A Closer Look Into Sanctuary’s Monday Drop-ins!

Ever wonder what we are up to Mondays at Sanctuary? This photo story will give you a closer look into a typical Monday drop-in. The fun, friendships, community, support, meal… but most of all, the togetherness and belonging, and walking through life with friends beside us. Please visit us anytime at our drop-ins. We’d love to meet you and spend time with you! We are learning to be a healthy and welcoming community — will you join us?


 
Before the drop-in even begins on Mondays, members of our community gather to prepare the lunch meal. Everyone is welcome in the kitchen, as we hang out, talk, joke, catch up on our lives, and get to know one another better — all while slicing bread, preparing sandwiches, cutting tomatoes and pickles, and making coffee and juice. For many of us who live alone, we feel blessed to prepare meals together as a family. And of course… depending on the day… there is always a little bit (or lot) of off-key singing! Any requests?
 


We keep the Monday meal simple… sandwiches, and sometimes a side of soup, rice, or hot chili, especially during the winter months. We are grateful that we partner with churches and community members who bring us snacks and dessert treats, which are always deeply appreciated by our friends. We’ve also been lucky enough to have a volunteer who has been baking bread for us, which means the sandwiches are delicious, the bread is hot from the oven, and the drop-in smells like home.
 


Every week, in the bright atrium with windows from floor to high ceiling, we set up enough tables and chairs for a large crowd. Usually 6-8 people per table, because we love to eat together, play cards, and spend time just hanging out and being present with one another. We love it when everyone gets involved in set-up and clean-up, because it means contributing and participating together as a community. Through the atrium windows, we’ve seen sun, rain, snow, wind, storms, and all the seasons. No matter what the weather, season, or holiday, the drop-in is always open!
 


We don’t serve our friends from behind a table or counter. We would rather sit with them, eat with them, and be around a table with them. This eliminates the power imbalance of ‘server’ and ‘served’, and lets us all be on the same level, as people in need and children of God. It means that no matter what our struggles, barriers, or different walks of life, we get to be sanctuary and receive sanctuary. We find healing. As we share our stories with each other, we also find our place in our larger community story and in God’s story. 
 


If you ask us how you can help with lunch, we will tell you where we need you most: sitting with our friends and getting to know them. We recognize at Sanctuary that poverty stems largely from a lack of social connection. Many of our friends are homeless — not in the sense of lacking a physical structure where they can sleep at night (though many of them lack that too), but lacking a place where they have friends and family, a place where they belong and feel cared about. The more we get to know one another, and the deeper our relationships and connection, the more we find home together.
 


We are the same. We are different. We all want to be wanted. As you sit down with our friends, you might be surprised to find how much God meets you through them. How his truth and grace is for everyone. Many of our friends have been lonely, hurt, and excluded from community in the past. At Sanctuary, we get to make mistakes and we get to mess up, and we are always welcomed back and loved no matter what. We are learning what community means and what forgiveness means… and the learning never ends.
 


Most importantly, we love to have fun together! We love to laugh together, and relax together. We love to be ourselves. If you swing by a drop-in to visit us, you might find yourself caught up in a friendly game of euchre, crazy eights, or crokinole, doing a crossword, or learning to knit. While our community has experienced much sorrow and pain, we also find joy! We want to celebrate together the healing and good times God gives us, the amazing things he is doing in our midst, and his light that comes in darkness: “Behold, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”
 


Children are very important to us in our Sanctuary community. They allow us to be present and feel joy in the simple moments. They teach us about vulnerability and trust and faith. They teach us to see the world through new eyes, through the eyes of Christ. They love us unconditionally and remind us that we are all children of God. They bring smiles to the faces of our friends, and allow us to be a part of a family that some of us have never had before.
 


Every week, at the end of our drop-in at 2:00pm, we gather together for an hour of informal bible study. We love to ask questions, wrestle with hard topics and truths, and share our worries and burdens. With God’s grace, we seek to know and love Christ together more deeply, to become more like him, and to pursue his love constantly, just as he pursues us. Each of us come with different backgrounds and levels of understanding, but we learn from each other, and everyone is always welcome.  As we gather at the feet of Jesus, the gospel comes alive, and we realize we are the Samaritan woman, the tax collector, the blind man, the paralytic, the bleeding woman, Martha, Mary, Jairus… it is in them that we find our identity and value in God.   

Amazing Grace

It was an early spring day, rainy, mid-March, and the drop-in was crowded with people coming in from the damp cold, stamping water off their boots, and gathering around tables for warm soup and sandwiches. Luke and I were sitting by the piano away from the crowd, chatting about his week, and the piano reminded me of the songs we sang during our worship service the night before. I asked him if he was happy we’d sung Amazing Grace, remembering how he had told me he loved that song more than anything. I began to play a few of the piano notes absentmindedly: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. Suddenly, taking me by surprise, Luke became upset and began to yell, his eyes turning red with tears: “Stop it! Stop playing! I can’t stand hearing that f—ing song right now. I hate it!”

I tried to understand what was upsetting him, as he threw his most honest and challenging questions at me: “Why would God ever love me?” he asked. “I’ve made so many mistakes! Why would he ever forgive someone as stupid and screwed up as me? Where is his grace?” I tried to reassure him that God loved him so much, that his grace was pouring over him at that very moment.

“No!” he said. “Stop saying that! God’s grace is for everyone else, but not for me… ” After some time of sitting in silence, he finally told me that he loved that song because he wanted so much to have God’s grace, but he hated that song because he didn’t feel he deserved the grace he so longed for. And the more we talked about grace, the more I became aware of the feeling that God’s grace was pouring over me too, in the middle of this very conversation—and it was pouring over me through Luke. I felt a space opening up inside me where my own hurts could more freely emerge, and I felt blessed that Luke trusted our friendship enough to be so real with me. His brokenness made room for my own brokenness.

Then, very slowly, I became aware of something else lingering deep down–something I didn’t like and didn’t want to admit to myself, something I felt embarrassed about: the realization that along with those feelings of blessing, were much deeper feelings of envy. Envy that Luke could just pour it all out so easily… I was frustrated with myself. Here I really wanted to respond with love, and instead, found myself envious of his honest outpouring, his blunt way of sharing, his comfort with saying exactly what he felt while trusting I wouldn’t walk away from him. I envied the space he had to really be himself—and I longed for that.

A couple of weeks later, Luke and I were at a coffee shop with another friend, celebrating his birthday, and I was reminded of our earlier conversation. I told him what a gift he was to me through his honesty, and I thanked him. “You are one of my teachers,” I said. He looked at me, beaming, but also confused. “I am? Really? Why?” I explained how sometimes I, like so many others, hide behind a mask, and that he teaches me to take it off.

“A mask?” he asked. “What do you mean?” As I shared how so many of us wear a mask to hide our pain and convince the world we have it all together, Luke looked at me in total disbelief, astonished that anyone would do this. “But why?” he asked. “Why would you do that? Why??”

Some of my friends at Sanctuary have been my best teachers, because they are not afraid to really be themselves—to be weak and vulnerable, and to fully express their needs as they come. I learn from them that God’s glory is found in our weakness. That heaven and earth overlap in the very place we don’t think the Kingdom would ever want to show up in us. In what feels like an ugly mess, God’s grace is waiting. When Luke lets his weakness shine into my life, he gives me a beautiful gift: a safe place where God finds me and tells me that my own weakness is also loved by him. Luke teaches me that the cross is found in our moments of trusting that when we reveal our brokenness, God will not leave us nor forsake us, and that maybe, just maybe, neither will our friends.

Love Stretches

I love you… You matter to me… I will not leave you.We long to hear these affirmations, but when they come, we struggle to believe them. We push them away. That’s impossible, we say, I’m not good enough… why would someone want to love me?

I am standing with Claire behind a small house where some of us have gathered for a day of relaxing community time. Poplars graze the blue-grey sky and a steady April wind rushes through the leaves… normally a peaceful sound for me, but this afternoon, tension is high. For the past hour, Claire’s emotions have rollercoasted up and down, unleashing her pain and her paralyzing fear that the bright promise of love has, once again, gone and disappeared…

“Leave me alone!” she yells at me, her eyes dark and frenzied. “You’re not my f—ing friend after all. I thought I could trust you, but you don’t care about me!”

I am lost for words. So many people have abandoned Claire in her life – why would she believe I’m any different? Somehow I need to convince her that I will keep loving her no matter what

I reassure her again. “I care about you very much. Nothing will change that.”

“I was stupid to come here today,” she yells. “No one wants me around!”

“I’m really glad you’re here.”

She wrings her hands together. “No, no, no you’re not! You’re not even my friend. You only care about Stephanie!”

I look her deep in the eyes and wish like crazy I could convince her. “I am your friend and you matter to me.”

Stephanie is a friend of Claire’s at Sanctuary, and despite their difficulty trusting, they have become close over the months. This morning, however, they got into a heated argument and said some hurtful things. Now, as Claire fears losing Stephanie’s friendship, she tells me she is scared she will also lose me, us – that her friends and community will choose Stephanie over her, and she will be forgotten. Or no longer wanted. Like so many of our Sanctuary friends, Claire is afraid there isn’t enough love to go around. She is caught in something called the zero sum game of love, and her fear of rejection has shaken her deep in her core.

In game theory, the zero sum game is a situation in which a gain or win by one person must be balanced with a loss by another, to equal zero. It assumes there is a fixed or finite amount of a particular resource that two or more people must compete for. When applied to love, this kind of thinking assumes there is not enough love for everyone – that if someone gains love, someone else must lose it; for example, if our close friend gives love to another friend, there might not be enough left over for us.

And haven’t so many of us experienced this same fear and wondered, why would someone love me when there are so many better people to love? Or, how could God possibly love me as much as he loves others, when they are obviously more blessed than me, more together than me, more loveable than me? How could I, with all my mess-ups, also be his beloved?

By the end of the afternoon, I am sitting with Claire in the deck chairs. She has calmed down, and stares out at the trees, sighing. “I guess you probably love me,” she says. “I guess I was just mad because I thought you only loved Stephanie. But I guess maybe you love me too.” Yes, yes I do.

Claire has told me before how the people in her past caused her indescribable hurt. She knows first-hand the devastation of love promised and then taken away: never a place to call ‘home.’ For many of us, we have searched so long for a place of home, that when we find it, we hang onto that love as tightly as possible.

But we are learning together that God blesses us with an abundance of love, a love that stretches as our community grows – not so we can keep it for ourselves, but so we can invite others into that same love. Our need to protect love is slowly being transformed into an ability to release love. We are a community working hard to figure out our place in a very large story of love – a story so human and real and close to home we barely dare to believe it, and a story so all-encompassing that it takes our breath away. As we live it out together, sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t, but the process is always beautiful, always courageous, and always worth it…

Advent Light

One year ago, at our Wednesday Christmas drop-in, one of our Sanctuary friends gave me a small Christmas cactus. Pete is a very kind and soft-spoken man, with a spirit of love and generosity. He had shared with me that he didn’t have family, had lost his wife years ago, had very little money, and lived alone in a small bachelor apartment – a life that became very lonely sometimes. And yet, despite these struggles, he was bringing gifts to his friends! To me! The cactus was a beautiful blessing, reminding me that I was loved and not alone.

Two weeks ago, as our Sanctuary community headed into advent, I was stung by mixed emotions: sadness and grief of hopes laid down and dreams let go, together with the wonderment, anticipation, and deeper knowing of God bringing his own dreams to life with us – how a small candle of joy would be a big and bright light among us. I thought of many joyous moments when we saw God’s face and celebrated his healing; I also remembered the fears we carried: were we really God’s beloved? Would we really have good friends to walk through life with?

A few mornings ago, as I felt the weight of these thoughts, I walked into my kitchen to make a cup of tea, and there was the Christmas cactus Pete had given me one year ago, blooming bright red for the very first time. One large blossom had already reached completion, but there were a few tiny red buds still waiting to open into the fullness of the image God had made them to be, waiting on what was to come.

I thought about the Lord’s prayer: Your Kingdom come… on Earth as it is in Heaven. I knew what I desperately wanted it to look like. For hurts to be healed, broken relationships reconciled, hope renewed, and healthy love to blossom. Why were things still so messy, and when would they be set right? And what could I possibly offer my friends as I stood among them?

And then as I chatted with Darryl, he reminded me that this was exactly the thing we could offer: standing among one another, being with one another – so that none of us are alone in our struggles. Emmanuel. God with us. This, I realized, was the direction towards joy.

At Sanctuary, one of our favourite things to do is spend time together. In joy and celebration, and in hard times. Hanging out together at dropins, playing cards, telling funny stories, laughing at silly jokes, sharing our stories and hurt, and just being ourselves. Being home together. Being for each other a little bit of advent light. At our Wednesday dropin this week, we will share a Christmas meal – twelve tables of friends together – twelve families combined into one very large family. Thursday night, we will gather for another Christmas meal at First Baptist church, where almost 200 friends will gather from Sanctuary and Streetlight. All kinds of people with all kinds of stories – with homes and without, with family and without, with children and without, with healing and brokenness, with joy and with sorrow – and all having one thing in common – a desire for connection, togetherness, and home.

Last Sunday night, Gil reminded us that God looks at each of us with so much love – that we are already wonderful in his eyes. He is already pleased with us! He rejoices over us! And this is what I hope we can be for each other this Christmas and all year long: standing together, and reminding each other that we are God’s beloved, that he loves us, and that with us, he is well pleased. This is the good news born in a manger!

We pray that this Christmas, as friendships blossom and we walk together in love and community, God’s Kingdom will come just a little bit closer, and our dreams will meet his, just a little bit more.

While Making Bread

Here in this kitchen with my Sanctuary friends,
we are learning to make bread. Adding the yeast,
kneading the dough, rest fifteen minutes,
rest and repeat, rest and release, love and release.
My bread is rising. My prayers are rising
into the warm room like a flutter of birds
into hope. I want to stay here, where I can do nothing
but watch the bread rise, here in this kitchen
of order and knowing, with its recipes
and predictable outcomes, smooth cupboards,
cool glide of stainless steel, bright lights steady
as the humdrum of rain outside.
Because everywhere else, things get messy.
There are so many people hurting out there
on the streets, and so many questions
without answers. There is a brother or sister
we keep running from, a family falling apart,
a constant fear that love won’t last.
And I want to be there, fully present in the midst
of what is not yet fully risen—
in the waiting for the rising that comes
when the darkness of Saturday is over. But I also
want, for this one hour, to just make bread
with my friends, where I can rely on patterns
of measuring and pouring, of kneading and folding
the dough over and over again. Where I can be
sure of the outcome and pretend I have some control
over the world by loving things
enough to make them love me back.
Where I can pretend to myself
there is a recipe even for this: for stopping someone
from leaving me by loving them enough.
And where, mostly, I am learning the deeper truth
of the matter: that love can only be given as a gift,
that love cannot make anyone do or not do anything—
just as in the warmth of this kitchen,
where things that are measured are also spilling
over, the bread rises freely
simply because it wants to.

Letting Go

It was a winter evening, dark with a chilly wind, when I ran into my friend Bruce, a man who attended our drop-ins. He was weaving along a downtown sidewalk, slow and unsteady. As soon as he saw me, he quickly stopped and put down his bags, eager for conversation. His breath smelled of alcohol, and his words were slurred and sad.

I asked him how he was doing. “Not good,” he said, shaking his head. “Not good.”

“What’s going on?” It was the first time I’d seen him this way. Normally at the drop-ins he was fairly happy and relaxed, but tonight I could see hurt and despair all over his face, his brokenness as tangible as this cold snap of wind.

“Everything’s going so bad. And they won’t let me back in the shelter,” he told me. “Got nowhere to go. Been staying there for weeks, causing no trouble, and now they don’t want me.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that, Bruce.”

“Who cares? I don’t need them anyway!” He kicked the ground and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He told me about an argument he’d gotten into—how heated things got, but that he wanted peace and would do anything to avoid a fight. He told me about the violence when he was a kid… how it became a part of him. “It’s not fair. I don’t want it anymore.”

He couldn’t stop talking, said he didn’t want to hurt anyone, and told me how much he loved coming to our drop-ins. Then he began to cry. “I’m afraid to come back,” he said, “afraid I’ll mess up.” I wanted so much to fix this for him: his hurt and pain, his fears, the past he was running from—but I was helpless in that moment to fix any of it. All I could do was offer him love and friendship, and while that was supposed to be enough, it sure didn’t feel like enough. As we finally said goodbye and I walked away, my heart broke: I felt like I was abandoning him, and all I could think of was Jesus, hurting and bleeding and alone on the cross. And then, David Crowder’s words: oh, how he loves us.

I am slowly learning to let go and let God. As a couple of good friends suggested recently, we need to love and then release, and sometimes we need to get out of the way so God can do his work. But I keep wondering, what does this really mean at the end of the day, to trust God fully, to love with all my heart and also let go? The only thing I know for sure is that trusting God doesn’t make it hurt any less.

At Sanctuary, I’m learning to love my friends and release them to be who they are. In return, I’m finding out they love me the same way—just as I am. What an extravagant gift and beautiful reminder of God’s love for me. I don’t know yet how to do this really well, but I have to trust that as I stand with my friends in their hurt, and as I open my hands and let go, I’m making room for God to come in. And I know that tomorrow, all I can do is invite him again.

Be A Sanctuary

What does it mean to label a young person as “at-risk?” I teach a class of secondary students who are all crown wards and they are often referred to as “at-risk.” I find myself wondering of what exactly it is that they are “at-risk.”

The common threads that weave through the lives of these young people include broken relationships, poverty, hurt, questions of who to trust, lack of support, and a sense of homelessness beyond physical buildings. Of what are they “at-risk”? Not graduating from high school? Of poor health and poverty? Of destructive habits of drug and alcohol use? There is more. Perhaps they are at risk of despair and loss of hopefulness. Some are at risk of not believing life could be anything other than it is. In their striving for independence it could be that they are at risk of living in ways that stop them from being willing to be vulnerable in relationships of trust and love.

As my term of teaching began, I was caught up in the busyness of planning and preparing curriculum. During a moment of silence in a Sunday morning worship service I tried to stop thinking about schoolwork. In the quiet, I heard God whisper to me: “Be a sanctuary.” Though I am not always sure what it means to say my students are “at-risk,” I do know that our classroom is to be a safe space and a place of belonging. These young people are children of God. Indeed, they are children of promise.

Written by a friend of Sanctuary

To Carry and Be Carried

One of the first things that struck me when I began getting to know my friends at Sanctuary London was their courage to risk being honest about what they were going through. Whether it was a job they lost, housing that didn’t work out, a fight that broke up a friendship, spiritual doubt, anxiety, fears, debt, or addictions, they often found some way to share. This willingness to be open and vulnerable was a surprise to me, and something I deeply respected and appreciated, because I didn’t know how to do this well myself.

And the more they shared, the more I realized that no one was judging; instead, it was simply accepted that it was normal to have struggles, and it seemed to be this common ground of shared brokenness that brought them closer. I was struck by the rare gift of a community where everyone is loved just as they are. I could see that Sanctuary London was a place where it was safe for them to be real with one another and share their stories, and I knew that I was going to learn a lot from this community.

I have longed to experience this kind of connectedness, but have always found it hard to admit my struggles. When I first started to attend the Sanctuary drop-in meals, and my friends would ask me how I was doing, my usual response would be, “I’m fine,” even when things in my life felt messy or difficult or sad. As I learn to admit my needs, this has helped me to understand that we’re all the same in this community, and we all equally need God and each other.

A few months ago, one of my friends declared to me, “you’re always happy, so I know that you’ve never had any pain in your life.” Another friend asked me if nothing ever bothered me. These were difficult words to hear, because they were a reminder that I was hiding the real me. Slowly, my friends were teaching me about true relationships, and they were teaching me about God. I realized that the more honest they were about their struggles, the more I saw how much God was loving them, and the more I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could trust him to also want me and love me, just as I am.

When my friend Carla shares with me that she’s so broke she has to pawn her guitar that she loves, or when my friend Scott shares that he’s depressed, or Darren tells me he can’t stand the loneliness of his apartment, or Lisa tells me she doesn’t fit in anywhere, or Sandra asks me why friendship is so very hard, I feel a little less embarrassed about my own insecurities and problems, because I know I’m not alone.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating how hiding our brokenness from our friends and from God prevents us from fully receiving God’s love and healing. If I hide who I really am because I’m afraid to risk being honest, will I miss out on God’s beautiful invitation for his healing and light in my places of pain and darkness? And if, as a loving community, we are each part of the story of the paralytic being carried by his friends to Jesus, then it becomes apparent that I have a significant choice to make: do I always want to be the one carrying my friends, or do I allow them the opportunity to carry me as well?

Written by a member of the Sanctuary Community

More than accepted…. welcomed… wanted!

“I’ve been to several different churches across Ontario. At most churches, when I wheel my way in, the people are always friendly, but guarded, and somehow there always seems to be a barrier. Truth is, I’m different.

It’s not that I am poor in the socioeconomical sense; I have enough money to provide for myself. But for the most part, I am stuck in this wheelchair, and that makes many people feel uncomfortable. So people are always nice, but they just can’t see past the fact that I am different, and that prevents people from getting to know who I really am.

And then I heard about Sanctuary London. I was nervous, but within seconds of coming through the front doors, I was greeted and introduced to many friendly faces, and it didn’t just stop there. I was invited to join in on a game of euchre, and before long we were sharing life together. I was welcomed as one who belonged. Much more than accepted – I feel wanted!

What I’ve come to learn is that we all face challenges. Some struggle financially, some struggle with addictions or housing issues; most of us struggle relationally and with loneliness. The point is: we all struggle. I think the difference at Sanctuary is that the people here seem to intimately understand the pain of exclusion, and they understand how their social circumstances create barriers to their inclusion in society – just like me.

But, when we stop hiding our struggles, we can finally start to get to know one another, and we begin to recognize that we’re really not that different after all!”

“They’re just different………”

At Sanctuary, we often talk about the fact that folks who are relatively rich and those who are relatively poor are “more alike than different”. There is truth to that. There are fundamental aspects of what it means to be human that we share in common: dreams, disappointments, love, hurt, pride, etc… When middle-class type people hang out with folks who are homeless, this is one of the discoveries that they make. And it’s a good one.

But there are differences. And some of them are counter-intuitive. Allow me to reflect on a few that we come up against pretty regularly…

The value of ‘being served’. I really enjoy going out to dinner. I like it when I don’t have to do anything except order off the menu and wait for the food to arrive. In extreme cases, I could go so far as to say that I find the treatment ‘kingly’. It’s nice to be waited on hand-and-foot.

So why, at Sanctuary, do we eat our meals family-style? Or why do we have our street-involved friends work in the kitchen instead of sitting down while we wait on them? Wouldn’t it be a treat for them to be treated like royalty?

Ultimately, I think, it’s about power. In a restaurant, I have the power. I’m the king. I’ve got the money. I order what I want. My tip reflects my satisfaction. I enjoy being served – on my terms!

If we are not careful, it can have a very different feel in a drop-in setting. Here, the servers are king. The ‘customers’ aren’t even allowed in the kitchen. It’s not that they prefer to sit and be served – rather they are excluded from the kitchen. As a group, they aren’t trusted in the kitchen – whether because of their hygiene, because of safety or for whatever other reason. The customer doesn’t choose the meal, can’t complain about the service…nothing. Utterly powerless. At Sanctuary, we want to turn this model on its head and give the power back to our friends who rarely get to hold it.

The value of a gift. Free stuff! What could be better? Costco is giving out free samples! I could eat a whole meal here! I got a coupon in the mail for a free tube of toothpaste! My friend surprised me and offered to treat me to a birthday dinner. This is great!

But what if your life consists of receiving free stuff? What if the free stuff doesn’t, in fact, reflect your ability to manage your finances creatively or affirm your intrinsic worth as a contributing member of society? What if, instead, it reaffirms to you that you’re utterly dependent on the charity of strangers for even the most basic of needs?

That same “treat you to a meal” can have its perceived meaning quickly change from “Your friendship is a gift to me that I wish to honour” to “You’re a poor soul desperate for food and frankly I don’t trust that, if I gave you this $10, you would even spend it on food.” I don’t think many (or any?) of us would ever intend that, but it very easily could be the message that gets heard.

The value of a wage. A teenager gets her first job at McDonalds and begins earning $10/hour, working 10 hours a week…that’s $100/week or about $5,000/year. Sweet! And the very fact of having that job is a boost – it means I have been deemed to have merit: I applied, I interviewed and I was accepted. I feel great and the fact that I’m getting paid anything at all is a bonus!

But what if my primary qualification is the very opposite of the scenario I have just described? What if my main qualification is the fact that I’m a 48 year-old guy who has battled addiction and mental illness for years, have lived in a shelter for the last year and a half, and am being given ‘one last chance’ because no one figures I’ll ever get a real job on my own? I wonder, in this situation, if earning minimum wage isn’t just one more painful reminder that, after all these miles, I’m no farther ahead than a high school kid.

So what…?

These observations aren’t true 100% of the time nor should we pretend that they are. But they are true with some regularity. While my friends who live on the street are so very much just like me in many regards, there are some differences worth noting. The value of personal relationship can’t be overstated. Only as I get close to my friend will I know how my well-meaning actions are being received. And while some action is probably better than none at all, how much better if we could take steps towards having our kindnesses received in the spirit in which they were intended!

Written by Alan Beattie of Sanctuary Toronto