Little (big) Gifts

My birthday was February 2nd. It was a Saturday, and I really didn’t expect many people from The Dale community to know or remember, considering that I didn’t shout it from the rooftops! However, to my surprise, I was greeted on the Monday after my birthday with three little gifts that filled my heart in a big way.

“Joe” came right up to me as I was making the coffee for drop-in and said “Happy Birthday, Darling!” in his booming voice, and handed me a mixture of things he found that he thought I would like. In the bag were mostly toiletries, and he said he hoped I could find some use in them! LOL I think that was part of his cheeky humour coming out.

“Sarah” gifted me a little surprise, gently wrapped in a sock. Upon unwrapping it, I discovered a beautiful porcelain turtle. She said she had found it on a shelf in her home and wanted to give it to me for my birthday because she knows how much I love turtles – oh, to be known so deeply that little details stick. I was really touched. Below is a photo of my new little turtle friend…

My turtle.

Finally, a crew of our steady volunteer kitchen ladies presented me with a sweet and encouraging card that they all signed with a little jar of homemade crab apple jelly. One of the ladies had picked the crab apples from down the road of where we hold drop-in and made them into jam. A labour of love and a gift from the heart.

I am truly loved and blessed by my friends. To remember the day I came to life and to present me with such thoughtful, beautiful gifts… these are the kind of gestures that make me feel warm and fuzzy when I think of community. Of course being in community has it’s ups and downs. But the “ups” are so, so beautiful and really make me feel grateful that God called me to do this work.


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!

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Remembering Rob.

This week is my birthday. On Febraury 2nd I’ll be turning twenty-six. It just so happens that this time last year on my birthday, a friend of mine named Rob passed away.

I knew Rob from my Sanctuary community. He would hang out at our community meals and art drop-in usually, reading in the corner and soon enough, painting at the tables with us. He loved to do these cool geometric pieces by using masking tape to make shapes, painting in between them, and then peeling the tape off. He also participated in our art workshops, where he created this cool stop-motion video of life in the animal kingdom, using cut out paper and animal crackers. We would joke around a lot during the making of that video and discovered our sense of humour was really similar, as well as our inability to sit still for long periods of time. We would get distracted easily together and starting eating the candy props meant for the videos.

Rob was a young guy. He was very hip, with a keen sense for fashion, and an ability to put an amazing outfit together effortlessly. He had this really great dry, sarcastic sense of humour that went well with his fun-loving personality. Rob was many things… smart, cool, talented, funny, witty, a good friend, generous, and fun. Rob also experienced homelessness, and was really quite ill near the time he passed away. He had finally been housed, and was doing well before falling ill again and staying in hospital before being called Home.

Rob

I found out about his death on February 3rd, 2018. I was on my way to a birthday brunch with Ian when my friend and coworker from Sanctuary called to tell me the news. They had spared me from finding out the day before, on my actual birthday. I cried on and off for hours that day, tearing up at the sight of things along our journey in the car that reminded me of my friend Rob. I often “see” him now in others passing by, doing a double take as I pass a stranger with features so similar to that of my friend’s.

There are many things I wish for. I wish that Rob had more time. I wish that I didn’t cry that day looking at the underside of bridges, knowing that he often slept outside. I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish more of my friends had adequate housing, that they could stay somewhere warm and safe. I wish the system wasn’t broken. And I wish I could sit with Rob one more time, painting and laughing at Sanctuary.

I will remember Rob this week as I celebrate my life, and that still feels like a surreal thing. I will remember all the ways he brought life and joy to his friends. I will lament his death and the broken system that made him live outside for a long time. And I will be grateful that I knew Rob, because he was pretty great.

In this video put together by my friend Lyf, you can see Rob’s appearance in “The Magician”, and his “Beef in the Kingdom” stop-motion near the end.

On forgiveness.

I was standing in the large open room where we host our Monday community meal, chatting with someone at a table. Suddenly, like an animal in the wild, my ears perked up. A loud voice was nearby, and with that came a red flag. It didn’t sound like loud talking, it sounded like an argument. I excused myself from the conversation, but not in time to catch the argument before it began. There was commotion over a seat, a common blimp in our space as our friends pile in close to lunch to eat a home cooked meal with us. He was yelling at her, and she was sitting down – refusing to move her coat from an empty seat beside her. So I put my hand on his shoulder lightly to attract his attention to me, as speaking to him was getting me nowhere.

Big. Mistake. Lesson One – do not touch someone when they’re worked up. It probably won’t go over too well! I can admit that was a mistake on my end. His anger turned to me… “Don’t put your hands on me again or….” I’ll save you the threats and expletives. My hands went up in the air as I tried to backtrack and apologize at the same time. It didn’t work. After some more yelling and threats, our friend was asked to leave for the day – a way to let someone cool off outside our space, and let them know that what they did made the space unsafe.

I don’t tell you all this to paint our friend in any kind of bad light. He was denied an empty seat, something that I should have tried to rectify in another way. And I got in his personal space while he was fired up, a big mistake on my end. I tell you all this to paint a picture of a time I was threatened more than I ever have been. Luckily I know our friend enough to know that he would NEVER ever really hurt me. But to be spoken to in that way is a little jarring. I tell you this because for a long time after that incident, our friend wouldn’t speak to me, even after my half-hearted smiles in his direction, trying to close some kind of gap that had formed between us.

I should know by now that these things take time. Sometimes people need room. They need space to process, time to forgive, and opportunity to come back when they’re ready. For me and my friend, it happened on the day we were having our Epiphany party ironically enough. I was bundled up and walking through the cold wind that often forms in a tunnel on Queen Street. Walking quickly past all the usual spots, I saw our friends precariously placed through Parkdale going about their usual business. When I was approaching the LCBO, I noticed my friend standing outside the doors. I was nervous. This was the first time since the incident that I had seen him alone in the world, not with Jo or Erinn as a buffer. I looked at him and tried to smile as I said a quick hello. He made eye contact and just as I was passing, he said, “Hey, I need to talk to you.”

I stopped and turned around, my heartbeat quickening. “Sure, what’s up?” He said he had been meaning to talk to me for a while, and that since the incident he’s felt really weird coming into the space. I nodded, a signal that I too had felt the same. He opened his arms wide, a hug waiting for me – a peace offering. I hugged him back and he said, “You know I love you, right?” I said “I know, and I’m sorry about what happened. I never meant to hurt you.” An apology wrapped in a hug, and the truth. We parted ways after some back and forth and I walked the rest of the way to where Erinn and Jo waited for me, shivers running down my arms that had nothing to do with the cold.

I was amazed yet again by God’s grace, for me and my friend, and for our relationship. We needed time apart, and we needed an opportunity to come back together. We needed the love of the Creator, binding us together after harshness tried to rip us apart. I am in awe of the hearts of our friends, coming back time and time again when it would be easier to remain hard and angry. I am grateful for the love at The Dale, and the opportunity we get to walk alongside our friends everyday, learning new ways to love. If you are waiting for peace today, may you be encouraged that His timing is perfect, and that you are not forgotten.

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!

christmas eve communion.

Hi friends,

Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy (belated) New Year! Now that the Christmas vortex has hopefully slowed down for you, I know it can feel a little odd… like you don’t quite know what to do with yourself, and everything is a whole lot quieter. I have a Christmas memory from The Dale floating around in my head, and I wanted to document it here. Hopefully this helps bring a little joy to your new year and can help you remember that the joy of the season can be held onto and sprinkled into your life all year round.

On Christmas Eve, Jo, Erinn, myself, Erinn’s daughter Cate, and her friend went to visit a friend of ours who has recently been moved from his home in Parkdale, to a hospital, to a nursing home. “John” holds fast to his faith and can often be found praising God in every circumstance, but was naturally feeling a little lonely to be away from his home at Christmas. Before our outreach walk, we decided to visit him and do communion together, something that we knew would bring him joy.

John invited his new friend Dave from down the hall and we set up communion on his hospital-like table, placing a white cloth over it and adorning it with Erinn’s portable communion items… some grape juice and rice crackers from the Dollarama, a small bottle of port, and some golden dishes from her wicker basket. We prayed, and fed each other communion, passing the bread and wine and saying, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.” It was a reminder of the reason for the season, that Jesus came as a baby, sent from God his Father to live with us here on Earth. It was a reminder of his life and how he suffered like we do, and ultimately died for us as a man for our sins.

John smiled and prayed with us, and after we decided to sing some songs together. His voice raised up in the room and through the hall. It is beautifully low and loud as he worships God, whom he puts all of his faith in. People came from down the hall to say they loved the singing and asked if we were from a choir! I had tears in my eyes as I stood watching John sing, sat in his wheelchair with his eyes lightly closed, singing proud for all to hear. I love that John loves God so much. He teaches me a lot and I love that he loves us, his Dale family. I am so grateful that we could see him for Christmas.

I can only hope that with that short visit, we brought John a piece of joy that day. I know that with that short visit my heart swelled ten sizes, and I was sure filled with joy. And I hope that He was looking down on us, pleased.


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!

year end goals.

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.

A Dale community member and I at our yearly camp retreat!

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. You can use this form if you would like to donate monthly. Please see the link to the PAR form right below this paragraph. It will open into a document.
  2. canadahelps.org Please indicate that the donation is for me. Look for us under The Dale Ministries. You can use this site to donate monthly, or one time. Please know they do take a small percentage of what you donate.
  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

https://meagangillard.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/PAR-FORM-.docx

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

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!