I never knew that I should have gone to cooking school before working at The Dale, but I’ve been learning a lot! I thought I would share a glimpse into what our kitchen looks like before a meal begins on Monday or Thursday.
Feeding a lot of people, means cooking in large portions. Very large!
Sometimes that looks like breakfast bowls that cover every table space in the kitchen.
Sometimes that looks like turning thirty roast chickens into a big bowl of chicken salad.
And lots of beautiful fresh bread that was donated from a bakery to put all the chicken salad on. (plus the chicken salad had bacon bits, celery, and lime- it was so tasty!)
Sometimes it looks like chopping up hundreds of eggs for eggs salad sandwiches.
It shocked me how much mayo that took (I’ve been learning a lot).
All the food seen in these photos has been a blessing. It is truly amazing to see the donations that come from such a vast variety of people; from individuals who buy supplies or collect from their community to shops and local restaurants to other churches and organizations. It goes to show that despite the challenges of Covid-19, the generosity is even greater.
The Dale is no stranger to loss. I’ve been at three memorials already and have heard many stories of beloved friends who passed away years ago.
This was the first goodbye in Parkdale that I’ve said to someone I knew well, someone whom I considered a friend. I didn’t know John for very long but, as anyone who’s met him would say, he was a kind hearted soul.
These are some things that I learned about John, in my short time of knowing him:
John always wore a smile. I almost cannot picture him without a smile. He was always so positive and always had something good to say. His smile was contagious and so was his joy.
John made people feel special. Even when I was just new to The Dale in December, he knew my name. He would greet me every time by name and look at me with eyes that were listening, like a good friend would.
John was very selfless. John always checked on how others were doing, including myself. I never heard him complain, nor saw him get angry, but instead he would bring a presence of peace and calm.
John was known for his amazingly long dreadlocks, which had to be tied because they were longer than he was. He loved to talk about his dogs and cared for them. He was constantly cooking food for other people, and one time during a night outreach I got to sample some bacon he had just cooked for dinner at another drop-in.
Though I did not know John for very long, I am grateful for the chance to have met him and call him friend. The parkette by the Health Center won’t be the same without him, as he would often be seen hanging out there.
During this pandemic I’m learning that I have very little control over my life, and maybe you are experiencing this too.
Many would say we live in a generation of instant gratification. With our phones always at our fingertips, the list of things we can get instantly is massive compared to the generations before us; from looking up information on google, ordering food to our door, booking a flight, checking what the weather is across the world, streaming our favourite movie, etc.
Now that this pandemic has swept over the world, we’ve gone into shock over the loss of control that we used to have. Our freedom is shrinking without being able to enjoy going out to eat, summer plans being canceled, and no more birthday celebrations. For some, hard things have been canceled or pushed such as funerals, doctors appointments, and visiting family/friends in nursing homes and hospitals. I have been experiencing some of these hard things these past two months.
At the Dale, within the past few weeks, we’ve said goodbye to two people who have passed away in Parkdale. It’s difficult not being able to have a memorial service for the community to gather and remember those lives.
My grandmas are both live in a nursing home and are currently not allowed to leave and not allowed any guests. It’s been a long time and I worry about them.
A friend of ours from the community has recently gone into hospital and we are not allowed to see him. And, I’m sure he is missing being able to have visitors.
My wedding is booked for this October but we have no idea where the world will be with this pandemic in the fall. So the stress of the possibility of canceling is on my mind. Also, my fiance, Grant, is currently in the states and there is no definite date of when the border will open and I will see him again.
So much is out of my hands and heavy on my mind, but what comforts me is that the Lord knows. It is in His hands. Throughout all of this, there have been many blessings popping up that surprise me; joys big and small that all remind me that God is moving.
Here are just some of these blessings from the Lord that I am excited to share with you:
We just discovered some folks that we met, who were living in tents, got housed! We got worried when we saw a bunch of workers and trucks in the area but got the good news that they have been given a home.
The Dale runs on donations- and during this pandemic I have been amazed by the generosity of people. Every Monday we have been able to serve prepared meals from a restaurant and distribute bags of fresh groceries. Baked goods come every week from thoughtful bakers for some dessert to go with our meals. Fun and fashionable hand sewn face masks keep being delivered from amazing sewers. A variety of toiletries, socks, and clothing comes from a combination of donors including a shop that dropped off boxes of t-shirts by surprise.
The Dale is still able to keep running and none of the staff have gotten sick which is a huge blessing!
Since we cannot have long chats with people at the drop-ins like we used to, we have turned to calling our friends on the phone. These chats have been really special and I feel like they are connecting people in new ways!
Even though I am losing control over the future and feeling overwhelmed by the unknown, these blessings remind me that God is in control. Amidst the loss, He is providing, and PRAISE God for that!
I am still pretty far from my fundraising goal! If you would like to financially partner with me in this ministry, you can donate on https://www.thedale.org/donate/ and specify in the comment box that you would like to support me. Feel free to reach out if you would like more information or would just like to chat.
I know this isn’t quite the Easter you imagined. It’s hard for many not to be allowed to gather with family and/or friends, and not be able to attend a service with your church congregation. Though these are challenging times, we have such a great reason to celebrate. We remember the greatest sacrifice in history, when Jesus died, taking the sins of the world.
1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
This death, that we remember on Good Friday, was not permanent! Three days later, a miracle was witnessed.
Matthew 28:5-6 “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
He is risen! Praise the Lord that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are wiped clean of our sins. We are welcomed into a relationship with God, now and for eternity.
Romans 10:9 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Although there is a sadness in Easter being different this year, I actually believe it is perfect timing. We need hope at a time like this, and what greater hope is there than in Jesus? What a perfect time to see social media filled with verses of hope instead of discouraging news reports, to maybe receive a text or call wishing joy, and to turn to the parts of scripture that remind us that we need not worry for we are saved.
The government has called the city to shut down (malls closings, churches locking their doors, playgrounds taped up, tables put away in restaurants, etc.) but The Dale has been making some adjustments to keep going, amidst the closures, following the new rules that pop up day to day.
Many have asked me what The Dale has been doing during the pandemic. Since this has been my first week back, after self-isolating, this is how it went:
Monday still involved lunch, but instead they were packed in to-go boxes. Then, through Second Harvest and the generous donations of many, we got to give out full bags of fresh groceries.
Tuesday we had our usual staff meeting, but this time we met in a video call from our homes and followed that with admin stuff on our own. Wednesday we worked as a team creating our breakfast which we served on Thursday in the morning; all while keeping the safe distance required.
It’s quite a change, especially for a group that loves to hug.
Going downtown on my first day (Monday), I had no idea what to expect. Friends have been asking me how the community was doing and I never knew what to say since I hadn’t been there myself. Honestly I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard from the people that came throughout the lunch. It’s not a question that this is a hard time, I do worry about many who struggle with the isolation. Drop-in centers throughout the city are closing or changing, grocery stores are limited, and freedom is lost. But nonetheless, I felt greeted with a strong positivity that caught me off guard.
I was expecting people to be frustrated with the change in how we serve food, but I was met with gratitude. I was surprised by how many people had something encouraging to say. One gentleman said, “It sucks, but we’re working together and we’re going to make it.”
I felt hopeful talking to people, which was a stark contrast compared to how I had been feeling when I was stuck at home watching the news. Going outside seemed scary, but instead of devastation I saw hope. I saw people sharing what little they had, neighbours helping neighbours, air hugs, and the body of Christ coming together.
So I am currently self-isolating for 14 days due to my trip out of the country.
Sunday I journeyed through the Orlando airport security, sat in a completely full airplane, and got temporarily stranded in the Toronto airport- all with this fear in the back of my mind from the panic I’ve read on social media. I didn’t Lysol my seat down like most were on the plane, but I got worried that maybe I should. All around me, everyone’s panic started to make me feel like I should also panic, but I guess that’s how the toilet paper frenzy started; panic feeding panic.
I’m learning that there is a balance. Before I was living like it was not real, ignoring all the warnings- but that could put others at risk. I also don’t want to be too extreme about it, running away from all my friends and family like they have the plague- because we’ll eventually all get hurt from the loneliness.
I am fortunate to have a home to isolate in and a family to isolate with. But, though the news is telling us to stay inside, not everyone in our community at Parkdale is able to do that. Some people don’t have families and need to get out to be with their friends whom they consider family. Others have no physical home to go inside to or their home isn’t a safe place. Many have lost their most comfortable spaces, with the closing of the Tim Hortons, A&W, the library, etc, in which they might consider to be their living rooms.
Unfortunately I have not been able to join The Dale this week due to my isolation, but I’m so proud of my team and all they’ve been doing! It breaks my heart to think of what our community (and many others in Toronto who are street involved) are going through. These times seem to emphasize the class distinctions at an even greater degree. Instead of fearing the stranger on the street, maybe we can learn from them. They know what it’s like to not have enough of what they need. They know what it looks like to share in the midst of poverty.
I hope that our city can learn to maintain a balance of being cautious, while still checking in with our friends and neighbours. I hope that we can figure out how to take care of ourselves without taking all the products off the shelf so that others can have some too.
Today I read Psalm 145. It was so encouraging to read about how great the Lord is and how worthy of praise. Since we are in this time of fear and unknown, I want to share a list of some of the amazing truths of God that I found in this chapter. You may have heard them all before, but they were such a comforting reminder to me.
His greatness we cannot fathom. (v. 3)
He is gracious and compassionate. (v. 8)
He is rich in love. (v. 8)
The Lord is good to all. (v. 9)
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. (v. 13)
We can trust the Lord in all He promises. (v. 13)
He upholds all who fall. (v. 14)
He provides for our physical needs at the proper time. (v. 15)
All His ways are righteous and faithful. (v. 17)
He is near those who call. (v. 18)
He hears our cry. (v. 19)
The Lord will keep us. (v. 20)
The Lord hears our cry, so please continue to pray for this city and the world as they figure out how to handle this outbreak. Please also pray for my amazing co-workers at The Dale who are still out there working, preparing food, and checking in with people.
If you would like to know more about The Dale, check out our website: thedale.org
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7
I have recently been reading from the Psalms. I wanted to read another book of the Bible, but during this time of my life, I found people continuously directing me back to the Psalms. To be honest, Psalms was the last book of the Bible that I would turn to or study. I wanted stories and something “deeper,” but I discovered I was missing out on the power they hold.
Though some days at The Dale can be a little wild, each day also never fails to bring its moments of joy. The longer I’m here the more and more I am feeling a part of this family, and as a result, doing life together feels less like a job and more like a blessing.
Throughout the past few months, I honestly have been struggling with anxiety. It’s frustrating, but there is a lot that God teaches me every time I go through these seasons, and nevertheless, He was doing it again. One Monday this month at The Dale, I ended up having a long chat with a friend from the community. We ended up talking about healing, which is something that I often think about as I read about it in the Bible yet do not encounter it in the same way in my life. I ended up telling her about my struggle with anxiety and right then and there she prayed for healing. I felt so encouraged, my eyes got watery. I had never experienced anyone do that to me, and it brought so much joy in my heart.
After this prayer, I felt ready for anything. I knew times of anxiety would continue to come but I also felt a new confidence that God would take care of me. Since then, each day I try to focus on the many joys around me, rather than the things making life feel heavy.
Here are just two of the many joys that I’ve been experiencing since then.
Last week we had one of our biggest events of the year- and that is the February Feast! The February Feast is a big turkey dinner, similar to one you would see happening around Thanksgiving or Christmas. The Dale originally decided to do their big dinner this month because of the abundance of dinners already taking place during those holiday months, and since February can be a slow and difficult month, it brings something to look forward to!
This was the first one I’ve ever experienced and it was something special. We had an open mic, which gave us the privilege to hear a variety of music, poems, and stories. There was also a community art piece being painted at one of the tables. It felt like such a joyous time, with people hanging out all around the room, and staying late to hear all of the performances. I felt thankful to get to sit and enjoy the night without rushing to clean up. I loved chatting with friends and seeing them perform their songs I’ve heard them tell me a lot about.
This week, as you may already know, is the beginning of lent. For Shrove Tuesday (or as some call it- Pancake Day), some of The Dale church gathered together to go to another church in a nearby neighbourhood to celebrate. I felt so much joy in getting the chance to sit at a long table together, be served some delicious pancakes, and spend time with friends. It was a different experience to not be involved in preparing the meal, but it was freeing to enjoy fellowship as a group.
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19
If you know me, you would know that I struggle with public speaking. No matter the crowd- even in one of my small classes of six students in college- I was very nervous. Nevertheless I still end up doing public speaking a lot in my life and though it is a challenge, it always turns out to be worth it.
At The Dale on Mondays, we have a lunch program where we gather and create a large meal with the community and enjoy it together. It is one of our biggest programs as there can be over 100 people on an average Monday. It’s one of my favourite times of the week because I get to eat side by side with friends and make new ones as well.
Before passing the food around the room, a few announcements are shared by Erinn, Joanna, Pete, and I to the seated crowd. The first Monday that I was asked to announce the schedule for the week was quite the experience. When it was my turn to speak, the whole room went quiet, not just a hushed whisper kind of quiet, but an absolute silence, as if no one even dared to move.
It took me by surprise as I explained the schedule and tried my best to speak loudly so that they didn’t have to be so quiet. But, I realized, though my poor volume may have been part of the reason, they also were simply respecting a new speaker.
I talked to my co-worker Joanna about it and she described her first experience to be the same, saying “you could hear a pin drop in the room”.
I realized this more the next week I spoke because the community clapped when I finished announcing, which is not something they usually do during announcements. I felt encouraged and I think that was their motive. They know I’m a newbie so they did what they could to make me feel welcome.
Each day I show up to help, but I am always amazed by how much more the community helps me. I want to make sure people feel welcome in the space, but they do that for me in so many ways.
A new year can be deceiving. It comes with this idea of a fresh start, but the start of another day with a different name doesn’t erase what happened the weeks before.
During our first Monday drop-in of the year, I sat down at a table to join a group for lunch. As we chatted, I caught up on what went on in Parkdale over the holidays. It was a difficult conversation because a long list of names came up of how many people, friends, and family passed away in December. The hard truth I discovered is that the holidays are extra tough on the community.
Christmas songs and stories promise the joy of gifts, family, parties, laugher, etc. but that is not everyone’s reality. Instead, Christmas can put pressure on people, saying that it’ll be amazing, but that is a situation set up for a let down. Even I find myself stressed on the day of, worrying that it won’t be as good as it ‘should’.
To be honest, this year has started off feeling very heavy. I have been grappling with this idea of how to spend my time properly- how to spend it intentionally. It’s been a thought I’ve struggled with all my life in asking how can I be wise about my days? School used to fill my time, but now that I am ‘released’ into the world, I’m feeling that common post-grad struggle of “what do I do now?” and “how do I adult?” and “how do I live happily ever after?”
It often feels as though movies (especially Disney) come to this conclusion that your happiness is what matters the most. This idea was something I couldn’t agree with, and I’ve always been kind of mad about it. When life gets difficult, it causes a panic in people. Everything sad becomes sadder when your happiness is what matters the most in life.
It is comforting to know that I don’t need to always wonder what matters most, for it is explained in Matthew 22:36-39. Jesus says that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and that the second one is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, to my understanding, the Bible never mentions the importance of happiness for our gain, but instead throughout scripture I’ve found countless verses about rejoicing in who the Lord is.
Loving God and loving others can come with sadness, and I am learning to say “that’s ok”. I have only been at The Dale for about two months now, but regardless I have heard many stories of hurt and hardship, and though they make me sad, it is more important to walk alongside friends in love through it all, rather than searching for my own happiness.
There is one friend at The Dale, who mentions almost everyday that he is sad. I know that I cannot fix that, but what I can do is love him. I know that I cannot change the fact that many are dealing with the loss of loved ones right now, but I can love them. I know that God loves me unconditionally, so I can love others.
Now it has officially been more than a month since I started here at The Dale… and I really do love it!
There is something special about an open door. A space with an open invitation, open to anyone in the community, embracing them with open arms. Attitudes shift when you tell someone they are welcome, when maybe they are used to being pushed away or unwanted.
This month, I experienced a night of caroling that The Dale does throughout Parkdale, every year. It was a festive night, filled with hot chocolate, Christmas songs, and laughter. We were quite the mob as we clustered together to sing on street corners, outside the library, inside a restaurant, and a few other spots.
As we sang, some people in the community clapped, stared, took photos, but best of all- some joined us and sang along!
I loved being a part of this crowd, spreading joy, and welcoming growth to the group as we moved about; people from all walks of life all uniting to do the simple joyous task of singing carols.
Before we burst out into song on the streets, we gathered in a room to enjoy refreshments and chat. Erinn shared a bit about who The Dale is and, as she spoke, one phrase struck me; it was how she described people as having a “common humanity.”
It stuck out to me because that is the best way to describe it, this big picture that is missing in our culture. We all come from completely different backgrounds or lifestyles and yet we are still all united in this common humanity.
Our society tends to build these walls between people who are (in their mind) too different. This leads to the exclusion, ostracizing, and disregard for people. It feels as if there is this self righteousness that can be achieved- but in reality no one can achieve that, and as a result, people are left with pressure, stress, and hopeless.
In joining The Dale I learned how they like to go against the norm. The Dale opens its doors and says you are loved the way you are. It says you belong. And if that isn’t communicated well enough, if someone feels like there is still a barrier, it becomes our mission to remove it.
The truth is, we can’t achieve self righteousness. The Dale can say “you are worthy of love”, but only Jesus can make you righteous through faith in Him. As it is written in Philippians 3:9,
“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”
There is so much comfort in knowing that Jesus accomplished the impossible for me. So now, just as Jesus opened the door to a sinner like me, I’m excited to be a part of this ministry that holds the door open for everyone.
Since I am still just starting, I’m far from my fundraising goal. If you would like to help me financially, you can donate on thedale.org and specify in the comment box that you would like to support me. And again, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information!