Often, as children especially, we make friends though doing the same things. Whether that be school, sports, church, or musical groups – the common ground is in place before you meet, so you have something to talk about as the friendship grows. Through my time here at The Dale, I have come to learn that building friendships with a community that is so diverse takes time and patience. Sometimes, it is harder to find a common ground. You may have come from different neighbourhoods, different backgrounds or family lives, different experiences of home, church, race, gender, age etc. In that case, what do you talk about?
Not knowing what to say can be scary. I know this to be true from my own experience. I have also learned that silence can be golden. Holding space to be present with each other is important, without always having to fill the air with words. Sharing a meal can help bring that common ground, which is why I do miss eating around a table together at The Dale (hopefully one day soon we can share this experience again!). But time and patience is key. Sometimes, it starts with small talk. The weather… sports… Parkdale life. Then asking questions. Trust is built. I offer information about myself. They do the same. Sometimes I offer my name and no name is offered in return. One step back. Soon, they tell me their name. I think when I first entered into this kind of work, I was very intimidated and shy. I thought, “What do I talk to These People about?” These People. That’s the wall right there.
I am these people. You are these people. Common theme? People. WE are people. There is no us and them. So even though talking to a community that has experienced houselessness and poverty and addiction can seem intimidating at first as I thought, there is still common ground. You may be addicted too, to your phone, food, or money. You might have experienced trauma, loss, grief, sadness. You may have lost something important to you such as an apartment or job. We all have things in life that we go through, just differently. Once I learned this, I realized we have a lot more in common than I thought. And this is a beautiful thing, because it allows for the giving and receiving that we talk about at The Dale. I have been prayed for, cared for, asked how I am doing and loved on more than I can count.
There is a community member here at The Dale who I don’t know too well. I know his name, and we say hi to each other in the line or on outreach. We talk about the weather. But recently I started cycling to and from work – a habit that keeps my mind and body happy. And this guy? He cycles too. Everywhere! So now we talk about bikes and riding and bike lanes and gear. He offers me tips and advice. I am grateful because as a beginner, I need all the help I can get!
Finding common ground is not as hard as I thought it was. Sometimes, with some people, it just may take a little longer. A little time, a little trust. With some people, as I have experienced, it is fast and easy. This is community. It is not always as you would expect. Sometimes, it’s hard. Sometimes, it’s not. Just like lots of other friendships we make in life, where the common ground is there before we are. I am thankful that God maybe feels like this with us too – sometimes we come to Him easily, sometimes not. But He is there always, waiting for the common ground. I think that is Love.
I am a Community Worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale, Toronto. In order to do this work that I love to tell you about, I need to fundraise for my entire salary. That means asking people like you to partner with my financially and support my work here. If you are able to give, please consider visiting thedale.org/donate and indicating online that your donation is for me!