This year at our Christmas Take Out Dinner I got to do my favourite job – again!
After addressing the volunteers for the day, I get to go outside and hang out with the guests queued up on the sidewalk.
I was prepared for the task! Before leaving the office that morning I had stuffed the pocket of my parka with candy canes. I put my cotton, one size fits all, $1.89 gloves in my other pocket and I was away!
Everything went well outside. People ‘warmed up’ to the candy cane giveaway, hot chocolate flowed freely (in cups of course) and I was able to visit and meet folks waiting their turn in line.
It is often the case, as we prepare and deliver help and services that something unexpected happens. Pretty regularly. This ‘unexpected’ usually turns out to be God’s plan, and it takes precedence!
I speak to all our guests, collectively and individually, telling them of the menu for the day, what kind of dessert is coming (frequent topic of conversation), we have lots of food, it won’t be long now… and the like.
Then the unexpected happens, not once but three times, and a thread tying them all together.
I meet three different ladies in line:
1. Kaite has been out of prison for three weeks and is so very proud of herself in that she went first to see her daughter, a child, before she started using drugs again. She lasted three days clean, and then relapsed. She has housing now, and hopes to get back into another shelter where she has stayed before. It’s been up and down for her, and she wants to stop using drugs, but it’s so hard.
It’s not uncommon for people to get clean while in jail and then relapse shortly after release – there’s no ‘fresh start’ really, and old acquaintances are still in their patterns of behaviour. Sad but true.
The unexpected: Then Kaite stops talking, looks me straight in the eye and begins to express her deep appreciation for the time I spent talking with her, and deep thanks for the provision of the take out dinner. Thanks to me and the volunteers, and the donors and the hosts – thanks on a sincere, heart-felt level for ‘all we do’.
2. Beth is in line and has a light fall jacket, toque and mask, is slender and looks unprepared for the weather. I ask her if she is warm enough and she responds that she is. I note that her hands are very red (and uncovered), and inquire if she has any gloves. She did, she said, but she gave them away to someone who really needed them.
I looked at my large leather mitts with gloves inside and looked again at her cold hands. Then I remembered! I reached into my non-candy-cane pocket and pulled out the one-size-fits-all cotton gloves. “Would you like these?” I asked. She said yes and put them on immediately.
The unexpected: Beth then begins a very genuine, sincere, and impassioned series of Thank you’s for all we are doing for people on the streets of Ottawa. For the meal, the hot chocolate, the care we give, and of course, the candy canes. Her quiet voice cut through the cold and permeated to the depths of my soul. So thankful. So grateful. So sincere.
3. Laurie was dressed in a black full length fall coat with a hood and faux fur all around which she held to her face with a slender gloved hand. With her hood gathered around her face and a mask covering her mouth and nose, I could see only her pretty hazel eyes.
She had been watching me interact with folks for some time, I guess, and when I approached her, introduced myself and asked her name, she was willing to talk.
Immediately she began to thank me (and all of us) for all we do, for the care of those on the streets, for the coming turkey dinner, for looking after people, for caring, for giving and on and on.
She appeared to be gentle, timid and perhaps somewhat shy, and while she may not have been all that comfortable giving me (and us) thanks, her words cut deep into my heart and soul.
What we do doesn’t seem to be much sometimes (or so it seems to us), and we have many people behind the scenes who give, and pray and cook and serve, all working together, to give what ultimately becomes a very large gift to our friends on the street.
The thread woven through these stories is clear: three quiet ladies, late twenties, early thirties maybe, who are timid and shy and introverted, speak quietly but powerfully of their sincere thanks to a guy named Ken, who mingles with people in the queue, waiting for their Christmas dinner.
Right now, I am passing on their thanks and appreciation to you.
Thank you for your prayers, support, volunteer work, food prep and delivery, street outreach, street level door outreach, veterans outreach, youth help, sorting, cooking, cleaning, work skills, office help, and more – together we are making a difference in many people’s lives. Helping more people. Thanks.
~Ken, Executive Director