The village of Parkdale is also known as Little Tibet. In fact, Parkdale has the highest concentration of Tibetans outside of Asia! Walking down Queen Street, you’ll find lots of folks in their traditional Tibetan clothing, monks in robes, and store after store selling Momos (Tibetan dumplings). His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is an important political and religious figure in Tibet. Last month was his birthday which is a huge day of celebration in Parkdale. There are celebrations around every corner, dancing, free momos, and much more.
The Dale staff team was invited to participate in a birthday celebration for the Dalai Lama! At the church where our Covid HQ has been are a number of community organizations who also work in this building in different offices and kitchens. A number of those folks are Tibetan, and so they invited us to eat with them and partake in the celebration. We gathered outside in the parking lot with a tent and so much food. There was a picture of the Dalai Lama and a birthday cake. The MPP for Parkdale/High Park was there as well!
The hour was filled with emotional speeches, pictures, chats, and lots of food. We were served traditional tea and rice, and had a large plate of delicious food. We were invited to take a white scarf that was provided and wrap it around the picture of the Dalai Lama as we silently wished him well. We were told to fill our plates again and again. The generosity was astounding. Our friend cried tears of joy at how special this day was for her as a Tibetan, and how happy she was that we could be together to eat and celebrate.
To be honest, I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say or where to put the scarf when I was invited to wish the Dalai Lama well for his birthday (although I was certainly not forced to do this, and chose to participate!). I didn’t know what some of the food was or what it would taste like. I didn’t know how to feel or talk to the MPP, as she was only the second MPP I had met before! I didn’t know how to express the gratitude I had.
I think most of all I was uncomfortable because I felt so included and taken care of as a guest for this celebration. We were invited into something – a celebration, a tradition, a feast, a gathering. We were served and cared for. We were fed. We were thanked for being there, even though we had done nothing but be present. We were just invited, and we chose to accept.
This is such an important part of life at The Dale, and a lesson I am grateful to relearn again and again. It can be easy to fall into the role of caregiver in this field – hospital visits and prayers, carrying supplies during outreach, signing papers and making phone calls, preparing meals day after day. However we always say at The Dale that we are a community that gives, yes. But we also must receive. We must receive coffee that someone bought with the last of their change. We must receive prayers over our family. We must receive being served during drop in by another community member. We must receive an invitation to be present, to participate, to eat and give thanks, and the tears that come with it.
Giving and receiving is an important part of this work. It is not “us” and “them”. It is “US” together. We. Family. Community. Partners. Friends. The joy and sorrow, the heavy and light, the good and bad. We are in it together. Whether we are serving or being served, there is hope and love to be found in learning how to be together well.
I am so grateful to just be invited.
I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale! In order to do this work I must fundraise for my entire salary. I am inviting you into this community as well to participate in a prayerful and financial way. If you would like to support my work in this community, please visit https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/the-dale-ministries/ and indicate that your gift is for my salary. Thank you!