Monthly Archives: March 2019

Going with the flow

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Last week we were sitting around a table at the back of the Thrift Store, as we do on Tuesday afternoons. We were well into a game of Scrabble, a plate of crackers and cheese, and a bowl of grapes. A friend was playing the guitar, relatively quietly (for us), and there were various conversations going on around the table.

A new face arrived partway through this drop-in time, and was welcomed by a community member who engaged the new person in conversation. I was aware of this new presence, and was thrilled to see how quickly they became engaged in a deep conversation.

About half an hour later, the recent arrival was somehow triggered by something the person playing the guitar had unwittingly said/done. They quietly but firmly flipped the bird to the guitar player, and asked them to take note. Understandably, the musician was rattled, having never met this person before. I encouraged my friend not to take it personally, but was inwardly fearing that the situation may explode at any moment.

But…it didn’t! The musician chose to play another song, dedicated “to the middle finger”, and the community member who had originally welcomed the newcomer suggested the song could be called “The Flying Bird”. They proceeded to make up lyrics about a bird flying right over the offense that caused, and was caused by, the “flipping of the bird”.

One thing that I love about Parkdale is the general recognition that we all have our moments, our struggles, our quirks, our trigger points. Don’t get me wrong; there are days when it seems like nearly everyone is on edge and looking for a reason to become offended. But on many other days (or those same days), people do an amazing job of diffusing situations with incredible humour and grace. Last week at the Thrift Store was a beautiful example to me of this understanding, go-with-the-flow side of Parkdale. This is the neighbourhood that I know and love.

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Holy Ground

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This past Monday The Dale had the pleasure of hosting a group of high school students from the Belleville area. They are part of a performing arts group, and have been spending part of their March break putting on a musical about the life of Job, and spending the other part in contexts like The Dale.

When a new bunch of faces show up on a Monday, Erinn, Meagan and/or I explain the history of Parkdale and The Dale, and describe what a typical week looks like for us. We also explain the philosophy of The Dale;  that everyone has gifts to give, and things with which we need help. Humans are just humans, and we all need to eat lunch.  We invite the youth into drop-in, not to serve but to be served.

Our dear friend Steve Grant will often show up on these Mondays and graciously share his story, which includes periods of time spent living outside. We are very grateful for Steve’s ongoing generosity with his time and vulnerability.

After all these introductions and stories, we set the group loose in the drop-in space to sit down and chat. One of my favourite things about having groups of young people at The Dale is being reminded, again and again, how good the folks in our community are at offering hospitality. I’m always a little bit nervous that the sheer volume of new faces (this week there were close to 20) will overwhelm the capacity of the community… But every time, the community rises to the occasion.

Our folks chat up these new, young friends, generously sharing their stories while they pass the platter of food around the table. It’s just the best to pause, look around, listen to the hubbub, and watch the community do their thing.

We also try our best to carve out time to debrief with groups at the end of drop-in, to check in and see how they experienced the day. This week the group shared about various conversations they had, and how grateful they were for the way that people welcomed them. At the end of our debrief time, they offered to sing a song called Holy Ground, in multi-part harmony (see the video below… please excuse my shaky hands!)

This song is a lovely expression of how I feel about days like Monday – when it’s clear that God is present in the building of new, unlikely friendships, and the ground, hands and lips of all involved are therefore made holy.