk along Queen without interruption and get to my destination without talking to a single soul. Now that I work in Parkdale, I am getting to know the faces and names of my new community as I grow together with my friends in my role at The Dale. I walk along Queen and can’t go far without a head nod or a wave, a “See you tomorrow at drop-in”, or a hug and smile. There are days that I love this about Parkdale, and days that I feel like putting on a cap and sunglasses and running.

However, the sidewalk of Queen Street under my feet is becoming more familiar as we continue to expand our outreach efforts as a team. We have begun walking as a staff team on Thursday mornings with an addictions counsellor from Parkdale Community Health Centre. The four of us walk West on Queen, and East back, talking to many of our friends we pass along the way. So this new routine, along with our regular nomadic routine of strolling through the area to get from drop-in to drop-in, often leads to conversation.

 

We usually pass PARC right before 11am when the food bank opens and get the chance to visit with many of our friends waiting in line to receive food. Although they are waiting to have their bags filled, they fill our hearts with their words and hugs as we pass by every week. We are greeted by our nicknames and asked how our walk is going. We talk about the bible sometimes, what food is hoping to be obtained at the food bank (usually spaghettios), reminders about our weekly schedule, or how things are going at the Dale. We welcome people back who may have strayed from us, and let them know where to find us. We are given poems and writing, hugs, words of affirmation, and happy greetings. PARC is always hoppin’ on a Thursday morning and it’s nice to see friends new and old and catch up in bunches on the sidewalk. To anyone walking by, we may seem like an odd bunch, and we are happy to be that way – diverse and strong in numbers.

Sometimes our interactions are more serious… a friend sits drinking on the ground, sitting in sorrow and in need of some cheer. Another is wondering if God can see past her exterior that others recoil at, and see her for who she really is – as a special, loving soul. Some friends are sitting in their normal spots with hats or cups out for change, and the wear of sitting in those spots day after day is bearing heavy on their hearts. We stand around them, hands on shoulders, and eyes wide as if to convey “we see you. the you that god made. the you that god loves. a child of heaven.”

Sometimes in the hour or so it takes to walk along Queen and back we have laughed full belly laughs and held back tears in the next five minutes. Somehow either way, we are almost always greeted and left with a smile and God Bless. We love our friends, and they love us in return. Queen Street can feel like an alternate universe sometimes full of magical wonder and change. However it also feels like a constant in our lives. One that can bring us joy or heartache. One that we will always walk with hands stretched out, eyes to see, and ears to listen.

Sometimes as I said, I feel like putting on a cap and sunglasses and running though Parkdale. But most days, almost always, it is worth it to take those things off. Because the conversations are worth it. Next time you see one of my friends on Queen Street, say hello and smile. You never know what you’re gonna get.

 

 

to be vulnerable.

I’m in a cozy little coffee shop waiting to go into an appointment, sipping on some tea. I sat here for a while looking into space thinking about what I would try and write today for this blog thing that I do, and I felt conflicted as to what to write about. I think I know what I want to say, and maybe how to say it, but being able to say it out loud is what was stopping me. Which is ironic since it corresponds with what I wanted to say! All that makes sense in my head which is usually the only place it does, so I hope you can follow along here with me.

I have been practicing being vulnerable. I think in some ways, the practice is coming to me without permission or conscious effort. I find my anxiety has been more obvious to me in the past couple weeks, which may be the result of my therapy or mood or something. And I think it is pushing me to open up more than I would have in the past. Before, old Meagan may have tried to play it off like everything was fine – nothing bothered her, things were all good, she was relaxed. New Meagan is trying to actually feel emotions rather than push them away. Which is happening mostly because new Meagan is trying to heal. It’s hard work, and I am grateful for the support of my people who make me feel comfortable enough to be myself, whatever that may be.

As you can see, this is why the saying out loud part can be scary. Because it can be hard to be vulnerable. It can be hard to remember sad things and try and work through them, it can be difficult to go through a wave of emotions and try and sort through them quickly, and it can be scary to say out loud to everyone reading that you’re trying to do these things.

I feel comforted by the people in my life who listen with open ears, speaking gently into my aching soul, and holding tight when my chest and breaths are pounding away. I am grateful for my community who shows me how to be open and trust, even often after being hurt over and over again.

Recently in a Tuesday drop-in, our friend came in struggling. She was sad, hurt, and tired of being pushed around. She wanted to go home but was not able to, and her load that day was heavy, the kind of heavy that makes you want to sleep and wake up with a new frame of mind. She was told she was loved as we listened to her sorrows, and hugged her again and again. In the end she laughed and said she felt lighter. She came in vulnerable and raw, and left cleaned up and slightly put back together. She was cared for in ways that we should always care for each other, with love and gentleness.

Today Jo, Erinn and I accompanied someone to court. She was vulnerable enough to trust us to love her. We sat beside her, waiting and eating chocolate bars. We were in court when she received her sentence, and were able to come out with hugs and smiles. She could have gone alone, embarrassed by things she had done. She could have not asked for support. She could have easily not trusted us. But she did. And that is an incredible gift that we are fortunate enough to receive from our friends more often than I ever think possible.

All this to say that we are human. We go through seasons of walking through tough crap. I am so blessed to have my people and my community to walk me through the deep ends. And I am ever grateful for the gift of love my community offers and for the endless trust they have for us to walk them through things as well.

We hold each other tightly, and I am learning how beautiful of a thing that is. I hope you have people holding you tightly today. It’s okay not to be okay some days, and I hope you have love on your side. Peace to you, friends, until next time.

 

 

the beginning.

Opening Note: This is a story about a beginning – my beginning at the Dale to be exact. You may be thinking to yourself, “Hmm… this is a little late six months in, no?” Yes. It is a little late. However, I think it is a story that is still unfolding. I think about the beginning a lot… and more recently these days. It is also a vulnerable story to tell, which too explains the lateness. If you make it through one sentence, thank you. If you make it to the middle, thank you. If you read through to the end, thank you. Thanks for being apart of my beginning and for allowing me to tell my story. After all, what would a story be without anyone to hear it?

*it’s a long one this time around.


I used to work a lot. Well, it was a lot for me and it seemed like a lot at the time. It became a lot a couple of years ago. I was working at Sanctuary covering a maternity leave, and was there a few days a week for chunks of time. To fill out that time, I worked at a retail store that I had been at since I was in school. Often, I would open the store, work a couple hours, go to Sanctuary and work, and sometimes go back to the store to close. If there was a free day, I would also work at Gateway, a men’s shelter downtown, doing a shift of 12 hrs/day. I remember one time near Christmas working my day job, then doing an overnight shift, then the day job again, an overnight shift again, and… a day shift again. I slept maybe 5 hrs total during this time.

Anyways, I digress. All this to say that I worked. I think I worked a lot because it became part of me, part of my identity. I would miss family gatherings sometimes, not hang out with friends, turn down fun things. I kind of enjoyed being busy, and I felt I had to work so much to have some kind of self worth. What was I doing with my time if not working? Nothing of value. Who was I if I wasn’t working so much? A nobody. In the meantime, I racked up a lot of hours. I also racked up a lot of money. I was comfortable. Single. Living in a small, cheap, old apartment. It became routine.

Flash forward to December of last year. At this point I was no longer single. I had also just quit working at the store, a very important step in a series of many steps to come. They were my safety net, the people I saw more than family, the most stable income I had. But it was a rocky relationship and one that needed to end. I was also very aware that my time at Sanctuary was coming to an end in a few months. The only thing I would have was Gateway, and only when needed. Something needed to happen.

In January of this year, I went for a training session with Gateway that was going to be facilitated by Dion Oxford, my current boss’s (Erinn) husband. He is the founder of Gateway, and is still involved with the Salvation Army in many ways. It is funny how God sometimes lines up the people you need to see at the time you need to see them most. Once Dion and I reintroduced ourselves, he happened to mention that Erinn and Joanna were still looking for a third staff member and that I would be a great fit. Of course I knew they were looking for someone to join their team. They had been since the end of the last year, and had not found anyone that I knew of. However I also knew that they fundraised their own salaries which meant the income wouldn’t be stable for me for a long time. I got sidetracked during Dion’s training (sorry, Dion) and wondered how I could ever pull that off. How could I fundraise my own salary, ask people for support, be vulnerable and ask for help after working so hard? How could I leave the comfort of my stable pay for quite possibly nothing? How could I work a job that I like that would allow me to have weekends and free time and be myself and fill me in a way that my other work didn’t?

This next part still freaks me out to be honest, and you don’t have to believe it. I know it will be hard for some to hear. But I believe the Lord needed me to hear something in that moment and I heard a voice say to me, “I have always taken care of you and never left you alone. You have always been provided for. Why do you think now in this moment that I would forsake you.” I tried not to cry. That night I went home and talked to Ian for a long time about what had happened. I decided that I would email Erinn and ask if we could meet. Funnily enough, she got the email that night sitting at the dining room table just as Dion was telling her that he had seen me that very day.

That was the beginning of the rest. Erinn and I met and chatted, I met with the Dale’s board of directors, I received a job offer, and on April 18th I had my first day at the Dale. My life was starting to look a lot different. I still had no retail job, and my contract at Sanctuary had come to an end. I was in a committed relationship, was working 20hrs a week and trying to pull off a couple shifts a month at Gateway, and trying to wrap my head around asking people for help.

Things are hard sometimes, and I know they will continue to be hard. There are times that I sit and wonder long and hard if I did the right thing by joining life at the Dale. Things are changing at Gateway as they do, and I no longer get the same amount of shifts I used to. I still feel like a failure that I can sit and read a book instead of leaving my house in the morning to work and coming home to sleep. I still don’t know what hobbies are, I struggle sometimes to keep my head above the water of floating bills, and I am looking for more work to do on the side to fill the gaps.

However, I am also very privileged. I get to spend my days with my friends, and join in meals and conversations with people that teach me how to love deeper and look harder and be better. I have a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I am in love with someone who loves me. I get to see Erinn and Joanna all the time and laugh and cry with a team of strong women. I have a family and we care about each other. I am blessed.

Friends, I am thankful that I can come to you and ask for help. I am grateful for your words of love and encouragement, for your prayers, and also for your financial gifts. I am encouraged by all of these things. The Dale would not function without the generosity of many people far and wide who share their resources of love, time, and money. We are fully supported by donors – the organization itself and those of us who work for it.

If you have supported me financially since I started at the Dale, thank you. If you think that is something you would like to and can do, I appreciate you. Here are the ways that you can give:

·Pre-Authorized Remittance. If you would like to support me in this way, please ask me for a form through email (meagan.gillard@gmail.com)
·CanadaHelps. Please indicate that the donation is for me.
·Cheque. These can be made out to The Dale Ministries, with my name in the Memo Line and mailed to: PO Box 94, Station C Toronto, ON M6K 3M7

One time donations are deeply appreciated, and monthly donations help to keep my income stable. If you are more of a prayers or good thoughts type of person, I welcome those with open mind and heart. If you would like to join us for a meal and spend time getting to know our community, we welcome you!

Thanks for letting me tell my story. Thanks for letting me ask for your help. Thanks for letting me be vulnerable. I appreciate you.

Peace be with you.