Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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A tale of the city.

I am driving down a side road towards the main avenue near our home when I see a man, arms flailing as he stumbles along the sidewalk. He windmills for a moment at the edge where the sidewalk ends and the road begins.

He falls.

I can’t see his fall. There is a parked car blocking my view.

I drive past. See him lying on the pavement.

I pull over. Get out of my car and walk quickly back to where he is lying, face up, on the curbside. He is staring up at the sky. Eyes closed. Arms splayed out at his sides, palms open.

Me:  Are you okay? How can I help you?

He opens his eyes. Looks at me. His eyes are bleary.

Man: I don’t know. I fell.

Me:  Yes. I saw you. Can you move? Do I need to call an ambulance?

Man:  No. No. No ambulance.

Me:  How can I help?

Man:  I was just going for a coffee.

He wants to sit up. I lean over to help him and he moans.

Man: That doesn’t feel good.

He lays back down.

Me:  What’s your name? Mine is Louise.

Man:   Wayne.

He starts to cry.

Me:  Do you live near here Wayne?

Wayne:  Yes. In that building. And he waves one arm towards the apartment building to his right.

His speech is slurred. His words come out in a mumbled stream. I think he has been drinking. A lot.

Wayne:  I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

Me:  There’s nothing to be sorry about, Wayne. But I do need to call 911. I don’t know how else I can help you.

He nods his head. Up and down. I call.

As I wait for EMS to arrive more cars stop. A couple of men walk over to where I am sitting on the curb, Wayne sprawled out on the road beside me.

They ask what they can do to help. I tell them we are waiting for EMS.

They stay and keep us company. Wayne continues to apologize. He is crying. He tells us he sometimes has seizure.

Me:  Did you have a seizure just now?

Wayne:  Yes.

Me:  Do you have epilepsy Wayne?

Wayne:  No.

I pause and think about my next question. EMS will need to know.

Me:  Does alcohol cause seizures for you Wayne.

He nods his head slowly, once. He keeps crying.

Me:  It’s okay Wayne. Just breathe. Deep slow breaths. EMS will need to know about your seizure and the alcohol. It’s important.

Wayne:  Okay.

He nods his head again. Up and down. His tears keep flowing.

Me:  Are you in pain Wayne?

Wayne:  I don’t know.

Me:  Are you cold?

Wayne:  No.

One of the bystanders offers to get him a blanket.

EMS arrives.

They determine nothing is broken and help Wayne get up and walk him towards their ambulance. “We’ll take over from here,” they say.

I thank the two men who stopped to help.

“Thank you for stopping,” one says. “Not many would.”

“You did,” I reply with a smile and start walking towards my car.

Another man who had stopped his truck across the street and stood with his wife on the sidelines while we waited for EMS approaches me.

“Excuse me,” he says.

I stop and turn back towards him. “Yes?”

“Did you used to work at the Drop-In Centre?” (an adult emergency homeless shelter in the downtown core where I was the Director of Communications for 6 years)

“Yes,” I reply slowly.

“I thought so. I remember you. It’s nice to know there are kind-hearted people in the community,” he adds before wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving. He and his wife return to their truck and drive away.

I walk to my car, get in and drive to the store where I was going when I saw Wayne fall.

I will be late. It is Thanksgiving Day. Our guests will have arrived for dinner and everyone will be wondering where I am.

There were many kind-hearted people out that evening. Two women who came from the condo building on the other side of the street. I asked them to go to the main avenue to wave down the ambulance.

The two men who stood watching over us as I sat on the curb and chatted with Wayne.

And the other’s who stood waiting and watching until EMS arrived.

No one had to wait but in the tale of this city, people care enough to stop and help a stranger helping another human being lying on the side of the road.

I am grateful.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude is the foundation of joy. It is the bedrock upon which we build our hearts calling. It awakens us to our natural way of being in the world free of greed, selfishness and self-centeredness. It is our way to hear and acknowledge our deepest yearnings for peace, harmony and grace.

Gratitude opens us up to receiving love. It propels us to step fearlessly into the waters of life untethered to the need to have more, be more, get more.

Gratitude is essential to finding ourselves at home in our hearts.

When I begin my morning with statements of all that I am grateful for… I open myself up to gratitude’s inherent power living within me. In gratitude, I become richer, fuller, more balanced and grounded in every way of my being present.

I am grateful for everyone in my life, those who will share a meal around our dining room table tonight, to our beautiful friends Kerry and Howard who hosted us last night, to my eldest daughter and my son-in-love and their unborn child, to family and friends far and wide, to those of you who come here to visit and read and comment and share your light.

I am grateful.

May you gather together at the millions of tables to be set this weekend and remember the love that binds us is stronger than the differences that separate. May we each be surrounded by family and friends sharing joy, love, laughter and above all thankfulness for the ties that bind so strongly.

Happy Thanksgiving! (Canada!)


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Give Thanks | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 28

acts-of-grace-week-28-copy

It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. It snowed here in Calgary.

Lots of it.

I am thankful. (Even if it did look more like Christmas than Thanksgiving).

I am thankful for the moisture, the beauty of the snow covering the earth, the golden leaves sprinkled like confetti on a white blanket.

I am thankful for our family and friends who gathered round our table, sharing companionship, fellowship, good food, laughter, wine and bread and turkey with all the fixin’s.

I am thankful for new friends and old. For a young boy who joined us who, at 10 years of age, reminded all of us to be open and present and willing to participate and give thanks. Just before we went around the table to talk about the things we are grateful for, I had created feathers for everyone which had a word on it that they were to express their gratitude for) he came to my side and whispered into my ear, “When we are going around the table can we also say ‘what we like best about Thanksgiving?'”

And while sometimes, there is a bit of a groan, a bit of an ‘oh dear what am I going to say?’, when he announced what we were about to do, and added his request, everyone joined whole-heartedly in the conversation, sharing their gratitude and their favourite thing about Thanksgiving. And it wasn’t all about the turkey.

It was about gathering together, sharing, connecting. About family and friends present. Family and friends absent and the fullness of our lives because of their presence on our paths.

It was about taking time out to give thanks. To savour the moment, and to appreciate all we have in our lives and those who make it so rich.

It snowed this weekend. I am thankful for the snow. It reminded me to be aware, be present, be in awe of nature — and to not count on fresh parsley from my garden in October.


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Westjet rocks the skies — and customer service!

“I went to Vancouver,” my co-worker, Aaron tells me when I ask him about his Thanksgiving weekend.

I am surprised. I don’t recall him talking about plans to go away.

He laughs. “I was only there for twenty minutes.”

It was just one of those things.

His sister and two friends had gone for a ‘girls’ weekend away, leaving their husbands at home for a couple of nights with their small children. At the airport, all set to board the plane for their return flight home, his sister discovered her wallet had been stolen.

Panic set in.

Tearful, angst ridden phone calls. Cries of help. Brother and father converge at the Calgary airport in a desperate attempt to get their loved one home to her family for Thanksgiving dinner. Enroute to the airport, the father picks-up his daughter’s passport from her husband while Aaron checks out options to fly to Vancouver to deliver it. At this point, they’re not thinking about the cost. It’s all about getting her home to her family.

Westjet was amazing,” he tells me.

Who knew they have a 25% policy for situations such as this?

“I couldn’t believe how understanding they were,” he says. Not only did they give him a 75% discount on the fare, they put him on the next flight and upgraded all four return tickets to business class for the return flight home, which happened after Aaron’s 20 minute stop-over.

Way to go Westjet! It’s no wonder you were inducted into Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame.

Who wouldn’t be proud of working for a company that treats distressed passengers with such good care?

As for Aaron, it gave him an even greater appreciation of what happens to people on the margins. “My sister had options. She had people jumping in to help her. When I got off the plane, they were all three standing at the gate waiting for me, crying. Her friends wouldn’t leave her alone and Westjet didn’t insist they catch their original flight. They rebooked us all together on a different flight, without charging them. But, even though my sister knew I was bringing her passport, she still felt lost and really scared. What if she never got home?”

I remember when a mix-up with my passport left me stranded in New York City for a couple of days. When the Canadian consulate told me  they couldn’t help me, I started to cry. Even though I had my wallet, credit cards and money in my bank account, I still felt lost and alone. I feared they’d never let me out of the country, even though they deemed I was there illegally.

At the time, I wandered the streets of New York feeling hopeless. I tried to visit a church, it was locked. I stopped for a tea and when the waiter asked if he could get me anything else, I started to cry. I remembered all the people at the homeless shelter where I worked at that time. How they continually came up against doors closing, people telling them, no, we can’t help you get ID without a fixed address, or open a bank account, or get government assistance. No, you can’t go there, do that, sit on that, talk like that.

It was a reminder of how blessed I am, and how fragile some people’s lives are.

Aaron’s sister never planned to have her wallet stolen. She never planned to need the help of her family to get her home. And she never anticipated that an airline would step in and do whatever it could to help her through a situation they had no part in creating.

Yet, there they all were. Her family, friends, and an airline that wouldn’t leave her stranded.

For those on the margins, stranded in that place called homeless, without resources, at a loss on what to do next, sometimes, the only people standing by to help are in places called Emergency Shelters. In the emergencies they find themselves lost within, it is in those places where caring people reach out to say, “Here, let me help you shoulder the load,” that they find themselves again on the road of life, taking those first steps back to where they belong, that place called home.

Aaron’s sister made it home, just as I did long ago.

For the thousands who have not yet found their way, I am grateful there are places such as the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and the Mustard Seed and Alpha House and a host of other agencies filled with caring people committed to ensuring that those who are stranded with no way home, are not lost forever on the streets of Calgary.