Monthly Archives: December 2010

late christmas thoughts

christmas came and went pretty fast. i barely recognized it when it came. almost too fast. almost.

ron, my jolly newfie buddy got asked to be santa clause during the holidays. he was pumped to show me the pictures while we waited for christmas breakfast at the mission. you could tell it made his christmas to be asked. small thing to someone else but an awful big honor for ron. he told me how the old ladies at the nursing home kept flirting with him. i asked him whatd he do. “just like santa would do, ” he said, “flirted right back”. another one of the guys told him the halifax housing agency found him a good apartment to live in. he has to wait a couple more weeks but you couldnt miss the smile on his face. getting out of the shelter and back on his own was worth its weight in gold. then some.

as for me, i rang in christmas watching animal house with some dudes at the shelter with cookies and milk. there werent too many guys there which was nice to see. meant that most of them were probably spending it with family or friends, or at least i hope. spent the rest of my day sleeping, eating turkey with a friends family and watching my celtics get beat. 14 game win streak down the tubes. thanks a lot, santa. jerk. ill forgive you if we win the championship this year. deal?

when i went back into work on christmas night (low-supply of staff right now) couple of the guys were still up and about. i wished one of the guys merry christmas as he passed me in the hall. his response was a bit different from all the other people i had told that day. a fair bit intoxicated he barked back at me through slurred speech, “christmas is a crock of shit!” i offered him some apple juice and he told me he’d prefer coke. handing him his cup of coke i inquired about his ill feelings towards the christmas holidays. he triumphantly proclaimed that he wasnt religious and saw no point in celebrating a mythical person named jesus.

christmas pwned.

i asked him why he believed jesus was just, like he said, “some made up dude people created to make them feel better about themselves”. he explained to me his understanding of religion and how bad it was. how religion only separates people, causes wars and depressions. he believed that if we just got rid of religion we would be far better off.

i nodded in agreement with him. religion certainly does breed some of the worst behaviors and actions in us. it gives way to pride, self-righteousness, joylessness and despair. he nodded enthusiastically.

i explained to him that the jesus he didnt believe ever existed, and him had something in common – they both hated religion. he paused for a moment and with  a curious look on his face he asked, “really?!”

darn rights. jesus spent a lot of his time speaking out against religious authorities. he was constantly getting into trouble with them because he spoke out against their religiosity and hypocrisy. at one point he called them white-washed tombs. to their faces. not exactly a compliment. in the end he was crucified at their hands. funny or sad, depending how twisted your humor is, he would probably have something scathing to say to most of our present churches.

so dude asks me, ” why did jesus start a religion then? if he hated it so much why start christianity?” fair enough question. i told him he didnt. his purpose was never to start another religion nor did his disciples. its what we eventually made of it. because of our desire to control everything, we turned christianity into a religious system with checklists, rules and self-righteousness. i explained that real christianity wasnt about religion but about redemption through relationship with God.

“ive never heard that before”.

most havent.

he asked a few more questions over another cup of coke, like ‘were santa and jesus buddies?’ (of course), and stumbled his way to bed.

already preparing for the easter bunny talk with him. maybe ill bring in some caramilk eggs. mmm.

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christmas love

paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of LOVE will endure.


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its almost that time of year

i knew when i opened my eyes that i was late. i hadnt even looked at the clock yet. i just knew. a quick bowl of cereal and a nutri-grain bar later and im out the door. forty-five minutes late for a work meeting is usually a bad start to any day. fortunately for me the people i work with at the shelter are pretty relaxed. im also very fortunate to have no real boss. its true.

above us in st matthews sanctuary the annual memorial day for the homeless was being set up with a ctv media setup and everything. quite a spectacle. a large group of people poured in through the large arched church doors to be a captive audience for the memorial.  im not sure if the media cameras spent more time filming the speakers and ceremony as they did of scanning the crowd for the who’s who.  it was obvious to the keen observer that many people there only cared to be there because it looked good for them to be there.  this observation did not elude the attention of one of the more passionate speakers.

about ten speakers went up to share, slotted between traditional hymns sung by the choir and followed by a candle lit ceremony. the presentation was great. the dead were greatly honored and genuinely remembered in all fullness. a street nurse shared here story, a couple local pastors, a buddhist, a first nations drummer and singer, and an imam from the local mosque. it was the imam who stole the show with his passion and boldness. when he started with, “i know what im about to say is going to ruffle some feathers but i see no other way”, i knew we were in for a treat. he remembered the lost by shaming those that promised to help but didnt. he shamed those that said one thing and did nothing. he questioned how a supposed civilized nation such as canada could still have so many people marginalized on the fringes of society with such little help. its a damn good question, i think. the cameras went off and out of the sanctuary.

priceless.  their hypocrisy had been exposed. 

i remembered mona. her big chubby cheeks and bigger heart.

i remembered randy too. thought about ice-cube catch and tahoe tours.

made my heart ache. i miss those two..

6pm at brunswick mission was another annual event – the brunswick christmas dinner party. about fifty guys from the community showed up for a homecooked christmas dinner along with some presents and christmas games. pastor brad had been responsible for the entertainment at the party but a late date change caused his sons birthday to overlap so he had to bow out. in a of stroke of brilliance or naivety (id personally like to think brilliance) he delegated the responsibility to myself and one of my friends, laura-lee. it took some coaxing but laura-lee and i were able to get the guys involved and playing. we broke out some christmas trivia, played a few rounds of christmas scategories and got artsy with some play-doh and a contest of make-up-whatever-you-want-but-make-it-look-good. it was a pretty rad time to say the least. 

i have the play-doh until brad asks for it back. im going to see how creative i still am 😉

rest in peace, mona, randy and all my other friends whose lives were cut far too short. i miss you.

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thanks, narayanan

i just came across this video after one of my friends posted it online. if only more of us thought about our purpose in life the same way.  imagine that world..

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tahoe randy

randy lived in his tahoe, often choosing to park it on the adjacent streets to east hastings. i first met randy years back while i was bartending with joe (my best friend) downtown. he loved his tequila sunrises and liked the way i made them. probably because he could sucker me into pouring him a little extra.

id be lying if i said i knew randy’s age. most guys on the street i never asked. there were always more important or interesting questions to ask. if i had to though id guess randy was about late 40’s to early 50’s. he always wore a ‘native pride’ ball cap, cowboy boots and a vest that didnt match the rest of his apparel at all. he either didnt care or didnt notice. i dont think he really bothered to care about such trivial things. thats why i liked him so much.

i used to throw ice at him from across the bar. he would threaten to throw his drink at me and id wait to till he turned around to throw another one. one time he followed through. i learnt my lesson that day. we laughed then about it and did so for months afterwards.

walking down east hastings one day he pulled up beside me and told me to hop into the tahoe. i obliged. he threw me a cowboy hat and offered me a beer. i took the hat and declined the beverage. more for him, he said. behind the front seats sat his worldly possessions, or what was left of them. it made me sad to see that he lived out of his truck but he lived life with such a big smile that i was more inclined to smile with him than dwell on the negative.

joe called me the other day to tell me randy had passed from this world to the next..

rest in peace, randy. ill miss you, brother..

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out of the cold..


i cant seem to find the words lately to write. i know theyre there but getting them down on to some paper or a screen seems like a battle. for someone who needs to write (it may be the only medication available for my type of insanity) this is a rather unfortunate predicament. even these words seem forced and unnatural. i can only assume my heart and mind have heavier things weighing on them than my need to write. or maybe my insanity just needs more attention.

contrary to what i might be telling myself, working 3 jobs may be catching up with me. ive gotten ‘ you look tired’ more lately than i care to admit. i like to just think it has to do with being awake when its dark and sleeping through the sun. am i just lying to myself? probably. dad told me hes going to send me something for my sleep apnea so im praying that fixes my faded exterior a bit. if not, maybe i need to reorganize.

last night was a tough wrap up to 3 shift stretch of graveyards at the out of the cold shelter. the shelter is an emergency space for people unable to access other housing or shelter space in the city. because of limited space and liability issues, we’re only able to accommodate 15 people a night, even though we have space for many more. last night i had to deny 5 men who were trying to escape the rapidly dropping temperature, but not before filling their pockets full of food, their bags full of blankets and warm clothes, and tim hortons cards so they could sit somewhere warm for a while. to say there arent enough beds in this city for the homeless is an understatement. a gross understatement. im not sure what we’re going to do when january comes and the real cold temperatures hit. when do peoples lives become more important than liabilities?

jason came by a few times trying to access the shelter. him and i have been hanging out a lot lately while im at work. the cocktail of medication drugs hes prescribed for his schizophrenia doesnt allow him to sleep very long, or so he tells me. i like to think its because i make a mean cup of coffee. either way, jason and i have become fast friends. he tells me everything i ever wanted to know about music (and then some!) and i keep the coffee flowing. its a good relationship. when he tried to access the third time, he looked tired, cold and hungry. i parked him in one of the beat up old sofa chairs for a minute while i grabbed some food and coffee to warm him back up. he was snoring by the time i came back. i asked my volunteer staff, john, if he had a problem with ‘bending’ some rules. he didnt and neither did i. jason stayed.

daryl, who suffers from a similar metal illness, woke up looking for some coffee and conversation. probably the smartest intellect ive met on the streets and quite possibly ever.  no exaggeration!  his ideas on life and questions concerning everything else associated with it made me think harder than i cared to at 5 in the morning but it was refreshing nonetheless. im still trying to wrap my mind around the zero-gravity black hole theory he was trying to explain to me. hopefully ill have an answer for him when we talk next.

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gimme shelter


im beat. long day at the new shelter. met the new crew ill be working with and about 80 dudes that call turning point ‘home’. sat with johnny early this morning and talked life. gave me an excuse to take a break from reading all the policies and guidelines. so much paper.. he educated me on halifax. a well-needed lesson. mitchell was ‘pumped’ (his words, not mine) to make my first day a tough one. he wouldnt leave me alone. to be fair, he didnt leave any of us alone. it was a wonder he could breathe between the 300 words a minute he spoke. third lung? then there was dan. first thing dan tells me is that hes never going to remember my name. emphasis on the ‘never’. he told me that he only remembers numbers. names arent his thing. i tell him my name is 5. he smiled and i said ‘checkmate’. dude wore a great leather hat! im going to google a hard math problem before my next shift. watch out, dan!

all in all, it was a great day. however, it really made me miss the shelter back in vancouver. way more than i anticipated.

i recently started talking with my friend jenn again. she was the secretary/everything-woman at the shelter back home. easily one of the coolest moms ever and an overall fantastic human being. her love and compassion for the people living at first united was second to none there. so, she calls me the other night and we catch up. she brings me up to speed on everyone at the shelter – their victories, their defeats, their problems, their lives. jimmy has been sober for almost 2 months!! brings a smile to my face just writing it. jimmy was ‘dad’ at the shelter. he adopted me not too long after i began working there, calling me ‘son’ every time he saw me. so i started calling him ‘dad’. the relationship only grew closer. to hear hes sober and healthy makes my year. that may even be an understatement.

i told her to say hi to people for me and throw around some hugs. she texts me after the fact and the stories are about enough to make a weak man like me cry. its pretty cool that even though theres a country’s distance between us, the love and respect is still  there.  the friendship is still there.   thats what we look our whole lives for, isnt it? real love and friendship.

thanks, jenn. you may have made me miss home a lot more but at least you did it with a smile on my face 🙂

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