Let us gather by the fire
and cast away all fear
Let us gather by the light
to remember those lost
to the darkness.
Let us gather
in darkness and in light
those we remember.
Photo by Sandis Helvigs @ https://unsplash.com/collections/256462/fire
Winter solstice brings with it the promise of lengthening days and spring blossoms yet to bloom.
In the solstice, we are invited to breathe deeply. To dig deep into our own darkness to find the light of our humanity. In that light, we are invited to share our kindness, truth, beauty and Love.
Last night, almost 100 people gathered in the dark to share their kindness and truth and to remember those who have passed away in darkness that is homelessness.
This year, the event was held at Olympic Plaza, a light-filled space where skaters twirl on the ice and the twinkling lights glitter on a giant Christmas tree.
We gathered by the tree, almost 100 people strong, to read the names of those who have passed away. Behind us, laughter rang out as children slid across the ice and parents cautioned them to ‘take care’, ‘slow down’, ‘don’t fall’.
Homelessness is like that ice. Smooth and slick. It lures you in with its promise of an easy slide over the rough spots to ‘the other side’. Believing the ice will hold, you step onto its glassy surface, hoping, wishing, praying it will hold you until you find a safe harbour far from the cold.
For some, that safe harbour becomes a shelter, a place designed to provide emergency supports to help you weather the harshness of the bone-chilling cold that consumed you long before you stepped upon the ice. Too often, that emergency space becomes a permanent refuge as you become trapped in the icy grip of having no place to call home.
The difference between those skaters who slid and twirled across the ice last night, and our solemn gathering of friends and family of those who lost their lives to homelessness was laid bare in the sparkling lights of a giant Christmas Tree.
That tree represents the promise of a new life, new beginnings, new possibilities about to come.
Trapped in homelessness, there is little promise of a better tomorrow. There is no cautioning call warning you to slow down, turn here, look there. In homelessness, there is only the steady downward slide towards a place you never imagined you’d find yourself, a way of life you never dreamt would become yours.
In homelessness, there is no warm fire to gather round with family and friends, toasting marshmallows and sharing stories of your time together playing on the ice. There is no steaming mug of hot cocoa complete with marshmallows waiting to warm you up.
In homelessness, there are only the dark, deep nights of winter calling you constantly further onto the ice until the safety of home becomes just a distant memory, a long forgotten dream.
In homelessness, becoming marooned on the ice is a real and constant danger.
Last night, we gathered to remember those who never found their way safely back to their homes. We read their names, shared stories of their lives, listened to the drum beating, the voices chanting and for a moment, there was no homelessness, no question about which side of the street you lived on — the dark or the light.
There was only us. Our common humanity. Our gathering people come to remember.
Thank you to the Client Action Committee of the Calgary Homeless Foundation for your vision and commitment to making sure no one is forgotten.
Thank you to Vibrant Communities Calgary for your generous contribution of hot chocolate, cookies, and bus tickets for those who needed them.
Thank you to the Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Syd and Brad in particular, for the meal beforehand, the drumming and the prayers.
And thank you to everyone who gathered together to remember those who lost their lives in homelessness. You will not be forgotten.
May we all find hope in the dark nights of winter. May we all find peace.