Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


There is tragedy, there is hope, in homelessness

On Tuesday evening we held the 20th Anniversary Annual General Meeting for Inn from the Cold, where I work.

It is important to celebrate all the good work that has happened over the past twenty years. It is good to mark the anniversary, yet, it can be hard sometimes to consciously align the good deeds done with the fact, we need an Inn, no matter how sweet, to save children and families from homelessness.

Last week, as we geared up for the AGM, we passed a marker that is tragic in its enormity, yet hopeful in its presence.

Last week, we registered the 70,000th person into the city’s homeless database (HMIS) which has only been up and running for the past five years. The person who became the 70,000th entry was a 7 year old boy who entered the Inn with his mother and family.

It is tragic that it was a child who took our community across the threshold of 70,000 people having experienced homelessness over the past five years. In that same week, just before the 70,000th entry, a one day old baby received their number from the database too.

Sometimes, it is beyond my comprehension how we can  have children experiencing homelessness on our streets.

Sometimes, it boggles my mind that a child needs a number to represent their homelessness.

The tragedy lies in their being homeless. The hope begins in their finding their way home through accessing our services.

It’s about more than the numbers.

Yes, 70,000 is a big number. And yes, a one day old child having a number in a system that tracks homelessness seems, on the surface, to be incomprehensible.

What difference do those numbers make?

The fact we can actually track who is entering the system of care is remarkable. Ten years ago, before Calgary launched its Plan to End Homelessness on January 28, 2018, we had no idea who was accessing the services of the 100+ agencies providing homeless supports in our city. Now we do.

Ten years ago, people went from agency to agency, asking for supports, help, information. They told their story again and again, sometimes adding trauma to an already traumatic journey in the continuous re-telling of the poverty and tragedy in their lives.

Ten years ago, agencies were so busy just serving the people coming to their doors, they didn’t have time to think about a coordinated response. They only had time to figure out their next response; person by person, family by family.

Today, there’s one entry point, a common entry form and a coordinated system that tracks people and the resources they access so that there’s only one telling of their story to put them on their journey to the place where they belong, home.

Today, the homeless-serving system of care is just that — a system. It’s coordinated. Planned. Collaborative. It’s focused on the bigger picture of ending homelessness as a pressing social issue, while taking care of the day to day needs of those whose lives have been impacted by the harsh realities of poverty and homelessness.

Today, we recognize there is a problem and are working together, not just as a city but as a province and a nation, to find solutions that honour the dignity and humanity of everyone and that make real and lasting difference in the lives of vulnerable children, families and individuals, and our communities.

A 7 year old boy and one day old child got a number from HMIS last week.

The hope is — they never ever have to use that number again as they move beyond the trauma of homelessness into the place where they belong, HOME.


To mark our 20th anniversary, we created a video that speaks to the courage of those who first set up Community Inns in Church basements 20 years ago, and to the evolution of hope, dignity, respect and possibility to create the Inn as it is today.

Thank you to the amazing Comms and Event teams at the Inn and Paul Long of Paul Long and Associates for your creative brilliance. Thank you Andrea and the team at Six Degrees Music Studio for sharing your gifts and talents. We invite you to share in our story and to share it with your social networks. Thank you.




What will I tell my grandson?

It is a scene I still see clearly in my mind.

My mother is in the kitchen, standing over the ironing board. With one hand, she holds the hot iron and moves it back and forth, back and forth across a small square of white linen. She is pressing one of my father’s handkerchiefs. She folds it in half, presses it, folds it in half again and presses the small square piece of fabric flat, before placing it atop a growing pile of white linen squares on the table behind her.

She reaches down into the  basket full of clean laundry by her feet and pulls out another square of fabric. She repeats the process.

When the handkerchiefs are pressed, she moves on to press the dish towels, pillow cases, the sheets, shirts, blouses, underwear. All the family laundry.

As I get older, I will take over the chore of ironing.

As I get even older and leave home to live on my own, I give up on ironing and employ it only under duress when I need to take the creases out of a blouse or pair of pants or skirt that I didn’t hang properly or take out of the dryer quickly enough before wrinkles appeared.

I do not iron handkerchiefs, or  dishtowels.

I do not press my husbands shirts or underwear.

As my eldest daughter moves more deeply into pending motherhood I think about the stories of his great-grandmother I will pass on to my grandson one day.

At four months, he is the size of a large lemon. “I think I felt a tiny flutter,” my daughter tells me on the phone last night. “Or maybe it was just gas.”

I didn’t speak with my mother about my pregnancies. I didn’t share the tiny flutters, the big moves, the moments of fear or doubt, the moments of elation.

I didn’t share.

I am grateful my daughter shares with me. I am grateful she calls and tells me of her tiny belly expanding with the life she is carrying. I am grateful we talk.

Sharing the stories of our lives was not something my mother and I did.

Perhaps it is in never having felt at ease to share the stories of my life with my mother, I learned to value and treasure that which my heart yearned for.

To fully share heart to heart, we must iron out our differences and honour one another’s stories.

I never truly valued my mother’s stories. I knew her story. But I seldom honoured it. Her journey from India to this far side of the globe. Her tearing away from family, friends and a life she’d always known, a language she’d always spoken, to marry a man she barely knew, but who captivated her heart the moment they met during WW2 at a dance.

I always wanted my mother to be different. To be more like the other mom’s. The one’s who did tea and smoked cigarettes and played bridge in the afternoon and drank Martini’s at six when their husbands came home from work.

My father was away a lot when I was young. From the time I was five years old, my mother always worked. She wanted a career. Was proud of her contributions in the world. And, from the moment she walked in the door at the end of the day, she was busy taking care of four children, making dinner, cleaning house, doing the ironing.

It has been many years since my mother ironed my father’s handkerchiefs. He passed away many years ago and her tiny, arthritic hands are not strong enough to handle an iron any more.

My sister does my mother’s ironing now. She presses her nighties, her blouses, her camisoles too.

It is an act of service.

The expression of a heart full of love which she shares freely.

The expression of my mother’s love moving forward across time and generations.

I think of the stories I’ll share with my grandson about his great-grandmother one day.

Perhaps, I’ll teach him how to iron.


Photo credit: Filip Mroz


How does avoidance strengthen fear?

Under stress I tend to slide into avoidance, spinning plates where hitting home runs cannot happen because I am too busy running around the bases trying to catch the balls I am constantly dropping.

It is a thoughtless, mindless movement I consciously think about not doing — and then catch myself doing, again and again as I run faster and faster to catch up to m yself.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

I am learning.

To avoid fear I must do the things I fear doing.

Otherwise, I’m thinking about what I fear more than what I’m doing — and living without being conscious of my doing is unhealthy for me.

Like most of us, I fear change. Yet, as a boss of mine long ago used to say, “Change is here to stay.”

I’m in this game of life for the long run. May as well embrace change and give up fearing it.

Avoidance builds resistance.

When I  acknowledge that my fear of change creates ripples of unease in my world, I let my fear push me out of avoidance into courage

Action strengthens courage.

Last week I took care of an issue that I needed to do for quite sometime. Bye bye avoidance. Score one for me.

This week, I’m meeting with someone I’ve avoided as I don’t have good news for them about something they wanted to do. Hello action!

These are ‘small things’ that have appeared large on my horizon, muddying up clear thinking, clouding my vision of possibility and creating a world of excuses I keep breathing into as I avoid taking care of business.

Making excuses weakens my integrity.

Clearing them up makes room for possibility to arise, for my forecast to be sunny. Clearing them up makes room for the universe to move in and support me in the big things I want to do to create more of what I want in my life.

Because, in my avoidance of clearing up small things (as they appear on my horizon – not after I’ve let them grow into mountains of resistance) I give the small things more mind-space. And with my mind full of the small things I am avoiding doing, I have little time or energy to breathe life into my dreams.

Avoidance undermines my dreams.

To live into the dreams of my life come true I must keep my vision clear, my thinking sharp and my perspective open.

I must avoid avoiding the things I fear doing!

Here’s to living today free of avoidance rising into fear.

Here’s to living my best life every day filled with action on making my dreams come true!


When people behave badly, what do you do?

A girlfriend and I are sitting in an upscale restaurant having a glass of wine and a bowl of classic onion soup.

Shortly after sitting down, the hostess seats a couple at the booth just behind and to the side of us. It is in the direct line of sight of my friend.

As we chat and get caught up, I notice how uncomfortable my friend is looking. “What’s up?” I ask.

She nods her head to the couple in the booth behind us and says, “They’re making out like no one is watching.”

I turn around to look and sure enough, the woman is crawling into his lap and they are deep kissing.

At one point, when our server came by to check on us, I mentioned the couple behind.

She turned her back slightly to face away from them and whispered, “I know. It’s awful. You wouldn’t believe what we see in here sometimes.” And she went on to tell us several stories of people’s bad public behaviour.

“What I find fascinating is how we are sitting here whispering about their behaviour to not embarrass them while they’re doing a perfectly good job of embarrassing themselves!” I said at the end.

We all three shrugged. Gave little laughs (you know that shadow kind of laugh where you don’t know what to say and want to pretend it’s all okay)… And the server walked away.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do. The manager had come over a couple of times to check on the couple (mostly to interrupt them when they were getting too hot and steamy) but nothing was said about their behaviour.

Not wanting to ‘make a scene’, I did nothing. Though I did suggest to my girlfriend that I could go over and suggest they ‘get a room’.

“Don’t you dare,” she replied.

I’ve thought about that scene a lot since then. What could I have done differently?

I know there are those who would have confronted that couple and given them a piece of their mind. And there was part of me that wanted to. Just like there was part of me that wanted to avoid the whole situation completely.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe anyone who thinks it’s okay to behave like that in a restaurant is really all that concerned about other people’s thoughts or opinions of their actions.

But I am concerned about mine.

I am concerned about my unwillingness to stand up for what is right for me, in the moment.

Ultimately, we did leave — without me giving them my ‘evil eye’ on the way out!  You know that look that says how shameful I find their behaviour and how much better I think I am!

And that’s the crux of it. It’s not about who’s better or worse. Right or wrong.

It’s all about what each of us is willing to do to create better in our world.

I don’t know if saying, or not saying, something would have made much impact in that moment. It would have helped to have said something to the restaurant management, even though they were already aware of the situation. Perhaps knowing their customers weren’t happy with it too might have helped them take more affirmative action.

When I know better, I do better.

The good part of retrospection is it gives me a chance to consider what I can do to take care of me, next time.

Next time I encounter a situation where my right to be at ease in my environment is interrupted by someone who believes their right supersedes mine, I won’t be whispering behind them, trying to avoid a scene. I’ll politely ask to be moved so that I can enjoy my evening without being tempted to turn my head every few moments to see what unbelievable antic someone behind me has got up to now.

And as for the restaurant, I’d suggest they take more affirmative action to ensure all their guests are comfortable, not just those who want to make out in their booths.




Trust. It is a beautiful grace. Thanks! @SafewayCanada

It was one of those forgetful moments.

I am at the self-check out at Safeway near our house. I pay by Debit with CashBack and walk away with my groceries, but not my cash.

It isn’t until I’m home I realize my mistake.

I call the store.

A young man named Alex answers.

He is very polite. Listens carefully and says, “Bring your receipt to the Customer Service desk and we’ll see what we can do.”

“Can you do anything?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, “but if you come in we’ll see.”


I tell C.C. what’s happened. He laughs and says what I’ve been thinking, “How forgetful of you. Were you in a rush?” he asks.

What? Me? In a rush?

I visualize in my mind standing at the checkout. People are lined up. It’s rush hour. I’m on my way home. I’m tired… yada yada yada.

I get in my car and drive back to the store. It’s only a five minute drive away and for $60, it’s worth checking out what the store can do. Though I had said to the young man on the phone, “Well if it’s my  mistake, it’s my mistake. I don’t expect you to fix it.”

“Come in and we’ll see,” he said.

I go into the store.

Another young man, Connor, is at the Service Desk.

I tell him my conundrum.

He asks for my receipt. Checks it over. Disappears into the back office.

I stand waiting. Curiosity rises. What is he doing back there?

Part of my mind is preparing my speech for when he comes back out to tell me there’s nothing they can do. You know, the one where I haughtily suggest they don’t ask people to come back in if they can’t help them, and all that kind of talk served up with a good dish of attitude.

He comes back out.

“I’ll get someone to get you your money”, he says as he walks by.

Oh. Really?

He chats with the young man at the Self Check Out desk and hands him some keys. The young man walks over to the machine where I was checking out. He waits politely for the woman who is there to finish her transaction before opening the unit.

He pulls out the black box that contains the cash. Extracts 3 x $20 dollar bills and hands them to me.

“Thank you so much,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” he replies and hurries off to help another customer.

And that’s it.

No muss. No fuss. No questions asked.

So maybe it really wasn’t my forgetfulness!  Maybe the machine forgot to give me my money!

Ha! Take that you technological wonder!

And as to my attitude.

I apologize to the unknown stranger who did not take my cash from the machine. I did for a moment have some not so nice thoughts about my fellow human beings!

I apologize for my thoughts with attitude as I stood waiting for Connor as he did whatever he was doing in the back room to resolve my dilemma.

Bless them. Forgive me.

And Safeway. Thank you. You surprised and delighted me.

Not once was I treated as if I was lying or trying to cheat anyone. Not once did I feel put down or like I was in the wrong.

Way to go Safeway! Way to go Alex, Connor and the young man who so politely gave me the cash.

Moral of the story.

No matter the situation, trust. It is a beautiful grace.

Oh. And leave off the attitude. Even if it is only in your head, it does not serve anyone well.



The ocean refuses no river. Life refuses no body.

Mirabai Ceiba’s beautiful song, Ocean, begins with the line, The ocean refuses no river. It  never fails to resonate within my heart, stirring notes of harmony and peace throughout my being.

Just as the ocean embraces every wave,

life embraces every being.

It reminds me about life and how I sometimes refuse, or resist, to accept all that life offers, without judging all that life offers.

How sometimes, I desire to carve my path, regardless of life’s terrain and in my willfulness, making my own journey more challenging.

How sometimes, I want to determine my course, regardless of life’s flow, sometimes paddling upstream, sometimes drifting aimlessly in back eddies, steering along tributaries that take me further away from the ocean of life waiting to accept me, exactly the way I am.

And I breathe.

Just as the ocean refuses no river, life refuses no spirit, God refuses no soul. No matter your belief, or colour of skin or size of your bank account or education, there is a sacred place for each of us within this universe. A sacred chant that sings of your beauty, your wonder, your brilliance. It is rising up within you, just as it rises up within me, calling out to your heart to dance free, to spin about and laugh and turn cartwheels. To sit in silence and dream. To leap for joy and be. Just as you are.

The universe refuses no life. And in that knowing is the truth shimmering in every breath we take — It is a sacred knowing that this life, this beauty, this brilliance is mine, and yours and each of ours to live as best we can, as best we allow, in Love.

No matter how small, how big, how rusty or difficult, how tired or weary, how young or old, the universe refuses no life.

The ocean refuses no river.

The open heart refuses no Love. The open mind no truth.

And life refuses no body, not me or you or him or her or them.

Life refuses no life.

In that acceptance, in that awareness is the knowing, deep and profound and healing — We are not alone. We are one with life flowing in the ocean of Love flowing all around.



Fierce Love. It’s a boy to be!

Garfield Jr. Photo by Alexis Marie

Thirty-one years ago, when I gave birth to my first daughter, I was in awe of the sweeping, fierce love that consumed me the moment I heard her first cry.

Over the nine months of pregnancy, I had read every book I could get my hands on that would prepare me for being a mother. But nothing could prepare me for the fierce love that filled every breath, every molecule and cell of my being.

Last night, as I lay in bed reading, I searched for books on being a grandmother.

I am beyond excited.

In March of next year, my eldest daughter will give birth to their first child, our first grandchild. A son.

And I feel the stirrings of that fierce love. I feel that yearning to hold him in my arms and protect him and cherish him and nurture him and guide him and show him how incredibly beautiful and strong he is, and how incredibly beautiful he can make the world around him through kindness, dignity, truth and courage.

I want to be the best grandmother I can be, or as we’ve decided I’ll be called, Nona or possibly Lola.

When a child has four sets of grandparents, getting creative with nomenclature is vital! And not being quite sure yet what he’ll call me leaves some of the say up to him — which word is easier to pronounce, which one makes him smile when he says it, or is there a word he’ll choose himself?

When Alexis was a child, the first time she said Grandpa, the name we’d agreed she’d call her paternal grandfather, she said, Bumpa. It became a lovingly appropriate name for gentle Al, her father’s father.

Along with being the kind of grandmother Garfield Jr., as they are calling him in-womb (and no that won’t be his name in-the-world), wants to spend time with, I also want to be the best mother of my grandson’s parents I can be. I want to be intentional in all my actions, words, and thoughts. I want to honour their parenting style, their requests for how he’s taught, how he’s nurtured and cared for. I want to use LOVE in all its encompassing ways. In particular, LOVE as Donne Davis writes in “When Being a Grandma Isn’t So Grand: 4 Keys to L.O.V.E. your grandchild’s parents, as my guideposts.”

L – Learn the parents’ language

O – Own your shared purpose

V – Value the parents’ hard work

E – Empathize. Empathize. Empathize.

As a grandmother, I want to be the person they love to call to share the adventures of their little one, and the rock they lean on when they’re tired, frustrated or just needing to chat about the realities of being a parent today.

I do not want to be over-bearing, over-powering or over-anything that doesn’t bring joy and delight to their lives and the life of their son.

It is a new adventure, this idea/role of being a grandmother. For C.C., there is no role he is more excited about. When Alexis and J called to tell us the grand news, her sister insisted we film C.C. so they could see his face and reaction. It was worth it! Just as being grandparents together will be worth remembering as we journey into this new land together.

Over the moon and into the limitless possibilities of love. That’s where you’ll find me in the coming weeks and months as we journey together with our daughter and son-in-love towards the arrival of their new son.

Gratitude fills my heart. Fierce and wild, it beats a tattoo of Love that fills my world with the song of joy.


And yes, I’ve ordered some books! Time to get honing up on how to be a grandmother who leaves only footprints of love on her grandson’s and his parents’ life.