A Simple Bean.

Last night as I was getting undressed before bed to put my PJ’s on, a bean fell out of my pocket. I shook my head, picked it up and was about to throw it out when I thought, “There’s a blog in here somewhere!” Why would I have a dry bean in my pocket you ask? Because we have a large community of people at The Dale who walk alongside us daily, each offering their own unique set of gifts (Well, that’s the short answer – let me explain).

Little bean with a lot of love.

A friend of The Dale dropped some dry cooking beans off to Erinn. Yesterday we brought them in and the girls began portioning out beans into little ziplock bags for members of our community who could use them to cook. I picked one up that had fallen on the floor and was in a rush to start our to-go lunch, placing the bean in my pocket rather than in the garbage. We now have a couple dozen bags of beans to hand out to community members thanks to one person’s generous gift.

The giving just continues… On our way up the stairs to start lunch, I walked around some shoes Joanna picked up last week from another friend. A bunch of basically new size 11 Adidas shoes to give to our community that one person thought to give us rather than throw away. Someone walked away with a pair already yesterday, thrilled at the prospect of new shoes.

For lunch, we give out a variety of things, often including some bread that a mystery man drops off nearly each week from his bakery. Items that didn’t sell and were destined for the garbage become our breakfast sandwich bread for 45 people and a side for the Monday meal. A generous offer of extra fresh bread and a saving of waste.

In the line for our lunch to go, we are offered smiles, art, stories, and waves. A loyal volunteer comes every Monday and Thursday to hand out food so we can be available to talk with people in line. We are trusted with joy and sadness, heartache and pain, relief and gladness. We are trusted with secrets and tears, a call for help, a thank you. We are given much from our friends. Many gifts of hope and friendship.

On Sundays we take offering at The Dale. We use a hat or a basket. We offer a prayer, and invite our community to offer their gifts. Some of those gifts come in the form of faithful tithes reaching from cheques to dimes. We’ve received notes, prayers, a hugging of the hat, an offering to do dishes, cigarettes, tokens, tears, and much more. For each gift we know that God is so glad.

The Dale would not be The Dale without the gifts of many. Our fundraiser last week raised over $11,000. It was shared over and over and over again. We were covered in prayer. And we have gifts now to give back in turn to our friends and neighbourhood who give much of themselves daily. We have new supporters and hearts attached to The Dale. We have people walking with us.

A little bean made me thankful for so much. Without everyone at The Dale offering their gifts and receiving those gifts, we would not be who we are. We learn a lot when we can not only extend a hand, but when we can take one in return. A small bean goes through a labour of love – a thought to give, being dropped off, put in a bag, given away, cooked into a meal, and shared with a friend. This is community. And we are so grateful.

May you find peace and love in small things.


Community Is Like A Garden.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my backyard garden. Now, it ain’t much. A few different fruit and veggie plants, some flowers, and a lot of weeds. Every night and sometimes during the day when Charlotte is fast asleep, I go out and walk around. I bend down and look closely at what is growing assessing each leaf and blossom, checking for growth, pruning here and there, trellising and waiting for fruit. I mean, what else would you do in the garden, right? But it’s got me to thinking – being in community is a lot like tending a garden.

A garden is comprised of many parts. You have the Ians who run to the garden store and want to fill the backyard with 100 things and try everything at once. You have the Megs who take it slow, learning each plant year by year and not pushing too fast. You have the bugs, some that eat the plants and some that help. You have water and soil which feeds and nourishes. You have the sun, bringing life to the plants. You have leaves that provide shade to the fruit. And you have your harvest, the fruit of your labour.

Last year our garden was not so big. We had a couple of tomato plants and some peppers. That’s about it! This year we have tomatoes and peppers, but we’ve added zucchini, cucumber, brussel sprouts, raspberry, strawberry, a watermelon and some flowers. Oh, and some beans! Some things I started from seed and some came started. Some things are from friends who have given me what they have grown, and some we bought. All of it is lovely, a heap of risk and trial and error – a hard thing for someone like me who holds tightly to security.

But much like the plants in my garden, and much like my community at The Dale, we are growing together. We need different parts to each bring their gifts. Some people at The Dale are artists, some business people, some without homes, and some with. Some are addicted to alcohol, and some to food. Many have heartache, all are beautiful. We each bring something special to the table, and we receive too in order to grow. Some give their time, and some their money. Some give a prayer, a smile, a washed dish, a dance, a wish, a cigarette, a token, some dimes.

We learn as we go. When I first started gardening, I let the squirrels get my harvest. This year I made some protection. I learned about fertilizer. I let Ian push us forward and take more risks. I’m experimenting with flowers. I still forget to water the grass… But my garden looks a lot different this year than last. Just like my journey at The Dale looks different too. I know who’s buttons should not be pressed. I know who likes to sing and who stays quiet. I know when to talk and when to hold back. I know what my gifts are and how to give. I have also learned how to receive what someone has to offer. We are both changing – me and my community just like me and my garden. And each year more lovely things are grown.

I have found a lot of joy being in the garden with Ian. and I have found a lot of joy being in community at The Dale. I am grateful for lovely things that grow over time, and I can appreciate trial and error, risk and reward, experimentation, giving and receiving, life and death. The garden, much like community, is teaching me many things.

I hope you too are growing something lovely.

With peace.


I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto. In order to do this ministry I invite others to walk alongside me prayerfully and financially. If you would like to be on my team of supporters, I invite you to reach out to me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com. I would love to chat with you about The Dale!