Monthly Archives: October 2012

music from the streets

‘you’re lucky you’re married to God or else i’d scoop ya up’.

sister jovita (or sister jo, as she is usually called) hears this line several times a day down at the drop-in she helps run in the basement of a church. monday to friday her and other nuns in the city run an afternoon drop-in for the homeless; offering sandwiches, cookies, fresh coffee and a warm place to rest for a few hours. every man who has been to sister jo’s drop-in has fallen in love with her gentle nature, witty jokes and compassionate heart. it doesnt take too long talking to her to fall in love yourself.

i know this because it happened to me too. thats why when she asked me to come to the concert for the shining lights choir and help with security i couldnt say ‘no’.

i dont think she hears ‘no’ very often.

so i head down to st patricks church the next evening (saturday) for the concert. theres an amazing piper playing outside the church, greeting people as they enter the main doors. inside, a large throng of people mingle around the large catholic church waiting for the concert to begin. i run into norm, a street guy i know from grace street mission, who happens to be playing guitar for us tonight. hes an incredibly talented guitar player and song writer. im pumped to hear him perform. norm lives at one of the mens shelters around the corner and music is his passion; his therapy; his beautiful contribution to many peoples days. we catch up a bit before the concert begins and part ways with the tentative plan of grabbing coffee soon.

after a few lead up acts the shining lights choir comes on stage to perform. ive seen them before but the choir has grown a bit, with new faces in the crowd. leonard, having gone out for a smoke at the wrong time, rushes down the center aisle and finds his spot before the first song starts. leonard is one of the first guys i met on the streets here in halifax. his huge, half-toothed smiles always brought a big smile to my face, and his lame jokes that he thought so funny did as well. we share similar first nations roots and a love for pancakes with lots of maple syrup. leonard collects cans and bottles to supplement his meager social assistance cheque. he says hes happy with his life. the way he belts it out when he sing, i believe him.

the choir sings half a dozen songs and leaves to a standing ovation. you can see the giant smiles on their faces as they take their seats. encouragement and support from the community around you is an important thing. one of those most. the shining lights choir is getting a big dose of it on this night.

norm sits down with his guitar next and gives the crowd a short introduction to himself. the mic isnt working right so we dont hear it as well as we would like. the song he plays is an original ive heard him play a few times before at grace street. its powerful and real and makes me think he could write and play music for a living. he should and he probably would if his addiction would just let him go. he, too, leaves the stage to a rousing standing ovation.

regardless of the overall donations brought in that night, the night is a huge success, not because of some money figure reached but because authentic community was lived out and for that, no money figure can compare.

it was said by a famous composer that ‘music can change the world’. im not sure i believe that but i do believe that the music i witnessed last night changed a few peoples worlds last night.

one of those being mine.

thanks 🙂

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i cant remember the first time i met harry. i know it was while i worked at first united mission but the rest of the details arent there in me head. i wish they were..

harry didnt always remember who i was. his eye sight wasnt the best and 96% of the time he was drunk. but once he heard my voice he knew exactly who it was.

“hey youngster! what trouble you getting into?”

for some reason he always thought i was getting into trouble. maybe that was just his line for people younger than himself. ill never know. i usually explained to him that i was the one trying to keep him out of trouble. this would often lead to him telling me about his latest heist from the local supermarket or corner store. some times he still had his stolen prizes on him and would show off his haul. he would sell his stolen prizes for small amounts of money to buy mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. it was really sad seeing harry do that to himself. it was and still is sad to see anyone doing that to themselves.

his addiction came from a real place of hurt. harry had the very unfortunate opportunity of growing up in the residential school system for first nations children. unspeakable abuses committed on children whose only fault was being born aboriginal. emotional, physical and spiritual abuse conducted by government and clergy. its a sad and unfortunate past of canada that still remains swept under the rug, for the most part. it was the sad and unfortunate past that harry had to live with everyday.

alcohol was a way of coping.

three years ago, harry’s case, like many other residential school survivors at the time, had come up for evaluation. survivors were being given compensation for their shattered childhoods. a panel or board would hear their stories and decide how much money their abuses were worth.

can you believe that?!

is it just me that thinks that above the highest craziness?

how do you attach a monetary cost to pain? how do we possibly begin to quantify something like suffering?

anyways, harry was given a 6-figure sum of money. quite a lot of money to a man who lived on social assistance. too much money for a man struggling to contain an addiction that threatened to kill him.

it finally did kill him. my friend, harry lost the battle with his addiction and lost his life much sooner than he should have. another one of my friends left sooner than i was able to say goodbye. that really sucks.

harry, thanks for the laughter you brought into my life. that wont soon be forgotten.

rip harry.

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post numero 100

its been awhile again. not sure why i go through these writing dry spells. i think its a combination between being busy and lazy. bazy? maybe its just writers block.

we’ll go with that.

im not even sure where to start. a whole lot has gone on since i last wrote. well..

halifax street soccer just sent atlantic canada’s first player to the homeless world cup to rep canada. boo yah! ryan just finished his third game in mexico city and, from the sound of his emails and blog, he is having a blast. he deserves it. that kid has busted his butt for the past 6 months non-stop to get there.

the weekend before ryan left we hosted our first annual halifax street soccer tournament to raise money for ryan’s trip. 8 teams came out to compete for a giant trophy and a $500 cash first prize. some amazing street soccer was played. our guys got a taste of the talent level in the city (very good!) and everyone had a lot of fun. im already getting messages asking when the next tournament is going to be.

what else..

i moved. got myself a nice basement apartment. to go along with it i got a cat. i named him moses. he is crazy as all heck. im partially allergic but im trying to convince myself that ill get past it. its gotten a bit better but im starting to think allergies dont work the way i want them to. go figure.

my second non-profit organization is close to launching soon! lighthouse street newspaper will be created to ‘provide employment and a voice for the homeless and poor while shining a light on social justice issues, working towards a community without poverty’. a community writing program is being set up to develop writers and also help with literacy among a select demographic. vendors will be taught how to sell the street paper and develop salesman and saleswoman skills. writing pieces, art and poetry has already started coming in. we are just waiting on a good printing company now. cross your fingers for us.

thats about catches you up to speed.

hope you are all doing well and having a happy thanksgiving.


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