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.

 

 

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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.