Monday, November 29, 2010

The Divine in each of us

One would give generous alms if one had the eyes to see the beauty of a cupped receiving hand. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My friend, Diane Walker over at Contemplative Photograph wrote yesterday about "seeing God in everything".

I have struggled over the past few days to stay balanced in 'seeing God in everything' amidst all the goings on at the shelter where I work. There is a lot of pain and sorrow when hundreds of people in need gather together and I have struggled to stay unattached to the pain so that I am open to the promise -- of lives shifting, changing, opening up. Of lives lived, not lost.

Recently, at a talk I gave about the shelter a man stopped me mid-sentence and said, "I'm sorry. Could you repeat that please? How many people do you sleep a night?"

"On average, 1150. We're funded to sleep up to 1220."

His jaw dropped. He looked at me in shock. "1220. That's depressing."

"What if we look at it differently? What if it isn't that 1220 people sleep in our care, it is that 1220 people, who otherwise might not make it through the night safely, wake up in the morning and have the breath to take another step? And another. 1220 people have the opportunity to wake up to a new day where, if they can keep waking up they may one day awaken to find their courage, strength, whatever it takes to make different choices has awoken with them?"

It's all in our perspective.

And still, sometimes I struggle.

This past weekend, on Saturday, I was at the shelter for the Christmas WishList interviews. Both my daughters and a boyfriend came to help out as did five other people. They were busy. Men and women lined up waiting for a chance to share their story, to ask for that one thing that will make Christmas morning a time to remember, a special time, a link to time's past when they were surrounded by family and friends, sharing in the fellowship and harmony of this special time of year.

I struggle sometimes with the sadness in people's eyes, the loss of those they love, the loss of themselves. I struggle and want to cry. Stop. Stop it. Stop doing what you're doing.

But it is not my place to stop them. It is my place to hold them in loving eyes, to hold that space open where they can be, who they are, as they are. It is my place to see the divine in each of them. Because for most of the people we serve, they have lost their sense of wonder, their sense of awe in the miracle of their lives. And they will never awaken to the possibility of their greatness as long as I see them as lost causes and hopeless cases.

We held the Christmas WishList interviews and tears were shed and hearts were touched and minds were opened. One man my eldest daughter Alexis interviewed pressed a twenty dollar bill into her hands at the end of the interview and asked her to please make sure someone gets it who really needs it.

She cried after that. I told him he didn't have to do that, she said. But he wanted to. He wanted to give something back.

And then, on Sunday, we held our annual art show and sale at Wild Rose United Church. It was, as it has been every time for the past five years, a very special event. A time when parishioners and people from the community gather together to celebrate in fellowship the creative outpourings of those who call the shelter home.

And as with every year for the past five, someone in our group was asked to light the first Advent Candle -- the Candle of HOPE.

David had the honour this year. He is a 19 year old man who came to the shelter in June because, as he says, he was no longer safe where he was. As David told his story, eyes teared up and hearts melted. Abuse. Alcohol. Drugs. Violence. All of it were in his family of origin. All of it filled his young life. And yet, David didn't whine. He didn't say, woe is me, pity me, ain't life the pits.

David was forthright and open. I found a place to call home at the shelter, he said. I found a place where people are willing to give me the opportunity to better myself. A place where people care.

David wants to be a chef. He's working towards his high school diploma. He's working at a construction job to earn money to be able to afford going back to school. And in his spare time, he likes to keep busy by participating in the Possibilities Project. A joint initiative with Wild Rose United church, the Possibilities Project overs clients a space and place and opportunity to explore their creative essence through art, drama, writing, music.

I'm grateful for this place where I can meet other artists and be encouraged and do my thing, said David. It's fun and the people are really great, and he laughs his youthful laugh and grins his boyish grin.

"Oh, and PS," he adds at the end of his talk, "I've got Christmas cards for sale on my table at the art show. Come take a look." Wink wink. "And buy them."

And everyone laughs and everyone came and took a look and all of his cards were sold.

Lots of art was sold by the artists gathered in the Fellowship Hall at Wild Rose United Church where 'radical hospitality' is the first principle of their ministry. Lot of art was sold. Lots of stories told and lots of memories made as we gathered together to celebrate the best of what everyone had to offer.

It was a day of magic. Of wonder. Of fellowship and kindness. Of people connecting through the spirit of giving. Of people opening up through sharing their beauty and wonder on the field of greatness that is the magnificence and the miracle of the human being in the eyes of God.

Just as it should be through all our eyes. Human beings of magnificence. Miracles of life. It is when I remember to see the promise, not the pain, of the people we serve that I am touched once again by the beauty and wonder of the human being. By the joy and gifts of a world of abundance opening up all around me.

And it is in those moments when I see the miracle of the world around me that I am touched by the Divine. Open to the sacredness of every being, every element, every moment of my life.

And in those moments of wonder I know, I am blessed.


I didn't start writing this piece as an entry for the One Word Blog Carnival -- but... fellowship was/is such a part of what Wild Rose United Church offers up. Fellowship is integral to our art show and sale every year the first Sunday of Advent at the church.

And "Fellowship" is this week's One Word Blog Carnival prompt!

and so... here it is. My contribution to the One Word Blog Carnival -- the links won't go live until tonight. I'll be adding my piece because -- well just because it's fun and a great way to connect and share in all that is magnificent about us human beings doing what we do best -- being ourselves!

Click on over the Bridget Chumbley's place later tonight or tomorrow and have a read of the wonder and magic you'll find there!


Joyceann Wycoff said...

I'm with the questioner. 1200?! One shelter in one city in one country ... what an amazing thought. This morning Diane Walker at Contemplative Photographer asked what we would say "yes" to today and I answered that I would believe that we would find ways to solve our problems. I'm going to have to believe a little harder.

S. Etole said...

I thank God that your heart is open to serve in this way ... and for the gift that you are. said...

I think it's good to remember we don't have to choose; that all of it is true, the tragedy and the wonder of 1200 people who have found a place to sleep are all held there together; all those lives -- and yours -- shifting and changing... Thank you for being there, and seeing, and sharing.

Glynn said...

So much human need, and how often it is so easy to meet it, yet we walk on. Good post, Louise. My ears are burning.

caryjo said...

Amazing to see how many people are walking through your life on a daily basis and touching your heart and... you touching theirs.

A true blessing.

Brandi said...

I always encouraged my volunteers, in years past, to shake the hands of the clients they interviewed for the Wish list....even a simple hand shake can make a difference.
I love what you do to make a difference in this world - you are pretty special, my friend!

Hazel I Moon said...

I applaud that young man who was brave enough to leave his home where there was no potential for life. His was a wise decision and he put muscle to his choice, by taking a job, and also having a small business (selling greeting cards.) Your shelter may sleep 1200 but they receive fellowship as well as a bed !!