Summer in Ottawa is often a fun and enjoyable time to do street outreach. The weather is pleasant and those on the streets are not consumed with staying warm and dry. A more carefree and "party" atmosphere often prevails and impromptu groups gather, chat and socialize.
Last week I ran into a francophone gentleman on Rideau Street who had stopped to watch a game of chess. I was able to chat with him for 10 minutes or so and learn more about his story.
He would only accept a bag of chips, saying he had already eaten a "good meal" and he wanted to leave food for those who needed it more than he did. He had just recently arrived in Ottawa after staying in Sherbrooke, where he had been working in a factory. He felt uncomfortable with some of the managers so he wanted to return to Ottawa where he had lived many years ago and try his luck here.
He had a bed at the Mission and was determined to find a job: "I'm 55 years old, I've always worked and I can still work", he said proudly, flexing his muscled arm. He was upbeat and positive, thanking us for our service to those on the streets. While he clearly needed some help and assistance to get organized, it was refreshing to speak to someone who had a plan and was optimistic about his future.
I always remind myself that there is a very fine line for most of us between having enough to live on, and being in need. A handshake, 10 minutes of chit-chat and a quick prayer made a difference to this man, and it's a privilege to serve to try to make a difference, one person at a time.
~Karen – Street Outreach Volunteer