Familiar Ground.

Thursday was my first day back in Parkdale at work in about a year. I didn’t feel the urge to cry until I sat in the car with Ian and watched as Charlotte waved to me from our front door in my moms capable and loving arms. I was grateful to many people on Thursday, but especially to a friend and one of our community partners who dropped in to what is now The Dale HQ and asked how I was doing. When I told her I was teary all morning she said she’s not sure when it ever ends (she has three kiddos herself) and said she wanted to hold that space for me. I am grateful for friends who see and know.

A lot has changed about the way we do programming these days. As we handed out breakfast meals that morning I got to chat with people in line from under my mask and was so aware that half my face was missing from the equation. I already miss seeing people smile, and was trying to practice keeping my eyes smiling on the bus ride home.

I met a man that day whose name already escapes me. He has started coming to The Dale since my departure, and his words struck me. After our introduction from Joanna, he said it was nice to meet me and then, “Welcome Home” as he shrugged. I was taken aback after writing something very similar in a blog last week before my return to work. He shrugged as if that was naturally the only thing he could say to someone in this situation – welcome home. I’m not sure, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend since and I think God put those words on his tongue for me to receive that day.

Home. I looked up the definition of home last night as I couldn’t get this out of my head. Upon searching I found what I knew to be true in the basic sense. That home is a place of residence, a place of origin, where one lives… etc. It’s actually funny that someone may describe The Dale as home in THAT sense since we tend to move around so much. Our stuff basically moves from one place to the other on constant rotation and us along with it. Nomads with a schedule, that’s what we are.

I think to get to the root of the feeling I had, I had to search for something else. Not just home, but AT HOME. To be at home. Relaxed and comfortable, at ease, in harmony with the surroundings, and this – on familiar ground. Our feet have walked up and down Parkdale countless times. We know the streets, and each other. To be at home is not just to be at a certain place. It means to FEEL at home – to feel comfortable and at ease. As a community we can move around each other with a certain familiarity. We know each other by name, we have inside jokes, we know what people like and don’t and we are always learning and growing as a unit. We feel like we are on familiar ground. And that is what I think of when I come back to The Dale.

Welcome Home. I know when I show up to work our stuff may be here and there. I know we are always on the move. I know we don’t have a place to call our own, but many places indeed that carry pieces of our hearts. Lots of buildings and rooms have held our tears and our laughter. But more so my community is home. A place of familiarity. A place I can be myself. A place I can come and show up and give and receive. A place that I am seen and known. A place that is always and forever changing but somehow still remains familiar ground.

Welcome Home.

Peace to you this week in an ever changing world. May you find your familiar ground.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com

Coming Home to The Dale.

October is a very reminiscent month for me. It is the month, almost four years ago now, that Ian and I started dating. We are always taken back to that time in the month of October, and remember fondly falling in love. It is now also the month before my sweet girl was born. This year, I find myself thinking, “Last year this time I was pretty huge! Last year this time I was walking around the park trying to get a baby out! Last year this time I was just going off work….”

Next week Tuesday will be my first day back to work at The Dale since “this time last year.” Time sure has a way of doing that – moving along faster than you can imagine. So many things are different now. For starters, I did walk around the park enough to walk a baby out! Our sweet Charlotte will be a year on November 6th. She’s standing, eating lots, becoming more vocal, and growing so much. Ian and I also moved when Charlotte was just two months old. Finally… COVID – the thing no one could have anticipated.

This mat leave turned out to be really different than I thought it would be. As I have alluded to in previous blogs, I spent a lot of this year alone. Where I would have thought I would be hanging out with my friends who had kids, I walked alone. Where I thought I would have been sharing in Charlie’s milestones with family, we saw each other a lot over FaceTime. Where I thought I would be visiting The Dale and showing off my kid, I ate alone at home only dreaming of the struggle my community was going through trying to stay open and connected.

Now I prepare to head back to work and COVID still isn’t letting up, and who knows what the future holds. I feel fearful of getting on transit and being more exposed to so many people. I worry that new people in the community won’t know me. I feel anxiety over going back to work and having to learn a new routine, a new set of safety rules, and a new world essentially. I thought my return would involve hugs, handshakes, pictures, and eating meals around a table catching up – not face shields and hand sanitizer. Maybe this all sounds selfish… I know people are fighting for their lives during COVID times in many ways, but this is my reality right now.

This year was not all heavy. I did get to spend a lot of quality time with Charlotte. It was such a joy watching her grow and learn new things. It was hard too. But I feel proud of our accomplishments. Ian got to spend five amazing weeks with us on his own paternity leave in September. We took trips to the beach in the early mornings to walk, went to the farm, got some apple picking in, and spent many normal quiet days just together as a family. I also got to see my mom finally when COVID slowed this summer and watch her find great joy in being with Charlotte.

Next week as I return to work, things will be different I know. We are battling with a few things here in the Knight house, including two parents returning to work, a baby turning one, and a whole lot of in between stuff because Life never stops. I am grateful for a team that understands and loves deeply, who embraces me with open arms (and all my emotions!). I am grateful for the flexibility to work the hours I can to be able to work and be at home with Charlotte. I am grateful that people in the community are already checking in, encouraging me in this transition. And I am grateful for a God who always provides in ways that I least expect it – but that’s a blog for another day.

I guess this is a small way to say, hi! I’m coming home to The Dale, and I am nervously excited (a phrase Ian and I often use). Thank you for waiting on the other side for me. I must admit it was harder to write here than I hoped. I look forward to meeting you here more often in the coming weeks.

Peace to you this week.

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this type of work means fundraising to earn my salary. If you follow along on this journey with me and would like to support me in my work, please send me an email at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. I would love to chat with you!