Rachel’s Gift: Episode Two, The early years: ages 9 to 16

Rachel’s Gift is an 8 part series until December 23.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click:   Rachel’s Gift episode 2

“We moved a lot, especially from the time I was nine until sixteen.  I counted, and we moved thirty-eight times in those seven years.  Just one step ahead of eviction some of the times, mostly we got the eviction itself.  It was hard to live like that. 

I didn’t do well at school.  Even though we moved, there always was a party at our house.  And drugs.  Lots of drugs.  Drug dealers, users and all kinds.  Cocaine, heroin and mixtures of drugs I didn’t even know.

I know I missed a lot of school, ‘cause my mom was always hung over.  We moved a lot and with the partying, we never seemed to have any money.  I used to always wonder why we were always broke, and didn’t really find out until later in life.  The pattern was always the same: somehow scratch up the first and last month’s rent, take one month for the eviction to take place and we were on the move again. 

I left school when I was sixteen, no actually before that, ‘cause I never really went to high school it was just the way it was.  There was a guy that lived with us, tried to raise us or whatever – he used to beat my mom up a lot.  We ended going out to Calgary, but the pattern kept with us – we were only there for three months.  Life at home was pretty hard, but I made it through.  Whatever. 

When my mom went back to Ontario for grandma’s birthday, she met someone new and decided on the spot to marry him. 

I was 15 at the time.  We moved back east, and into this guy’s house.  It wasn’t long before I was kicked out of the house.  I can’t really remember where I stayed then, when I first got kicked out.  I eventually moved back in with them – it was a disaster.  There was more partying and the guy ended up cheating on my mom.  The guy was charged with assault and he had to leave.  More partying and then more – it got to a point where I couldn’t handle It anymore.  I had a boyfriend at the time, so I moved out.”

Next Week: The first time I used Crack Cocaine, evicted again, dealing drugs and then jail.

Gladness and Sadness

Our Christmas Dinner was held this past Tuesday, January 18.  Three weeks after Christmas and people who received their cheques before Christmas are ready for a hot turkey dinner.  Seems to work for everyone.

Two settings of eighty people each, tickets are distributed and it works well.  This year we had an East Coast Trio that did well: one of our Newfoundland guys said, “I close my eyes and I’m back home.”

Volunteers cooking, serving, cleaning, visiting – with our friends from the streets sharing words of thanks and appreciation.  One Christmas treat bag each, along with one sock filled with more treats. The other sock was inside the first one – I asked.

So, near the end of the second setting I leave through the kitchen door to return my camera to the car.

I noticed someone standing, well leaning, on the wall outside the main door, just out of view of anyone inside.  He was standing on one foot, his leather dress boot in one hand, while at the same time, he is putting on a fresh emptied sock from the gift table.  I looked away to preserve some of my friend’s dignity, and my mind was flooded with thoughts filled with emotion.

I didn’t notice any used socks around when I returned: I wonder if he had any socks on at all.  The leather dress boots had seen better days, and then only inside, but the winter had turned them white with salt, and there was enough water to penetrate the leather right to the bare feet.

What could happen to a person that he would not have socks?  This is sadness.

Then, what could be a better Christmas present than a clean, fresh, warm pair of socks?  Can’t get much better than that!  That is gladness.

Sadness and gladness all wrapped up in a simple exercise of putting on a pair of socks.  The sad story behind this we may never know, but we could imagine there’s a lot of stuff hidden in that story.

Then we have to consider the bigger picture of a bunch of volunteer stuffing socks with candies, hoping to bring a little light into someone’s life – if only they knew just how appropriate their gift really was!

A small thing really, for most of us – but a pretty  large thing for our sockless, water soaked, leather booted friend.

You have to wonder if all the preparation of the meal, the music, the gift bags (and sock bags), the venue, the volunteers, and so many countless deeds of kindness that went into the whole Christmas dinner in January… was so that one man, who had cold, wet boots, could have warm feet for just a wee while.

And know that Someone cared.

Add a Homeless Person to Your Christmas List – II

Merry Christmas!  Just a quick note today, on the eve of Christmas eve, to invite you to do a last minute gift purchase – for someone experiencing homelessness – for someone you don’t even know.  Click on the banner above for more info.

AND, if you would visit www.chri.ca, you can listen to the podcast of the interview I did with the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson.  This is not a political maneuvering or ‘nail him to the post’ interview, but an opportunity to hear our Mayor’s heart regarding the less fortunate in our city: how at an early age, he learned to care, what he is doing now, and some ideas how citizens of Ottawa (and beyond) can become involved.

Take opportunity today and make a donation.  We’ll be sure it gets to where it’s needed most!

Add a Homeless Person to Your Christmas List

Merry Christmas!  I did some research about how much money Canadians spent last Christmas – it amounted to thirty-four and a half BILLION dollars ($34.5B).  Then the latest stats indicated a family of four would spend between $1,200 and $1,500 on average, with a single Canadian spending an average of $809.

Canadians are generous people.  In fact, in 2009, Canada tied with Ireland for the third highest donators to charity in the world.  Charitable giving to religious organizations ranked three times higher than the second category (health institutions). 

We have enough for ourselves, and we have enough to help others!

This Christmas, why not show your generosity by adding a homeless person to your Christmas list?  It’s common for us to add an additional person to our Christmas shopping list from time to time, what about giving something special to people who really don’t have anything (and who are not really on anyone’s list!)?  This would really make a difference in someone’s life.

You could give a Winter Street Survival Kit or buy someone a Christmas Dinner for $2.69, or make a donation and we will ensure help gets to where it is most needed.

On the banner above are ways that you can quickly and easily add a homeless person to your Christmas list. I have found that people who call the streets their home are very, very grateful for the acts of kindness and gifts that are given to them.   On behalf of those who will be recipients of your generous giving, let me say, “Thank you.”

Tell a friend, challenge them to step up to the plate, and make a difference in your world!

The Gift of Christmas (volunteer social dec. 2)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9; 6, 7

The Gift of Christmas is all wrapped up in Jesus, is Jesus, and is the meaning of Christmas.  His message is the gift that keeps on giving as the gospel unfolds: cradle to cross, Jew to Gentile, one person told another person, who told yet another, they told somebody who in turn told someone else, who that person told someone else and so on to today, and the gift continues to unfold to the world.

You are the gift.

Drop In: I stood at the doorway to the sanctuary and watched: Rudy just finished cutting someone’s hair and asked if he would like prayer; a volunteer doing foot care right in front of me; sounds of Carolyn and Wendal distributing clothing upstairs and beside the stairs a staff spoke quietly with one of our street friends, behind me in the sanctuary, two more foot care volunteers massaged and soothed tired feet and Clara worked her touch care on tired aching backs… and I marveled at the gift unfolding…

Youth Art Show: in the moment I stood back and surveyed the room: young street artists, volunteers, donors, partners, prayer warriors and intercessors all there.  Many of the kids didn’t recognize the gift but each knew there was something special happening right in front of them.  I sensed the Giver of gifts painting on the canvas of human hearts, and it was a powerful moment.  All the work, the people, the prayers, the gifts working through His people… and the gift was unfolding…

Years ago on Street Outreach, Steve and I peered into a loading dock in the Byward Market and made out the figures of two small girls.   The one that spoke told us they just arrived from Montreal, that they were both sixteen, and were OK.  We shared what we had, noted references to places where they could get help, and in some way, I sensed that Steve and I were the gift, unfolding…

Sparky had taken refuge in the Laundromat near our office and I went in to sit with him for a while.  He was pretty intoxicated and did not do too well hiding the bottle of cooking sherry from the Laundromat overseer lady.  We had a conversation, and I stayed a bit longer.  When I got up to leave, Sparky told me in a very clear, impassioned plea, “No.  Please stay with me,” and for a moment I could not tell whether I was the gift or if he was, just unfolding…

Years ago at a downtown drop in, William, who was at times subject to alcoholic seizures, tottered and swayed, pointing his finger in my face and prophesying, “The Lord is blessing you.  The Lord is blessing this place and what you do,” and he became the gift, telling me we were the gift.  And it keeps on unfolding…

We come alongside one another as the gift unfolds through us, in us and through our street friends- in whom the gift is birthed, delivered and manifested.  And we thank God for each one.

You are the gift unfolding, Christ in you, the hope of glory, and I watch it all the time.  And I count it as a gift and privilege from the Gift Giver Himself to come alongside you and walk and work with you as we together we watch the gift unfold.

There is a tradition in some churches to speak over the communion elements of bread and the wine, to say, “The gifts of God for the people of God”, and the response comes, “Thanks be to God.”

Here tonight, in and with each other, I present each of you to all of you, and say, “The gifts of God for the people of God,” and we say together, “Thanks be to God.”