one year and seven months.

Dear Friends,

Just over one year and a half ago as I sit here writing this, I joined the staff team at The Dale Ministries. I remember the moment I considered contacting Erinn for the first time. You can read about it here. I recall thinking that I could never work for The Dale, for one reason only – that being that I would never be able to fundraise my own financial support.

The Dale is a community in Parkdale, Toronto without our own walls. That means we do not own or operate out of our own building. We spill out onto the streets for all of our programming, such as community meals, church service, bible study, and outreach. We eat, sing, worship, pray, and walk together each week in partnership with many different people who extend their hospitality to us. The Dale seeks to welcome all, while placing at our core those who are often on the margins. We strongly believe that we all have something to offer, and can and should all receive from one another as well. We are a staff team of three, which means we rely on the love, time, and hands of so many volunteers whom we would not function without.

As I said, The Dale would not be able to do anything without the support of many people’s time, love, prayers, and financial gifts. The Dale does not receive any government funding – we rely on the gifts of those who are blessing us financially with their donations. I receive my salary in this way as well. After thinking that I could never work at The Dale and fundraise my own support, a year and a half later I am amazed at how loved I have been. I am receiving almost enough support to reach my salary of working 20 hours a week at The Dale.

After getting married earlier this year, I am focusing more on my family at home and starting a life with Ian, and would love to be able to reach my salary. To supplement my income I currently work very part time for another community I am part of called Sanctuary. In order to reach my salary goal of working 20 hours a week at The Dale, I need 7 people to give $25 a month. In order to reach my financial goal for the end of this year and make up for some shortfall, I need another $2250.

Would you like to help me reach my goals? I would be so grateful if you would be able to partner financially with me in my ministry at The Dale. Please consider joining my support team and giving in the following ways:

  1. Pre-Authorized Remittance. If you would like to support me in this way, please email me for a form at meagan.gillard@gmail.com
  2. CanadaHelps. Please indicate that the donation is for me.
  3. Cheque. These can be made out to The Dale Ministries, with my name in the Memo Line and mailed to: PO Box 94, Station C Toronto, ON M6K 3M7

Please share this letter and help me invite new people on this journey. If you want to follow along I often blog here! I would love to share my thoughts on life at The Dale with you.

Love and peace,

Meagan

Advertisements

full to the brim.

let me paint you a picture. 

it’s a tuesday afternoon, 1pm to be exact. we gather in a space not our own, as usual. but we sure make it ours, as usual. we are at the salvation army thrift store on queen street west and jameson avenue. the store is long but narrow. let’s walk in, all the way to the back. there you go, past the racks of clothes and the dishes. stop at the staff room door 3/4 of the way back and say hi to penny. she’s pricing some items. hi darlings! she says and she hugs you tight. you let her know that you have snacks and that she should come for a visit.

walk a little further back, careful! it gets tight here. walk to the left of the bookshelf and pull up a chair if you can find one. this is where we meet. the “coffee corner” at the back of the store. the space is small… really small. we are at a table that’s been here for ages and mixed-matched chairs that come and go. sometimes if we are lucky theres a couch too, just in front of the table. we are surround by books on three sides. have a seat, next to “john”. he has his painting supplies out already and is focused and committed. 

if you came with me, which i wouldn’t advise since you’re already seated, we would go back into the staff room, past the tight clothing rack being sorted (sorry! was that your toe?) and grab our things. a borrowed kettle. a gifted scrabble bored, some coffee, tea and hot chocolate etc in a well loved bag. back to the table i go and plug the kettle in at the coffee corner, so to speak. 

what would you like to drink and how do you take it? don’t worry if you don’t get a drink this round… we’ll boil the kettle at least 10 more times since it only fills three cups at a time. soon everyone will be filled with a warm drink in a borrowed mug – if we run out we walk back to the front where the dishes are and collect a couple more. here, take these bowls please. chips in this one and grapes in the other. help yourself! and pass it along. 

1:30 already?! time flies at the beginning. we are full now so squish in. oh here’s “betty”. sorry while i reach over you to give her a hug. ok everyone, drinks in hand? scrabble at the ready? “TJ” will serenade us and oh look! Sam’s here with some donuts! 

this is my tuesday afternoon, and you are always welcome. we gather from 1-3pm. it may be squishy and loud but it’s ours for a couple hours and we are at “home.” feel free to join us! 

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

learning to stay.

often, my initial reaction in any uncomfortable situation is to run. or at least think about running. there are people in my life who can vouch for the fact that i have looked at real estate in other provinces/countries/islands far away, rather than feel my feelings. talk about needed to learn to process. 

i started therapy again last week. it was hard. and it will be hard for a while. i am going to give myself permission to feel some things that i don’t want to feel. about 10 minutes before my appointment i called ian in a panic and seriously considered running for my life back to the subway. but i didn’t. i walked up to that office, sat and stripped most of my layers off because i was so warm, and (i kid you not) blew on my clammy hands and wiped them on my pants so i wouldn’t have “nervous” hands. you know the ones… clammy, and damp. yup, that was me. 

there have been times in life where i have wanted to run. to move. to be anywhere else. to give up. i know you’ve probably heard about that fight or flight thing…. well the flight runs deep in me. but guess what? sometimes staying can be really beautiful. 

sometimes sitting with your sweaty, clammy self and getting through that first session can bring you hope that one day you will be able to feel without wishing you weren’t. telling people how you are (how you REALLY are) can bring encouragement and life into your soul. sitting with people awkwardly and making slow conversation can be the start of a really beautiful friendship.

i am no expert at this, but i know that the grass will always look greener on the other side. i mean, those people who moved to an island far far away probably wish they had a closer grocery store. i am learning to feel without letting it consume me. i am learning to blow off my clammy hands and meet new people. i am learning that sitting in silence is okay. i am learning that next week, you might feel different and better than today. and that people won’t run from you most of the time if you tell them you’re not okay. most of the time, if they love you (which you know they do), they’ll stick right there beside you. they might even look at houses with you in a country you’ll never move to. and they’ll be there to have your back. because staying means friends, and having friends is a lovely thing.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

friends?

I keep trying to write this really deep blog post about how much I am trying to learn about myself in this line of work and how life can be hard sometimes when it feels like people are against you. But it’s not working out and maybe that’s because all I have to write this week is this:

After coming back from a community retreat this weekend, a Dale friend and I had words on the bus. I asked him to stop doing something and in not so many words, he told me to stop talking. We didn’t talk the rest of the trip home or the next day. On Tuesday I felt a shift and he said hey to me, so I brought him a coffee as a peace offering. He took my hand and said, “Friends?”.

Grace overflowed in that moment and I was shown again how God works in mysterious ways. It was a seemingly easy moment between us in a mixture of  a day filled with frustration, anxiety, tears, and worry. God showed me grace, my friend showed me grace, and I showed the same.

A peace offering and an outstretched hand. I know things aren’t always this simple, and even in this situation there was a lot of work years past and days before that led to this tiny miracle. But I am grateful for the hope that sometimes they can be this simple.

“Friends?” “Yep.”

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

 

 

fierce love.

This community work that we do at The Dale is hard and fun and good and deeply painful and amazingly weird. It is full of contradictions that can happen in the span of a year, a month, a week, a day, and in 5 minutes. However, one thing that never changes is the fierce love that our friends show day after day, minute after minute. I can think of a hundred examples of where I have found love, in dark and light places, and I am so grateful that I can witness Jesus in my Dale friends all the time. They show me what it means to forgive, to fight for people, to care, to give.

On one of the last warm days of this year, we were sitting in the park on a Tuesday for drop-in and suddenly an egg came flying down from an overhead balcony, hitting Joanna in the arm. Next came a potato and an apple and we all moved from our table away from the flying produce. It turns out a couple of kids were thinking they were funny and throwing things at us, and it caused a lot of pain for our folks. To see Joanna hurt, no matter how odd it was, to see an act of injustice done to someone they loved was deeply upsetting for our friends. It was fierce love – they offered encouragement, maybe some angry threats in her defence, and cries of anger and disappointment. They cared that one of their own was hurt, and it was hard.

Recently we accompanied a friend to court, all three of us. It was a hard day and a long day, especially for them. I couldn’t stay until the end of the day, but when I left, my friend pulled me in for a long hug and thanked me for being there. I wish I had thanked them in return, for allowing me to be. For trusting me and inviting me into their space. They showed me a fierce love – a love that allowed me to see them in pain and sadness and anger. That allowed me to be there and show up.

Joanna and I often visit a friend with mobility issues to bring groceries and things to his place. He needs some help to clean, and in trying to get a support cleaner in a broken system, his place needed to be clean to show he needed help. Jo and I went for a visit and worked for an hour or so cleaning and talking. He showed us some fierce love that day – by trying his best to pre-clean for us in the best way he could, by talking with us and making us laugh, by thanking us with his big toothy grin, by being vulnerable and trusting us in his home, by being our friend too.

There are days I see a fight on the brink of boiling. My eyes shift from person to person and I judge whether or not to speak or let them try. My instincts and my own fear of conflict tell me to run out the door. And suddenly and arm is extended with a fist- not meant for hurting, but for bumping showing a sign of respect and love. “Sorry, man. I’m not angry at you. It’s the world. We’re friends right?” “Right.”

Contradictions. Fierce love. Anger and peace. Happiness and tears. Hurt and joy. Love and love and love heaped upon more love can change a lot of things. We try our best to love in places that may seem dark and scary and in return we get a whole lot of love back. A fierce kind of love, that protects, uplifts, shares. and scares me sometimes, but mostly brings me joy. I am grateful for this place, this work, my friends, my team.

I have been in bed sick for three days, and I miss them. Thanks for hearing me out.

Peace.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

finding peace.

i am no stranger to hearing the words “it’s okay” or “don’t worry”. as a kid, I would ask my parents hundreds of many times before bed if the lights were off or the door was locked or the stove was off, or or or. you get the idea. now as an adult in my own place, i ask myself these questions all the same. “don’t worry,” they would say. “everything is okay.”

i recently discovered that i am a six on the enneagram scale. while i am still figuring that out, apparently it means that i can be security-oriented (read: anxious and suspicious). i guess it means that i like to, or need to, know that i am safe. that i can be at ease.

what i am trying to say i think is that i like to be at peace. part of the hard part about working in a community like The Dale or Sanctuary is the unpredictability of people. actually, part of living in the world is the unpredictability of people. at a moments notice, someone can move from happy to sad, angry, hostile, or violent. sometimes, when folks are experiencing mental health issues or addictions, this unpredictability can become amplified.

for someone who is anxious and security oriented, who can struggle with making decisions alone or being without a support system, this can be scary. but it can also be an opportunity. to trust others and trust myself. to not worry so much that people will blow up, but to know that i will be okay if they do. to not fear others, but find strength and hope in the ups and downs of all relationships, ones that are easy and hard.

to be honest, this blog has been hard to write. i feel like i have something i want to say but not sure how or what the words should be. alas, the six coming out in me again 😉 anyways. thanks for reading even though i lied in my last blog and haven’t been here as regularly as i had hoped. i will try and try again. thanks for sticking by me.

if you’re feeling fear today or in this season, know that at least the world is changing around us even if it feels as if we are stuck in limbo. that autumn is here and that means a fresh start in many ways. know that He who knows all and sees all is with you in all things, and there is no reason to be afraid (but it’s okay if you still feel like you are). it’s okay to ask for help and find your security in Him and in your people. and it’s okay to find it in yourself. you are stronger than you think! i am too.

let’s find peace together this week.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

 

 

being honest.

hey friends,

it has been a while since i’ve jumped on here, and if you’re a regular reader i’m sure you’ve caught on to the fact that i haven’t been writing too regularly the past couple of months. my heart is beating a little faster and my palms are getting a little sweatier because i still find it hard to be honest here sometimes, even though i know being vulnerable with you is what brings us closer together and can bring healing.

to be honest, this summer was hard for me in relation to working at the dale. i don’t think many people know this besides ian, jo and erinn because i haven’t talked much about it online or otherwise. for some reason(s) which i am trying to collect in my mind still, i’ve had a really hard time mentally being at work. i think between planning a wedding, getting married, starting part time at sanctuary again, and moving, etc etc, my ability to connect with my community and dale friends dwindled.

i started to doubt myself, my ability and skills, my reason for doing this work, if i was even supposed to be doing this work, and my God for what felt like leading me here and bailing. it got to the point where i would cry on sunday nights, dreading the week ahead. a couple of weeks ago i finally came clean during a monday morning check in. let’s just say it wasn’t easy for any of us. for me to tell, and for jo and erinn to hear i am sure. there were some tears. however, speaking my truth to my team was a huge deal for me and it lifted a giant weight off my shoulders. they spoke encouragement into me, and erinn and i had a meeting the next day which helped my spirit a lot.

i realized that while i had been so overwhelmed with life things, my capacity to relate to people had left me. i didn’t have the desire to sit and chat with my dale friends, maybe because i did not want to be honest with how i was feeling – that i wasn’t feeling connected in this community. but at the dale, that is one thing we value most of all: being honest in our brokenness, because we are all broken in some way, and holding each other tightly during these moments of vulnerability is really important. as a staff team, we receive lots of love just as much as we pour out.

i realized that instead of dealing with my brokenness, i had been hiding it from my team and i had been retreating from my community. i was in the kitchen a lot, trying to keep busy doing work with my hands instead of sitting with my people and doing work with my heart. and if you know me and us, you know that one piece of advice to anyone coming to the dale for the first time is to sit down next to someone and talk. it may feel like to serve is to always be “doing” something. but sitting down next to someone and chatting, or reading the paper, or eating a meal etc is a HUGE part of serving in God’s kingdom. Jesus did it himself with numerous people! He loved people by being with them.

a goal of mine for the past couple of weeks since being honest with my feelings, has been to step right out of the kitchen and sit at a table with my friends and chat. it’s hard for me still, and i’m not saying being in the kitchen is unnecessary because it is needed and an important part of making a community meal. however, for me, i was really missing that connection with my folks. and since stepping out of the kitchen more, i have felt a lot better. i’ve enjoyed talking with people about movie reviews, asking them how their week was, telling them about mine, passing the platter of food, and talking about our favourite various things.

by stepping into my discomfort and connecting with people again, i have felt a little more like myself. it was a reset that i needed. it will not always be easy and there will still be times i’m sure where i doubt myself. but i am working on connecting with my team and my community more so we can support each other and love each other through all the seasons of change and lifeness.

whew. this turned out a lot longer than i expected and i didn’t know all this was going to come out when i started typing. if you made it this far, thanks for reading and coming along this blog journey with me. i ask for your prayer into the fall as i try to step more into community and out of my shell in the kitchen. i ask for your encouragement and i thank you to whoever is reading this for being on my team. you are so appreciated.

peace to you.

meg

ps: thanks for understanding when my words only flow on here once in a blue moon. i am working on being back here more regularly 🙂

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

bless you.

There is a man that stands in the hallway that leads from the bus to the subway at Dufferin Station. I have seen him there on a few different occasions, as I am sure many have who take this route home at this time. He stands, not sits, often asking passers by for spare change. But not always.

Today all he said to the woman in front of me was, “Bless you.” She turned around, not stopping her quick walk, and apologized for not having any money. An acknowledgement, some words, an apology – probably more than this man receives from a lot of folks who pass by him and do not look, do not speak, do not acknowledge. They do not know how or do not care.

But today was different. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t have any money.”

“All I said was bless you, ma’am. Bless you.” The man just wanted to bless this woman, no change required.

How often we are quick to judge someone based on what they look like, what they smell like, what we have seen them ask for many times before. How quick we are to pass by not saying anything or saying the wrong thing because we don’t know what to do. When “these people” are our friends, children of God, human beings full of life and love and soul too. People who can speak and have conversations and like to be smiled at and spoken to, like we all do.

Bless you. All I said was bless you.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

let people surprise you.

let the story begin with me admitting that i upset someone on monday at lunch. it was unintentional and unavoidable – at the time i was unable to give someone something that they had asked for. unfortunately, although i tried to be as polite as i could and explain my reasoning, this person was still hurt. due to all sorts of context that does not need to be explained here, i could understand why this person was upset. the result was that i got called a multitude of names and was sworn at a few times.

my outsides let it slide. no, i wasn’t upset, i got where this person was coming from, i’m not hurt by what they said, etc etc. that was a lie. my insides were scared. and a little hurt. i was worried this would change things between this person and i. i was worried they would hold a grudge and be mad for a long time, and the truth is i knew i would most likely have to see them again on sunday, potentially alone, and i did not want to deal with the tension that might occur.

however, what happened next surprised me.

joanna and i were sitting in drop in a couple days later and i saw the person walking towards the building. my stomach fell into my big toes and my heart rate sped up. i told myself to relax but it was only about 15 mins after we had opened and we had 1 hr and 45 mins of a potentially tense and awkward time to endure together if this person came into the room. suddenly there was a knock on the door (lord forgive me, my hard heart did not allow me to get up and answer). the person walked in, stopped in the middle of the room in front of where i was sitting, and said, “i have to say something. i was awful to meagan on monday and i am really sorry about it.” they looked me in the eye, and i looked at them and thanked them for their most honest, not even embarrassed in the slightest to talk openly in front of everyone, and quick apology. they took a seat and looked at me again and said, “im really not a bad person.” i nodded and smiled at them with my eyes in the best way i could because i knew that to be true. and we returned to our normal colouring, talking, breakfast eating selves that day.

i learned a lesson that wednesday morning. we are going to hurt people. whether we mean to or not, that fact is inevitable. this person and i hurt each other in our own way that day but i let my heart be hardened. i was afraid. but my friend surprised me with her love and her ability to reconcile with me so fast. my heart should have been open to it, but i wanted to keep her anger out. by doing that, i almost didnt let her love in. and that would have been a great loss.

i am grateful for the lessons i continue to learn every day. i am grateful for my dale family. we get mad at each other sometimes. we let each other down. but most of the time, we pick each other up. we love each other. and it is a wonderful gift. people will surprise you… remember to let them.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

a lost ring.

It happened in a split second. A new friend was visiting the Dale for the first time and generously wanted to help with the dishes after lunch. He grabbed his hand and his eyes widened. “My ring! I’ve lost my ring.”

Suddenly about 5 people were on the floor. Eyes were pacing back and forth looking for a silver ring that could literally have rolled anywhere. “Raven” and I saw it at the same time, and he crawled frantically under the table and handed the ring back to our new friend.

Raven looked at me and said, with his hand on his heart in relief, “It’s his first time here, he wanted to help, and he lost something. But we found it. I am happy now. ”

Helpful, caring, respectful, kind, open hearted. These are just some of the words that describe my friends at the Dale and I am lucky to learn from such beautiful people.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!