A sunny bright first week of January and many greetings of “Happy New Year” were offered from our friends at the drop in. New Years is just so much better than Christmas.
In addition to the beautiful day, some of our folks were only just receiving their cheques from December (some glitch in the matrix of ODSP/OW) on this day, so it was doubly beautiful (maybe more).
Our numbers are down a bit because of the cheque thing (a typical first of the month pattern), but we have given up trying to estimate our effectiveness through the number of people served a meal. Instead we count the number of positive interactions our volunteers have with our street friends – more than ‘the Big three’ of news, weather and sports.
Downstairs, there’s a couple of euchre games on the go, people visiting with each other, relaxed, informal – a nice place to hang out.
Let’s ‘drop in’ on a few of my encounters with our friends:
I met Bill who is 19 years old and his sister Chaucery (or so I thought, until Bill told me it was his mom), and we chatted. Two years ago he ran from a fight only to have a severe stab wound in the skull: “See the mark?” he says as he points to the top of his head. We talked of a few things, but he told me he didn’t want to talk about his father, one time Chaucery’s partner. Then, after about twenty minutes, he brought up the topic of his father, and how he had been so severely mistreated. Usually, among people who have been mistreated as children it is their fathers who have been the primary causes of abuse. He didn’t want to talk about it, but then he did. He had been diagnosed with some condition of mental illness (before the knife wound and somehow associated with his father), he explained, and lives with his mom. Their hydro had been cut off, and it was a good thing I wasn’t part of the blanket-blank agency, or they would have some choice words for me. They were going to make it, the mom said, because hydro was not their heat source, and their landlord had allowed them to have an extension cord running to a power outlet in the hall. “We have lots to be thankful for,” Bill reminded his mom.
On the way to the coffee urn, Wayne came in and asked if he could have a hamper to take home with him (before the appointed time for hampers) because the service technician was coming to his new place to hook up a phone that afternoon. Wayne has undergone a remarkable recovery from alcohol, drugs and the street scene. He has been clean for over a year now, and has every intention of continuing to improve his life. After many, many attempts to obtain housing, he now has a place of his own. I marvel at what he has accomplished against overwhelming odds, as well at his determination to keep on the ‘straight and narrow’.
Jelica, our managing director, put together a few groceries, while Wayne showed us pictures of his two daughters and grandchildren. “Wow”, I said, admiring the photographs and smiling, “You don’t look it, but you truly are a rich man.” He quickly nodded assent and told a condensed version of the powerful reconciliation he recently had with one of his daughters – after being estranged from her for many, many years.
“Thank you so very much for the food,” he said, and put the pictures carefully in the front part of his knapsack, and the groceries in the back. “I’m off to catch the 12:10 bus.”
As he climbed the stairs out of the building, my eyes met Jelicas’, and there was a simultaneous sigh of gratitude and wonder at this example of a transformed life. More than words are needed to grasp the deep significance of what was happening all around us.
It’s all a gift from God, and gifts of God.
These kinds of encounters happen all the time, each one purposefully and intrinsically orchestrated by our Heavenly Father: each one a display of His splendor . Mother Theresa coined it well when she said, “We see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
You should find out how you could be a part of this somehow. Happy New Years!