Holding My Breath.

Things look a lot different at The Dale these days. All of our efforts to connect with community are done outside. We wear N95 masks for the entirety of our shift – we pray, smile, cry, and hope under those masks now. All of our meals are given outdoors and taken to-go… we can no longer gather around a table. I knew that when I got back to work mid October that I would have some processing catching up to do in terms of how different life at work would be. I think for the most part that processing is still happening in chunks. Last night I was able to do some reflecting on life at work with Ian and it was good to talk to him (and my team) who understand so many intimate details of what this new life is like for us.

There are so many things I long to communicate but I am still searching around for the words, often unable to describe the then and now and the contrast between time before and present time. There are so many polarities. So many gifts in this new COVID season of new connections and constant provision, and so much taken. I often write on this blog about holding hands with grief and joy. This is one of those times.

A couple weeks ago, Erinn gave a message at our Sunday service and she talked about “thin places”. To describe it is like trying to describe a feeling. It is those times when we are firmly planted on earth and yet somehow a veil lifts and we catch a glimpse of heaven and feel God so close to us. When a child is born, when we witness family reuniting, when we can be close to someone in their weeping. I feel like before at The Dale, there were so many opportunities for thin moments and I wish I had been more keenly aware. Sometimes it can feel like thin moments are lost on me these days.

Yesterday as a team at our check-in time we discussed the notion of how in many things in life and especially at The Dale, we can often do something but we can’t do everything. There are so many instances where I want to do everything. I want to give someone exactly what they were hoping we would hand out for lunch. I want to get all the work done that we have on our constantly flowing to-do list. I want to put a bandaid over the heart wounds of my friends that sometimes spill out too easily. I want to put a bandaid over my heart wounds too.

But if I have learned anything over my years in this work it is that I am not a saviour, I can’t fix it all, and I sure can’t do everything. I can give the food I have to give and be a safe and dignifying space for our community. I can participate in the work we have to do and be a good team member. I can sit with my friends and help them hold the heavy things of our lives. These are the some things I can do. I look to God to help with the rest.

This blog feels like a breath being held to me. I am sorry if you feel that too. I didn’t really know where I was going when I started and I am not sure that I know where I am going with this now. I think writing helps get some of the stuff out… so thanks for sitting here with me in this space. I would ask you to pray as we enter into winter. The cold air is coming and it makes it mighty difficult to be working outside. Our friends are weary. We are worried about the future. We are trying to catch and hold joy and gifts and thin places but it is hard when grief pulls the other hand. I hope you can understand.

With peace to you, and hope that I can witness more thin places. I know they are still there. In a season that is supposed to be met with joy, hope, peace, and love. I pray… and I thank you for yours.

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

Wisdom from a Loud Stranger.

Today as I was taking the streetcar home, I sat across from a seating area that was a mess. There was an empty beer can left, some other garbage, and some crumbs of weed on a folded paper. Definitely not an inviting scene to me but not uncommon. I took my seat in a cleaner spot and was lost in thought when a man got on the streetcar a few stops later.

His personality was loud. From the way he walked and moved to the way he chose to sit near me in the area filled with what I thought was garbage. He threw the can aside, slammed down his stuff, and threw the banner that was supposed to be a barrier out of the way. Suddenly he exclaimed very loudly. “Woah! I was just rolling a joint! Look at all the weed here! Look at this! Who can say there isn’t a God?!” He was thrilled. I mean beyond thrilled… he was ecstatic. I could feel the tension in the car rising beyond normal levels. Stay with me for a second. I know I probably have some more conservative readers here and I’m going on about a guy thanking God for drugs. I do have a point.

This guy was the loudest one on the streetcar but honestly, he was probably the most tuned out. “Another guy yelling on the streetcar”, right? Another person who’s just a little too different to ignore. But there was wisdom in his rambunctiousness. As people looked side to side and tried to keep their eyes on anything else but this guy, he spouted out loads of wisdom. Yes he was thanking God for weed. But he also said, “A man who can’t appreciate a dime will never be a millionaire.” He appreciated what was left behind and found a gift in what was meant to be nothing. He talked about his wife and had loads of knowledge about the Muslim bible, the Quran. He talked about how women should be adored and respected, mothers especially. He said, “Any man who does not respect women, I would look at him and ask where he came from? A woman! He should get down and kiss the toes of his mother.”

We didn’t get far before I reached my stop and had to get off, but I wanted to get out my notebook and take notes from this man. I don’t know exactly who he was talking to. Maybe himself, maybe someone I couldn’t see, or maybe all of us. Some of what he said was hard to track, but a lot of what he said had such value. Respect, finding gifts, knowledge of a holy book. When we look past people that are different than us, we miss a lot. When we look past those that are loud and that sit amongst garbage and thank God for drugs, we miss a lot. I know a lot of people would have walked past this guy and not sat down, but I know that Jesus would.

That feels uncomfortable to me too sometimes. Jesus would sit with the loudest one on the streetcar. He would sit with the crying one. He would sit down next to someone passed out. He would sit next to someone talking to no one we can see. He would sit next to the one drinking the beer and throwing the can aside. Would you? Would I? How can we love others who may look different from us or act different from us? How can we be alongside them? Something to think about… I’m still learning too.

Peace to you.

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