Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Growing Tolerance @CalgaryKeys to Recovery

keys logoHe is quiet spoken. Humble. 

He is a landlord who works closely with Keys to Recovery, a not-for-profit agency that provides supportive housing for formerly homeless Calgarians who are exiting rehab and treatment with no fixed address.

He talks about his understanding when first he began working with Keys.

How he became aware of his lack of tolerance, understanding, compassion.

And why tolerance is so important to create a better city for everyone.

He is dynamic. Humble.

He is the former Chief of Police of Calgary, or as the MC, the brilliant and compassionate Jonathan Love, Mr. @JLoveNotes describes him, Our Forever Chief.

He too mentions tolerance. Talks about when he first became a cop in 1975 how little he, or anyone, knew or understood about homelessness, addictions, abuse, family violence. How so seldom there were any answers, or any compassion, to provide those on whom they called to provide support.

How tolerance as a society is so vital to creating a just society. A city where everyone has a place to call home.

He is calm. Humble.

He talks about his life before homelessness. His successes. The company he built. The family he held dear.

He talks about the impact of his addiction. The trauma of homelessness, of being lost and intolerant of any offers of help.

And he talks about going to treatment. Twice. How the first time, coming out and only have the street to greet him, he couldn’t tolerate the shame and trauma. He fell back. Hard.

And then he talks about getting straight, going back to treatment and finding a home with Keys.

They’ve given me my grandkids, he says.

Once upon a time, we were a city that did not tolerate the presence of people with mental health, addictions, physical disabilities well.

We are learning.

The value of tolerance. Compassion. Empathy. Caring about one another, no matter where we are on the street.

We are learning to celebrate the work of being there to support those who fall, and to celebrate those who do the work of being there to help them find their feet again.

Last night, Keys to Recovery , along with many supporters, staff and board members, celebrated our growing tolerance for one another, our growing capacity to look compassionately and act with kindness and consideration with those who have lost their way.

We are learning to tolerate the spaces between what we believe is ‘the right way’ to live and ‘the real things’ that happen to people along the way.

We are learning to be more compassionate, caring and considerate of one another. And in that space, we are learning to celebrate baby steps and giant leaps forward as we create a world where all of us can live our own unique human potential, without fearing the intolerance of others.

It is a good thing.

Namaste.


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Dare boldly.

Perhaps it is that I have run out of words, or maybe just energy. Perhaps my psyche is telling me I have nothing new to say, or that everything I’ve said stands as true today as it did when I wrote it. Perhaps it is just I need a change of pace. That in order to get a fitness routine cemented into my daily schedule, I need to make space in the morning and not leave it until after work when it’s easy to talk myself out of going to the gym.

Or maybe, it’s just time for a reboot, refresh, renew.

Whatever the reason, I’m looking at ways to refresh my blog. To refocus it so that it feels more organic to my daily life.

I have been writing a blog almost daily since March 2007. On that blog, Recover Your Joy, I wrote 1,730 posts.

I have been writing here at Dare Boldly, originally called, A Year of Making a Difference, since January 1, 2012, a total of 1,213 posts.

Which means, over the past 9 and a half years, I’ve published, 2,943 blogposts. If I break it down by an average of 700 words a post (which is probably short for me) I have written over 2 million words.

That’s a lot of words.

A lot of thoughts.

A lot of ideas.

Which raises the question for me — what’s my focus?

Originally, on my Recover Your Joy blog, my intent was to take every day situations and show people how to find the joy in everything. That included the many stories of homelessness I shared, the trials and tribulations of healing from life’s traumas, and the realities of being a single, working mother.

When I started A Year of Making a Difference, it was with the specific intent of figuring out how to make a difference ever day, even when I wasn’t working at a homeless shelter. It morphed into Dare Boldly in 2014 as I got clearer on what I wanted to inspire in other people’s lives, as well as my own: to  Dare Boldly. Live Bravely

It started as Dare Boldly after I wrote a poem called DARE and a dear friend, Max Ciesielski, sent me a track of music he wrote to go with the poem — and asked me to record it.

seasons of the heart retreat copyYou can hear it HERE.

That poem evolved from a painting and blessing I used to announce the new name of my blog, Dare Boldly, on January 1, 2014:
dare boldly 1 copy

And I continue to evolve.

All this means is that I am reassessing my online presence, the purpose of my writing here, the value of maintaining a daily schedule and the alternatives. It means in the coming weeks I probably won’t be appearing every weekday with any predictable schedule and it means, you’ll be seeing some changes as I adjust my theme, look, feel and direction.

It’s all good. All exciting. All important to me.


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Use Your Words Well

I learned a new word yesterday.

I was editing a document for a co-worker and in it, he used the word ‘demogrant’, meaning a grant based solely on demographic principles such as age and/or sex. (source)

I was curious. How many words are there in the English language? Which is what lead me to the realization that words, like population, continue to grow.

As of January 1, 2014, the Global Language Monitor estimate there are 1,025,109.8 in the English language. We surpassed the 1 million word mark in June 2009. The GLM website also states that, “Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.”

However, Oxford dictionaries suggests there’s really no way to tell how many words there are in the English (or any) language. So many words have more than one meaning. Do you count them more than once? What about derivatives? Do they count? The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words.

It was my curiosity that lead me to the Twinword Blog, and the exam they offer to test your vocabulary. I was relieved to see that I score in the 99th percentile. I was also relieved it wasn’t a math test.

Some brains just don’t do math as well as language. I am one of them. I like words. I relate to them. They make sense. To me, words feel alive. Emotional. Contextual. Substantial. They are an easy and effective way for me to express my thoughts, feelings, ideas, question.

Numbers. They feel cold. Inanimate. Harsh and while they may have substance and context, I don’t get a lot of feelings from words. Unless of course it’s the rapidly declining number in my bank account or the number on my latest VISA bill. That probably will get an emotional response and it won’t be positive.

Years ago, I read somewhere (sorry — I can’t credit the author. I forget — maybe, as my daughters so often tell me, I’d be better off doing a memory test instead of a word  knowledge test) that there are 3 attributes to a leader:  1. Curiosity   2. Courage   3. Humility

I like to think my curiosity is an asset. That the journey of learning a new word yesterday sent me off on a voyage of discovery. And while I may not soon be using the word ‘demogrant’ in my daily conversation, my estimated 30,000 – 35,000 word vocabulary gets a good workout everyday. It keeps my brain supple and my mind alive.

I like using words. Doesn’t matter their size, how many consonants, how fat the vowels, I like to express myself through verbal and written use of words. From beginning here every morning using my words to express my thoughts and ideas, to using my words to connect and relate to everyone in my world, language is the tool of my trade. And I like it.

Today, I am grateful for words, the Internet which leads me to so many interesting discoveries right from the comfort of my desk and the ability to make sense of the words I see on the screen. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn new words, stretch my vocabulary and for the fact, I don’t have to use numbers every day. I’m pretty sure banker would prefer I use numbers more effectively, but I’m sure scientists are thankful for my penchant to use words, not numbers. I could really mess with their formulas and equations if I was in charge of the numbers.

With words, I know where I stand. Numbers. Not so much. They sound too much like Latin to me. And though I studied Latin in High School, I have long forgotten most of what I learned.

Dang. There’s that memory thing again.

 

Maybe my daughters are right! Maybe I’d better go take a memory test and forget about words! But wait! I remember. LUMOSITY, which is more than just the quality or state of being luminous, it’s also a website that has lots of tools to strengthen memory!

Have a great day. Use your words well.

(Thank you Nick Falvo for teaching me a new word and the impetus to take a wordy adventure!)


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Savour the Moment | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 26

 

acts-of-grace-week-26-copy

It is so easy in this fast paced world to stuff every moment with doing. And in the process, forget about the being. Present. Conscious. Connected — to the food we eat, the places we sit, the people we’re with.

Ripened on the vine

Ripened on the vine

One thing about fall, it invites me back into the kitchen. On the weekend, I hauled out the slow cooker so that I could create wholesome foods from the bounty of our tomato plants and other produce I’d bought at the farmer’s market.

Last night, after a busy day for both C.C. and myself, we took Beaumont for a walk in the park, came home, set the table on the deck with a linen table cloth, china and crystal glasses. I heated up one of the pots of goodness I’d created on the weekend, C.C. sliced homemade bread and made a salad. We spent the next hour plus savouring homemade goodness and each other’s company. The air had just a hint of fall, the sky just a tinge of pink. As the solar lights surrounding the deck and hanging in the lilac bush came on, we sat and chatted and laughed and talked about our days and our tomorrows.

The ‘To Do’ list didn’t get any shorter but our feeling of being more together got stronger. The list feels less daunting when we take the time to recognize we’re not doing it alone. After dinner, C.C. went off to a meeting at 8:30, I finished off a couple of chores and chose to pick up a book (after trying to watch some of the debate) and savour the quiet of the evening reading by myself with Beaumont lying on the floor beside me.

Take time today to savour the moment, savour your food and especially, savour time with those you love.


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Panhandling: to give or not to give.

He is walking towards me, along the island between the opposite lanes of traffic. He stops several cars in front of me, jumps off the cement onto the roadway, gets close to the window of the driver and starts to gesticulate wildly in the air, occasionally thumping his chest and the cardboard sign he holds against it.

A hand reaches out of the window, gives him something, I assume money.

He moves to the next car. Repeats.

Nothing happens.

He gesticulated more wildly until eventually throwing his hands up in the air, screaming something at the driver’s window and moving onto the next car in line.

He does this until he is beside my car. He starts to wave wildly. I smile and shake my head, ‘no’. On principle I do not give to panhandlers who walk on the road at stop lights. It is dangerous and it is against the law.

He flings his arms up into the air, angrily shaking his sign in front of him.

I do nothing.

He keeps shaking and yelling. I do not open my window.

I do want to cry. To tell him to stop it. To not abuse drivers in such a way. To not use a busy street as his opportunity to gather coin.

I also want to tell him to stop trying to shame me into giving him money. To make me feel guilty.

But I know that is not his ‘doing’. It is my feeling in response to his doings.

The light turns green, traffic begins to move and I drive on.

He remains on the median waiting for traffic to once again stop.

I think about this man as I drive. How I felt angry, frustrated, sad. How I wanted to cry.

Long ago, when I started working at a homeless shelter, I quit giving to panhandlers. I realized that our city offers many opportunities for people to get food, shelter, support. Giving on the street limits my opportunity to leverage my contributions on ending homelessness by giving to those doing the work.

And on a personal level, I want to feel good about my giving. I want to give because I feel it is the right thing to do. It is helping to end homelessness, not contributing to its presence on traffic islands and street corners.

And there’s the rub. We may end homelessness but we will not end people panhandling simply by ending homelessness.

Mental health issues, addictions aside, people panhandle like that man yesterday because it works. Out of the 10 cars he will probably approach every 3-5 minutes, if he gets just one person to give him $2, he will raise about $20 – $40 in an hour. Multiply that by three or four  hours a day, and he will have garnered a good return on his investment.

Challenge is, it’s dangerous. It does not support the bigger picture. And it’s against the law. Which means, when we give to someone who is breaking the law because of the location of their panhandling, we are contributing to law-breaking and albeit one could argue it is a small way, we are tearing apart the underpinnings of a just society.

I do not know the story of the man who was panhandling yesterday. Many of the panhandlers I know who do use traffic lights as their location of choice, are housed. They use panhandling in such a way to supplement their income and because it’s a habit.

I almost cried yesterday. Not because I didn’t give, but rather, because the man asking was so emotive in his asking, I questioned whether or not I was a ‘good person’ by not giving.

I know I am but in that moment in time, I almost felt coerced into colluding with someone’s belief that my giving would make all the difference in the world to them, or at least make them go away. I know it won’t.

Namaste.


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I am All My Relations

The beauty of ceremony is that it does not judge any of us.

I hear these words as I sit in a room with co-workers participating in an all day Indigenous Peoples workshop. As I told one of the facilitators, Brad, “I want to learn to be non-judgemental even when I know I’m being judgemental.”

So do I, he responded.

It is a lifelong journey.

Cultural awakening is about reconnecting to ceremony. To ‘old ways’ that sustained a people before ‘contact’, before cultural genocide, before Residential School and cultural trauma, before the tearing away of cultural identity and the societal intention to ‘take the Indian out of the child’.

We are all victims of colonialization, says Sid, the other facilitator. We must all heal together.

I spent most of my school years in France and Germany. One of the most common responses when I told people I was from Canada was, “Ah, You are American.”

No, I’d emphatically deny. Canadian.

What does that mean? people would ask, and I would struggle to tell them who I was.

And then today, as I listened to Brad and Syd,  as I thought about what they were sharing about the 7 Sacred Teachings and the Medicine Wheel and Grandfather’s Teachings and Tipi Teachings and The Seven Sacred Rights, it struck me that for generations we have tried to erase aboriginal ways when really, what we need to do is embrace them, assimilate us into them, not the other way around.

To be Canadian, to truly understand my Canadian roots, I must step into Aboriginal culture. I must walk with All My Relations to become part of the history of this land, Turtle Island, as it was known before ‘contact’.

I have had the arrogant and somewhat myopic view that ‘my Canada’ is built on history since white man came to this country.

My Canada began before ‘contact’. My Canada began before the Indian Act. Before Treaties and reservations. Before the tearing away of aboriginal culture to make way for a ‘new way’ of being present on this land.

My Canada is deeper than my roots. It is broader than my vision of the past.

My Canada is an ancient story steeped in the teachings of Creator, Spirit World, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, and so much more.

My Canada is the story of the past where we walked this land honouring nature, plant, animal, minerals. Where we honoured our service to nationhood, family, all our relations and our own responsibility to be accountable for our individual journey, our thoughts, beliefs, actions and attitudes.

In the Tipi Teachings it says that ‘we are all connected by relationships and depend on each other.’

Tipi Teachings teach us that we can change our destiny and make positive changes in our life when we wake up every day and decide to have a happy day, because only we know what is best for us.

In our relatedness, what is best for us, must be good for another.

I spent a day in an Indigenous teachings workshop and came away understanding what it means to be Canadian.

I am blessed.

I am grateful.

I am All My Relations.


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A Cry for Peace

img_9765I cried yesterday. I sat on the ridge overlooking the river and tears spilled gently over my eyelids kissing my cheeks as softly as dew clinging to a leaf in early morning light.

I cried for the children who will go hungry tonight. For the boys who will hoist guns as long as their bodies and kill in the name of a peace they have never known. And for the little girls whose childhood’s are lost to faceless men who believe the only way to know love is to rape it from another.

I cried for mothers who weep at the gravesites of their loved ones lost to war and famine and disease and for the father’s who desperately want to teach their sons to grow into men, and do not know the way to quiet the fear within their hearts that their sons too shall never find their way to peace.

I cried for this world, this planet upon which we each rely for our existence, this planet we take for granted and treat with such disdain.

And I cried for humanity, our humanity, our human kind lost beneath our history of destroying one another in the name of God, Allah, Yaweh, Satnam, All Powerful, Vishnu, and 70 x 70 names I do not know but hear whispered upon the cries of millions of others dying to defend their right to worship at the altar of their choosing.

These were needed tears. Gentle. Cleansing. Healing. They were the words my heart could not speak out loud.

IMG_5846And when the tears were shed, when they had run their course, compassion flowed freely like the river winding its way through the valley bottom below, each passing drop changing the course of the one before.

And in their passing, I was left alone upon the hillside, sitting in the sun, cherishing the beauty of the day, savouring the gentle autumn breeze caressing my skin, the sound of the grasses whispering, the geese honking their plaintive lament as they journeyed south.

There is darkness in this world.

And there is light.

It is in the darkness the light shines brightest.

Yet, I want not to see the darkness. I want not to know its thrall, to feel its drag pulling me under. I want to steer clear of the darkness and still I know, it is only through acknowledging its presence that I will be free to shine my light fearlessly. It is only through letting go of fear of its nature I will be free to stand fearlessly in mine.

IMG_5851I cannot rid this planet of war and pain and sickness and hunger. I cannot heal the children of the world. I cannot silence the guns.

I can create beauty in my world. I can create peace around me by letting go of my fear that to witness the darkness is to let go of the light.

It is when I hold onto light for fear it will go out that darkness takes hold.

I cried yesterday. And I will cry again today. And in my tears, I find myself flowing in Love and compassion, holding onto nothing but the whole truth of who I am and all that is possible when I let go of fearing I cannot change the world.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

We are each capable of changing our worlds, of creating peace where there is discord, healing where there is pain. We are each capable of putting down our guns and holding out our arms in love, peace and forgiveness.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

(This is a repost of September 22, 2014 – Thanks FB Memories. It is as important to remember today as it was when I wrote it then.)