Drowning in the raging torrents of homelessness.

We are waiting for a street light to turn green when my daughter says, “Oh dear, I hope that man is okay.”

A truck is blocking my view of the man she is referring to. When it passes I see the man. He is lying in the doorway of a building on the other side of the street. Half-in. Half-out. His legs on the stair above him. His head resting on the sidewalk.

We cross the road, pass two business men deep in conversation and approach the man where he lies just behind them.

“Sir? Sir? Are you okay,” my daughter asks him.

His legs are twisted where they lay on the step above him. He spills out onto the sidewalk like a slinky running down the stairs.

He opens his eyes. Befuddled. Confused. The braid of his long grey streaked black hair lays at a right angle to his head. His clothes are tattered and worn. His boots are untied.

“What happened?” he asks.

We’re not sure but we tell him it looks like he has fallen on the street.

“How can we help?” my daughter asks.

“Help me sit up. Please.” he says.

Both my daughter and I think we should call 911. What if he hurt himself when he fell.

No. No. He insists. I just need to sit up.

“We need to make sure you can move before we help you sit up,” I tell him. “Can you show us that you can move your legs?”

He wiggles his feet. I sense a bit of a mischievous smile as he does it. There is something engaging in his nature, even as he lays on the ground at our feet.

Alexis and I help him sit up.

“How can we help?” we ask again.

“If you have some spare change I can go get a cup of tea,” he says.

“I’d rather you not move just yet,” I tell him. He seems disoriented. Weak and oh so vulnerable. “I’ll go get you some tea.”

And I cross back over the street to the fast food deli on the corner while Alexis stays and chats with him.

His name is Frank she tells me when I return with tea and cookies. I tell him my name. He thanks us profusely.

The two business men on the corner finish their conversation and move off. We stay and sit with Frank and chat for a little longer. We give him money for fried chicken and chips from the ‘joint’ just up the street. His favourite he says. He promises me he will not use the money for more booze. I tell him I trust him. He smiles, and there’s that glimmer of endearing mischief again. He tells me I have no choice.

Alexis and I leave him sitting there with his tea and cookies. We discover the building just down the street is a Drop-In Centre. We go in and let the woman at the desk know about Frank’s condition, his fall and our fear he may have hit his head harder than he imagined.

She goes out to help him and after stopping at the deli on the corner further down the block for a bowl of soup, we see that Frank is no longer sitting in the doorway where we’d left him.

We hope the worker has taken him into the Drop-In Centre to keep an eye on him.

We have done what we can.

As we continue our walk towards downtown, Alexis tells me that Frank has told her he is 70 years old. I drink a lot, he said. What else do I have to do with my life?

His words sit heavily in my heart.

The latest Vancouver Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness found 1,847 people experiencing homelessness. 539 of those people are unsheltered.

It is everywhere in this city. Homelessness.

There are people ensconced in sleeping bags lying at the corners of almost every busy intersection in the downtown core. There are youth. Men. Women. Dogs too.

They sit, their cardboard signs telling the same story. Asking for the same thing. Hungry. Grateful for any help.

The cost of living in this beautiful city by the ocean is spiralling upward and upward. And people are falling faster and faster through the cracks. It feels like a heavy and daunting task — to end homelessness. To make sure everyone has a home.

Alexis and I met a man named Frank. His body lay sprawled across the street. We could not end the homelessness that has swept him up in its mighty torrent. We do not have that kind of super human strength just as he does not have the super human strength he needs to pull himself out of the waging waters.

As a society, we must find our collective strength to make the choices needed to stop the flow of humanity falling into the raging waters of homelessness.

We must find ways to build bridges so people can find their way safely to the other side before being dragged under homelessness’ turbulent depths.

 

 

 

 

I remember

I remember. My father.

His mercurial moods. His sharp mind and intellect. His ability to be kind. His generosity. His wisdom. His capacity to accept people as they are, to see not their differences but their humanity.

He taught me well.

His wisdom came at great cost to him.

As a teenager he lied about his age and ran off to war. The ‘war to end all wars’ they dubbed it then.

They were wrong.

There have been many wars since. Many boys and many girls running off to fight what they thought to be the noble cause. Many mother’s weeping for the loss of their children. Many graves dug to bury those who did not prevail over the ravages of war.

My father taught me war was not the answer. He taught me to use my words, not my hands. To be kind in the face of adversity. To be strong in the face of bullies. To be caring in the face of hatred.

And to always stand true to the values I hold dear:  Honesty. Integrity. Kindness. Generosity. Truth.

My father was not always right. He thought he could change the world by railing against its indignities, its indifferences and inequities.

He thought his words, spoken loudly, could overwhelm the forces of hatred, injustice, cruelty.

His words, like the guns behind which he once fought have been silenced.

And still, his message remains. We cannot overcome hatred with hatred. We cannot disarm cruelty with cruelty.

Only tolerance, compassion, kindness and caring can do that.

Years ago my father ran off to war. A teenager at the time, he came back a silent man with dark moods interrupted by sunny brilliance. He came back with wounds so deep not even time could penetrate the scars.

And he came back with a deep-seated belief in our capacity as individuals to make a difference. Maybe not in the entire world, but most definitely in our own.

My father taught me the value of standing true to what I believe in.

He taught me the importance of giving back, of volunteering and sharing.

He taught me to question authority, not to rebel against it, but to ensure I was not following for the sake of following.

He taught me to look for the roads less travelled. To not take the easy path. To seek the mystery and the possibility of what lies beyond the edge of the known path before me.

He taught me we are all created equal. All one human race. And no one has the right, nor power, to take away my identity unless I choose to let them. He taught me not to make that choice.

And he taught me that we all have flaws. We all have our moments of unease, of disquiet, of playing small, of giving into the voice that would have us let go of our dreams.

In his teachings I have learned the value of beginning again, the measure and worth of forgiveness, the importance of gratitude.

In his memory today I say Thank you.

Thank you dad. Thank you to all those who fight for our freedom. Thank for to those who do not agonize over doing the right thing and then do nothing, but rather who organize to do the right thing, and then do it.

Thank you for the sacrifices. The teaching. The freedom I too often take for granted without realizing it was your youth that was lost so I could enjoy mine; so that my daughters could have the freedom to enjoy theirs today without fear clouding every moment.

Thank you.

A chant for Peace

It’s still there.

The conversations. The disbelief. The fear. The uncertainty.

Dang. I thought by breathing into it that it would all just go away or at least settle down into a quiet little burble.

But it keeps frothing up, calling out to be acknowledged, asking to be heard.

Uncertainty does that.

It’s the thing about life, at any time. We want to know the future is certain. We want to know it is predictable.

To a certain degree we can. Feel confident in its certain appearance. Feel certain in its predictability.

Yet, when massive upheavals like Nov 8th’s election result appear, the future feels less known, less certain, less predictable.

And fear rises.

To offset fear, I must always choose to breathe into the moment. Always accept that what is, truly is, instead of giving into my disbelief that it could be so!

And so, I breathe. And share in my wise friend Leigh’s loving-kindness meditation. It is a prayer for peace to begin within me and within everyone around me — those I fear and those I love. They are all the same. Deserving of prayer. Deserving of loving-kindness – no matter my judgments, fears or apprehensions, prayers for peace are my road to peace within and all around me.

Leigh’s Loving-Kindness meditation

Chant for the first 10 minutes for yourself:

  • I am filled with lovingkindness
  • I am well
  • I am peaceful and at ease
  • I am happy

Chant for 10 minutes for ________________ (in this case Trump)  

(As Leigh explains it:  I began it as an affirmation, the way I said it for myself.  Something in me instantly began to fight and I started crying again.  I realized I needed to chant it to the more prayerful form in which it is usually spoken… I could feel my heart expand and I realized saying the chant for someone, while it may or may not also help that person, is something to do for your own peace, to clear your own heart.)

  • May (fill in name Trump)  be filled with lovingkindness
  • May  he be well
  • May he be peaceful and at ease
  • May he be happy

Finish with 10 minutes of chanting for _________________ (in this case Leigh chanted for America — for me it was our leaders).

  • May America be filled with lovingkindness
  • May she be well
  • May she be peaceful and at ease
  • May she be happy

Repeat often throughout the day. Keep repeating. Keeping settling into the prayer to allow grace to enter and let fear and uncertainty go.

Let’s not let our beliefs and values change with the times.

Despite the gloom and the horror of watching an electoral map bleed red, the sun still rose on a brand new day this morning. A new day that brings with it the same limitless possibilities, opportunity, hope of something different, hope for something better as yesterday did and the day before — as long as we do not let becoming attached to the fear of what all this could mean, have its way.

Our neighbours to the south have a new President elect. The people have spoken. The tides have turned. The future is unwritten.

There are those who are pleased with the outcome. There are those who are fearful. And still, in the midst of jubilation and fear, the belief and disbelief, the utter certainty and complete confusion of ‘how could this be?’, all is present that was present yesterday. And as is written in 1 Corinthians 13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

No matter the times, the heartache or fear, Love is always present.

It is in these times of uncertainty, confusion and fear that we must learn new ways to ride the wave and find our balance in the confusion and chaos. It is in these times that we must invite to our table those whose opinions and voices are different than ours to find ways of being together on this common ground of our humanity that do not include hate and misogny, bullying and fear. We cannot give into violence, to name-calling and bullying in the belief we will make them more like us. There is no Us and Them in our humanity. There is only US.  We are all on this one planet together. All in this one human race, no matter how hard some may fight to create a supremacy of whiteness, we all bleed red, we all breathe the same air.

Yes, this election happened south of the 49th parallel.

It feels like it happened here. On Canadian soil. It feels like the last 18 months of campaigning happened here, in my living room, in my home, on my laptop and mobile devices because I became part of the Us against Them mentality. I became part of the ‘you are so wrong to think how you think, to believe what you believe’ culture.

Do I like what I have read about the man who has been elected the 45th President of the United States? No.

Do I like what I believe he stands for? No.

Regardless of my opinions of him, his tactics, his publicized transgressions, he is like me a human being.

He is like me part of the same human race.

Yes, he has power. Yes, he will become the head of a great nation — and make no mistake, it is not a nation he will make great again. It is a nation that is already great. A nation that for me, standing here north of the 49th parallel represents the best, and sometimes the worst, of what we humans can create and do and achieve, because what America represents to me is possibility, promise and hope.

As I sit this morning reading social media feeds, I am reminded once again of how fragile our hold on the truth that binds us all — we are one world. One humanity.

Sending people back to the countries they came from, banning people from entering or building walls cannot change that.

And all the misogyny in the world cannot  drown out the voices of women and men standing together, fearlessly speaking their truth even when there are those who do not want to listen.

 

We cannot change the past. We can only be in the present by letting go of our fear of what tomorrow will bring. It is not what one  man will do in the days and weeks and months to come that will make a difference in our world. It is how each of us responds. It is how each of us will learn to embrace our shared humanity today and accept, times are always changing. Let’s not let our beliefs and values change with them.

 

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For an amazing read on one man’s journey from white supremacy to tolerance and Love, read this article.

 

Jail Break!

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It was a simple statement made at a retirement party for a dear friend.

We had each been asked to state our wishes for the man retiring. One woman said, “I wish for you the courage to do something new. To try new things, things you’ve never thought of doing or things you’ve always dreamt of doing but never did.”

What a perfect wish. For any time of life.

Why wait for retirement?

It is easy to get trapped into believing there is one way and one way only to live your life. It’s easy to tell yourself that there are limited options in what you can or can’t do, can or can’t change.

Over time, we become accustomed to living our life ‘this way’. We become comfortable in the known and venture less and less beyond the corridors of our comfort zone. Eventually, our comfort zone gets narrower and narrower until the ruts become walls of regret, disappointments, fears, disbeliefs and limitations. Stepping out, over, around, beyond those walls is important — no matter your age you’re never too old to break out of the jail of your self-imprisonment!

This Christmas, a friend and I are launching a project to tell the stories of those whose lives once included homelessness. We will be filming Season’s Greetings from people who once walked the streets, slept rough or in shelter beds, and who are now living in their own homes. The vision, to connect heart to heart via the wishes and stories people share, to family and friends far away.

I used to do this every Christmas when I worked at a homeless shelter. We’d invite clients, staff and volunteers to film a Christmas greeting and put the greetings online at the shelters website. The difference this time is we will be visiting people in their homes. Sharing their greetings from a place many people never imagined they would ever find themselves again — at home.

Our vision is that through these stories/greetings we will expand our understanding of what it means to have a home, a place, an address.

Stay tuned for more as we develop ‘the idea’ for The Gift Project into something concrete, something meaningful, something we believe will open all of us up to the conversation of our human condition. The conversation around belonging.

Starting this project is a stretch. A step beyond the comfort of celebrating Christmas the way I always do. I’m not doing it as part of an ‘agency’. I’m doing it as part of a team that wants to make a difference by contributing to our human story.

I’m excited. We have a film crew and a film production company on board to edit the videos. The website is under development. The possibilities are expanding.

What about you?

What’s exciting you to step beyond the walls of your comfort zone into expanding your understanding of what it means to live your life on purpose?

 

Create space for possibility | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 32

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Recently I cleared out and decluttered the china cabinet. I now have a box of dishes waiting to be donated, tidy shelves where I can find what I’m looking for and no need to move everything else to get at one thing.

Now, to not fill it up again.

I am a lover (okay maybe hoarder) of dishes. I really, really like them. I love beautiful serving dishes. Dinner plates. Glasses. Cutlery and linens.

I love to set a beautiful table. To have sparkling glassing and colourful linens.

Which means, walking into my favourite household boutique when there’s a sale on is not a good idea.

Yesterday I learned that someone I really like and admire just took a part time job at one of my favourite stores. She wants to redecorate her home and the discount offered to employees is seductive.

What a great idea, I thought. I could do that.

And yes, I could, but then, I’d be feeding my habit, not helping myself to clear my being of its presence.

But oh, it is tempting.

It’s close to home. Fabulous products. Really beautiful and not cheap so good quality too. Yes. I could do it.

See how I can rationalize my dysfunction? See how I can talk myself out of what I know is healthy and loving for me into doing what is fun but not necessarily in my best interests?

Oh. And did I mention it would save me money?

Creating space for possibility means holding space open.

It means not filling it up with things that please my senses but do not fulfill my sensual need for soul-inspired living.

Acquiring more to fill up the space I live in does not give me more space for peace, love and joy to live within me.

Declutter the spaces you live in. Create space for possibility to grow wild in your life.

 

Accidents Happen

I am typing this post without the use of the middle and fourth finger on my right hand. I am hunting and pecking, and it’s slow.

I closed the big sliding garage door on the fingertips of my right hand yesterday.

It was an accident and after I screamed and pried the door apart to release  my fingers the first thought in my mind, after “OUCH THAT HURT!” was, “I can’t believe I did that.”

But I had. Done that.

The transformer outside our house on the pole in the lane surged on Saturday. Fried our microwave, the power surge bar to my computer, and the electric motor to the garage door.

Hence why I was opening and closing it manually.

I debated going inside the house again to immediately put ice on it, but had a meeting to get to and drove off instead.

Only to discover, I had a flat tire.

Really?

I laughed. Couldn’t believe that either, but it was true.

And so, this post is short. There may not be a lot of posts the rest of the week either.

My fingertips need time to heal.

The moral of the story…

When power surges, pay attention. Don’t take shortcuts. Electricity can be dangerous. So can garage doors.

I could have gone back into the garage and used the handle to pull it down and then left via the person door. That’s how I’d opened the garage in the first place. Trying to do it the ‘faster’ way only created bigger pain.

As to the flat tire?

Really?

Namaste.