Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So Cold

I should be getting to bed, I mean really - I have to get up to teach class at 600 tomorrow morning. However, it's been another great but troubling night at the Mustard Seed, and I always feel better when I write my thoughts down.

It was probably around -25 when I arrived, and thankfully at 630 the staff decided to let everyone inside. They were so grateful to just be able to sit at a table out of the cold. We served at our usual 700, and by the time 800 rolled around my feet were frozen and my hands could hardly give out the plates. There were a lot of regulars who didn't show up tonight - I hope that wherever they were, they were warm.

By 945, with 15 minutes until closing, everyone seemed to have a forlorn look on their face - of course they didn't want to go back out into the cold. Many blankets were given out, meals were served outside (which isn't normally done), and a few people let were let in who normally wouldn't have been. There was one young guy in particular who was so obviously intoxicated, but he wasn't causing any trouble, so I didn't see any need to report him to the staff. In hindsight maybe I was lucky he didn't cause any trouble, but I couldn't bear the thought of him wandering around in the cold any longer than he had to.

And as always, I am left of thoughts of certain people and wondering what they did when they left: The young kid who started coming last week, all of 18 or 19 years old but so polite, and in another world he would be hanging out at a University or College and having the time of his life. This young boy who looks like he could be a model, but for some reason is hanging out in the inner city with nowhere to go. Then there's Sheldon, with his mop of curly hair and his sarcastic attitude, who said he would sing karaoke tonight but didn't quite make it in. I remember a few months ago when someone asked him to go to McDonald's and he just replied, "No money." I hope he's warm somewhere tonight. And the tall guy whose name I still don't know, the guy who calls me KJ, and every night he leaves with his big thermos and four tea bags, and I wonder where he goes to drink that tea.

At FPU last night we discussed what we would do if we could do anything and money was no object. It was interesting - one class member would run a pet store, one a junk yard, and one would keep singing his heart out. I wasn't going to share my plan, but they asked, and I responded that I would build a homeless shelter where people could eat three meals a day and stay for the night. It would be big enough so that no one would ever be turned away, and there would always be lots of donuts at coffee time. Then I wouldn't have to come home and worry about people being left out on the street in -25 weather - they would always have a bed to sleep in, and they would always have a full belly.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tim Horton's Coffee

I hate coffee - I'm proud to admit that I am one of the few people in our culture who does not start the day with caffeine and I ridicule the drive-thru lineups at Tim Horton's (I counted 10 cars in line at about 850 this morning - my record is 13, scoff scoff). I tried to drink coffee once in University after staying up all night at a residence party, but it was awful (is 7-11 coffee typically awful? I don't know.) and I have never drank a cup again. Every once in a while I try Scott's coffee, but it's just a reminder that the stuff is bad, bad, bad.

(As a side note - I have tried iced coffee slushes that are so loaded with cream and sugar that of course they taste good, but I'm too cheap to get addicted to those and I don't want to waste the calories only to end up climbing the walls as I try to fall asleep later!).

So how can I explain the fact that, since a Tim Horton's opened in Devon, I have tried Scott's coffee a couple of times (large triple triples - gah!), and my brain has actually thought, "Hey, I could drink this stuff!". Nevermind the cream and sugar calories, the loaded caffeine, the rumours of msg in the coffee (unsubstantiated, of course), my brain still seems to want a Tim Horton's Coffee. It doesn't want a Mac's coffee or a Fas Gas coffee, but hey, if I was seen drinking a Tim Horton's coffee, I'd finally be one of the cool kids!


It is amazing what the advertising juggernaut has done to our psyches, including my logical coffee-hating psyche, to the point where I would actually consider purchasing a coffee at Tim Horton's. I can somewhat understand the drive-thru lineups now, although come on people, half the time there are five or ten cars in the drive-thru and no one in the restaurant!!

If this is a small example of the effect of advertising on our purchasing power, it's no wonder we've become a must-have-it-now-who-cares-about-the-cost society. It's no wonder we're riddled in debt and no one really seems to care if they dig their way out. After all, the government will bail us out, right?

Do we even have a chance?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mr. Bailey

Over six years ago, on July 18, 2004, I walked through the front doors of Devon Alliance Church and was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Maria Bailey. What struck me was the way I was greeted - not just a token handshake and smile, but they physically moved towards me and welcomed me into the church with loving handshakes and sincere kindness. Mr. Bailey asked me my name, and if I was related to the Matthews family across the river (which I'm not), and each week they greeted us tirelessly and whole-heartedly. They represented everything that a Christ-loving couple should be.

As Elizabeth grew older she would sit with me in the sanctuary, and often would dance as we worshipped before the service. Mr. Bailey always made a point of greeting her in a grandfatherly way, saying, "There's my dancer! Are you going to dance for me again?" As she grew older she didn't dance in that carefree three year old way, but he always mentioned it, even the last time she saw him a few months ago. Sometimes I wonder if she reminded him of his own granddaughters, as they have very curly hair just as Elizabeth does. There was just such fondness in his voice for a little girl whose name he may not have even known.

Mrs. Bailey died a couple of years ago, and after that Mr. Bailey seemed to lose a bit of his energy. He still came to church regularly, drove himself, and I'll never forget the last time I saw him at church, and he was walking slowly, and he left by himself and moved gingerly down the sidewalk towards his car. I thought of walking up beside him and wishing him a good day, but I didn't - I just watched him and respected him as he carried on with life without his beloved Maria.

I read in the bulletin a few weeks ago that Mr. Bailey was in the hospital, and then with extreme sadness read a note from the kids' school announcing his passing on October 31, 2010. I didn't realize he had been so ill - I thought he'd just bounce back, and I cried with the realization that I would never see him again.

His funeral was today, and it was regal and appropriate, as his legion family joined with his blood family and honored a man who did so much for this world. The old hymns were lovely, and I had forgotten what it felt like to sing them. No wonder the senior members of our church miss them so much. A former Pastor of our church delivered a ten minute sermon that was so powerful - I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation. He asked us if we were saved, and if we were following Jesus, asking in a way that made me want to live a Godly life like never before. I can't fully explain why he moved me so profoundly - he just did, and I long to hear him preach again, but he is likely retired.

It's been a busy day, and the kids were so good at the funeral that I was amazed (someone even commented on it as we left!). I'm left with great memories of Mr. Bailey and an observation of an amazing legacy that has God at the very centre. It's so sad to see people of such character pass out of our world, but inspires us to be exactly as they were.

Goodbye Mr Bailey!