a lament

no one teaches us to cry. most of us come into this world wailing and shouting, though maybe for reasons we can’t seem to remember. a critical word, a push into the muddy puddle, not getting what we want. whether we’re a two-year old still learning the in’s and out’s of navigating stairs and chairs or a 70 year old doing much the same, pain and hurt never seems far away.

but why?  why the tears? why the sadness that pricks at us in so many different ways?

it seems silly to hold on to this feature any longer.

i’d much prefer to delete it like a poorly formed sentence with poorly ordered words. i want to send it on its way and move on without it. i’ve outgrown my use for it.

when we feel really sad why do we call it depression?

there is nothing depressed about the feeling of sadness that i feel about the world in which i live. those feelings are not depressed, dull or lifeless, but heightened and stimulated. there’s pain there, but where there is pain there is life.

for that much i am thankful.

the world seems very unjust to me. i don’t understand what i am seeing, what i am hearing and reading. violence everywhere. violence with our hands or violence with our words is still violence done. it’s all damaging. mind, body and soul damaging. emotional wounds are just as painful as physical ones. maybe more painful. the wounds inflicted on the soul are the worst.

unadulterated and unfiltered reality perplexes me.

why is there so much evil?

yes, evil.

injustice is evil. oppression is evil. slavery, theft, murder, greed, loneliness, lies, all is evil.

these things gnaw at my frail inner man. they laugh and slander and boast about their ways.
how i long to see

a righteous anger builds inside of me. a flame of intense heat that grows larger with each deep breath. i only need to fuel it and watch it grow. i’m not sure what i’ll do with it yet but i believe i’ll know when the time comes.

maybe you reading this have a flame inside, too?

i’d sure like some company.

citofinjustice

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little by little

i got promoted at my job not long ago.

cue applause and ‘congratulations!’ banner.

ok, it’s not as special as it seems. i’m still working as a mental health counselor and my job description has not changed a bit. the only difference now is more hours.

not as glamorous as the opening line suggests, eh?

more hours means more time spent with my clients and that’s a pretty awesome perk since they’re pretty awesome. they all make me laugh, think, feel and understand. it’s some of the best living i do. we get to live life together and experience the up’s and the down’s.

the up’s can be really good. there’s a treasure chest of reward helping people live better lives. i often wonder who is getting more from our interactions – them or me.

but the down’s can be bad. deep and dark at times. at times it’s hard to remind myself of the up’s when the down’s are pretty depressing. i don’t feel this way for long, as things change pretty rapidly.

frustration.

psychosis frustrates me. it gets under my skin more than i care to admit it. i’m supposed to be used to it’s ways by now, right? i’ve been working with dozens and dozens of people who dealt with psychosis. this is nothing new to me.

it frustrates me more today than it ever did before.

why?

i’m not sure. i’m writing right now to figure that out.

i search my brain’s data banks from my psychology studies in university hoping to find the answers i want. nothing. i comb online psych journals looking for a glimmer of hope.

still nothing.

i know the things people say when they are experiencing a psychotic episode isn’t really them. i know this. i know that the insults, threats and names that are spoken aren’t coming from their heart but from their delusions and disjointed thoughts. i know they don’t mean what they say.

i know all this and still it frustrates me.

there is no reasoning with psychosis.

maybe that’s my problem. maybe that’s what frustrates me so much. maybe my own understanding of mental health needs to change then.

i want to be able to compartmentalize everything in my life. there’s a sense of control in that. when everything fits nicely into it’s little box that feels comfortable.

control and comfort.

pride and selfishness?

i can’t compartmentalize mental health, especially not psychosis. that’s what probably bothers me so much. there’s no comfort and there is definitely no control over it. psychosis operates on it’s own terms and doesn’t care a rip about anything else. it doesn’t care about the mind it is corrupting and the negative feelings it is causing, both in the host and the surrounding people.

one of my client’s struggles with psychosis. i can seen the pain on their face as they struggle to understand and be understood in a confusing world full of delusion and debilitating paranoia. i see and feel the anger that is born from their cognitive difficulties to piece together the disjointed reality thrown at them.

even though they have many people around them on a day-to-day basis – family, friends, support workers – i can still see the loneliness on their face.

and it eats me up inside little by little..

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binding together

it’s 2:47am when i check my phone to see what time it is again. i told myself that if i wasn’t asleep in 20 minutes that i was getting up out of bed. i hate nothing more than lying in bed when i can’t sleep. tonight is a bit different though. i’m a bit more lenient on myself and give it another 20.my mind is naturally consumed with the next day’s events and struggling a bit to calm down. it’s not everyday you wake up and get married.

the night had started off with the wedding rehearsal. it was a beautiful august day with not a cloud in the sky (slight foreshadowing here). both of our families plus our wedding parties came together to bbq, get to know one another and rehearse the ceremony.

joe, my best friend and bestman, had flown the whole way across the country with his wife (stacy) and daughter (zaria) to stand by my side. tonight he was more interested in showing me a good time before i got married then doing the whole family festivities thing. along with chris (another best friend from highschool), peter (my uncle) and valentin (my street soccer partner),

we packed up and left as soon as the rehearsal was done to get back into town to get the bachelor party started.

actually, bachelor party #2, but that’s another story..

stand-up comedy at just for laughs had us peeing our pants for roughly two hours. then massive donairs filled our bellies and gave us the requisite energy to make it through the rest of the evening. several pubs and restaurants were visited, great conversation was had and everyone made it home relatively early safe and sound.

this may sound like a lame bachelor party to some of my readers but spending time with some of my favorite people in the world and just having good conversation over a few beers suits me just fine.

morning comes..

ok, my vows are done but they’re typed out on the computer. still need to type them out by hand. first i need to eat.

no food at my place. crap! haven’t bought groceries much lately since we are going on our honeymoon pretty soon after the wedding. breakfast will be not be at home.

joe decided to sleep at my apartment last night. he’s still snoring logs when i wake up.

“joe.”

“ya?”

“let’s go eat waffles and sausages.”

pause.

“lead the way.”

like kindred spirits (or something like that) we head for smitty’s.

food was great but unfortunately, when you eat lots of waffles and sausages you tend to get sleepy afterwards. and with no time to nap this wasn’t going to go over well.

ok, i’ll go workout at the gym. that always seems to give me some more energy and i’ll look even better on my wedding day.

vain? probably but who isn’t a little on their wedding day?

it works. workout = more energy.

stacy drops off some things to my wedding. she has been one of the most supportive and encouraging people in my life for the past 6 years of my life. crazy big heart inside of her that just wants to help other people. she imparts some wisdom and encouraging words and leaves.

uncle mike, chris and joe are already in the hotel room getting ready when i arrive. peter is held up at home but coming shortly. i give the guys their groomsmen gifts: cigars for later that night and colorful dress socks for us all to wear.

man hugs all around.

pants and shirt on, reaching for the suspenders..

my vows!

i still have to write them out by hand. i sit down at the desk and pull up my vows on my phone. because kat is long-winded at times we agreed that we would keep the vows we wrote to only 3 paragraphs. well, this time the roles were reversed. mine barely fit onto both side of the hotel scribbler pad. oops.

she’s going to have a good laugh about this.

into my breast pocket for safe keeping and the vows are taken care of. we finish getting ready and pack up. i check the weather app on my phone to see what the sometimes-right-often-times-wrong weather network is guestimating.

bloody rain.

the grey clouds out the window of the hotel don’t say anything to me that would suggest rain is out of the question.

our wedding ceremony is supposed to be beside a lake. no rain cover.

it can’t rain. it won’t rain. i start making deals with God silently in my head.

i jump into val’s car with joe. chris is driving his car crammed with stuff and peter is grabbing the family.

“i’m hungry,” i say, fishing for an idea from one of the other guys.

“whoppers?”

that last whopper from burger king as a bachelor may have been one of the best burgers i’ve ever had. it alone convinced me that today was going to be an extra special day.

back in the car and heading to hatfield farms to get me a wife.

rain drops start hitting the windshield. it’s starts light and picks up speed. i think about how this is going to change some things that i really didn’t want to have changed. i think about some potential smaller problems this might cause.

my mind goes into damage control mode.

the rain stops.

we pull up to hatfield and get out of the car. nothing. no rain.

maybe it just blew over and now it was gone.

maybe that was the worst of it..

 

(to be continued)

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got married and stuff

something pretty big happened since the last time i blogged. i put a ring on this really pretty girl’s finger and she said ‘i do’. we kissed to make it legit and then got in the back of a horse and carriage and rode away. it was pretty awesome.

i’m a husband now.

whoa.

i wonder if my writing will change now that i’m a married man? it’s possible, i suppose. i read somewhere by some author i can’t remember that marriage matures men more than school, sports, education and war. or at least it should.

more maturity should mean better writing, no?

here’s hoping.

for our honeymoon we flew down to honduras where kat had worked in an orphanage five years ago. she already knew many of the amazing sites so i had a semi built-in tour guide (espanol and all). ziplinig, white water rafting, open water diving, mopeding down dirt coastline roads – we had a lot of fun.

we met some amazing people, too.

one guy we met had his whole life turned upside down 4 years earlier. elmer grew up on the island of roatan hoping for something better than the west end of the island had to offer. what he got was a bad addiction to crack cocaine and many failures that led him to tie a rope around his neck and stand on top of a pile of unsteady cinder blocks. but the rope wouldn’t hold on the tree. he had failed again.

thankfully.

he gave his life to God shortly after, crediting him with his lease on life. in return he committed to making his community a better place for everyone. he’s now involved in public schools teaching children the harmful effects of drug use, gang life and violence. he helps to support local orphanages and sports programs that help the children on the island.

truly inspiring man. the world needs more like him.

thanks, honduras. you made our honeymoon perfect.

we’re back home now and settled into our apartment. amalgamating our lives together has been trickier than i had anticipated. moving things in, rearranging where things go, selling stuff on kijiji, more rearranging, etc, etc. through it all we still haven’t killed each other.

that’s love.

a big thanks to all my friends and family for all their love and support. you all made our wedding the best day possible.

 

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back from the dead

for the first couple days all i could go on were the stories i had heard others tell me. anxiety began setting in a bit, though the anger stood front and center and ready for action. my mind has functioned the same way for so long. you hurt mine and i will hurt you.

my blood boiled inside of my veins.

then i finally saw him.

bruised, bashed, beaten and broken.

before today, dave looked every bit the homeless man he was. he even shuffled his feet in the stereotypical way you might a imagine a beggar doing so. his unruly hair and unmanaged beard also fit the stereotype. he collected cigarettes butts from bus stops to gather up enough tobacco to roll his own cigarettes. his fingernails and teeth stained yellow and brown from his habit.

but that was only dave’s outer appearance. you can’t even come close to judging dave’s book by examining his cover. what he may appear to lack on the outer shell, he more than makes up for inside.

i’ve known dave for almost 3 years now. met him through a few of the other street guys i was working with at the time. dave had told me about the hassles the local police had been given him for panhandling. they had barred him from panhandling in a certain area that was a big money-maker for him. instead of listening to the police, he continued to go back to the spot and work his ‘trade’. a man’s gotta eat.

eventually the police began giving him ridiculously priced fines knowing full well that he couldn’t and wouldn’t pay them. our tax dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen of halifax.

dave and i began to hang out and talk on a frequent basis. it didn’t take long for me to realize that dave was a genius. he knew his way around computers like he had created them. his understanding of philosophical and economic matters made me a bit envious at times. geography, history, psychology, sociology, physics – you name it, dave knew it.

and all this without a shred of arrogance or pride.

humble as a hummingbird.

“you are still alive,” i say as i sit down beside him at the table.

“they don’t know how but ya, i am.”

dave’s arm is in a sling overtop of a blue hospital shirt, resting on the left arm of his new wheelchair. his eyes are both blood-shot and his face is a mess, to say the least. his left eye is worse where they hit him with a large rock. dried blood lines his ears and nostrils.

my blood pressure is rising again.

“what happened, dave?” i ask.

in a robbery attempt to take his gst cheque, a group of young adults attacked and beat dave to within an each of his life. they used a large rock to initially knock him down and then their feet to knock him unconscious. a witness to the assault said they had kicked him in the head 16 more times AFTER dave had been knocked out.

sickening.

“but ya know what? i forgive them, or at least my heart wants to forgive them,” dave explains to me. “jail is going to eat those young kids alive. as much as i wish they hadn’t done this to me, i wish they hadn’t done it to themselves.”

all i can think about is what i would do if i got my hands on those punks and dave, even in his pain, finds the ability to forgive those who inflicted that very pain on him.

i’m humbled.
but his story gets worse.

after getting out of the hospital, dave crawls into a cardboard trash bin to make a bed and get some sleep. he wakes up to crashing and banging and his whole world being turned upside down. he then finds himself inside of the back of a large garbage truck. the lid closes tight, shutting off the outside world. then the crushing starts..

can you imagine?!

seriously, try to imagine this scenario happening to you. you get jumped and almost killed in a violent mugging, and then as soon as you are released from the hospital you are thrown into the back of a garbage truck that begins squeezing you to death.

dave talked about the experience in great detail.

he felt his collar-bone snap and his arm begin to bend. the cardboard helped cushion a bit of the crushing at first. eventually there was no more give. pain all over his body. he told me he didn’t know what to do so he began praying.

desperately praying.

the crushing stopped.

he began pounding on the side of the garbage truck with his free arm and yelling for help but no one could hear him. the crushing started again. he began praying again.

it stopped again.

he kept praying desperately that the truck would stop so the driver could hear him and free him from his steel torture chamber. it does. the driver stopped to gas up and hears dave pounding on the side of the truck. he opens it up and gets dave out and to the hospital.

“crazy, hey?”

“no kidding!” i reply. “God must have things for you to do still.”

he nods his head.

“i definitely believe that, lucas. i’m convinced of it now.”

dinner was about to be served at the shelter so i had to run back into the kitchen to help serve but told dave i’d be back after. he smiled and nodded. afterwards we sat and chatted more about his ordeal.

“you sound different, dave.”

he spoke less like a man who had just been crippled by two life altering incidents and more like a man re-energized and recharged to take life by the horns.

“i know. something clicked,” he tells me. “it’s time for me to make some changes, not only to myself but to the world around me.”

i hope he’s the one to lead the revolution. nothing would make me happier.

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burgers to bunyan

burger
my bus was late as usual.  i regretted running the two and half blocks as i turned the corner to see no bus in sight.  it was good and well that i didn’t miss the bus but getting me to work late was not.  good thing drew, my coworker had things well under control at the group home.

‘sorry for being late,’ i explained as i walked through the door.  ‘i think my bus driver was on sunday afternoon driving mode.’

‘it’s all good.  jack and rebecca (not their real names) are out with family for dinner.  tony is still napping.’

tonight i’m on dinner duty since drew is taking tony through his pre-dinner routine.  homemade burgers and fries are on the menu.  this can either go really well or really, really bad.

pessimistic or just keenly aware of my cooking deficiencies?

lets just say that i don’t think the cooking channel is going to be calling asking me to show the world a thing or two anytime soon. unless it’s to show my famous french toast, and if that’s the case i’m saying ‘no!’

ain’t nobody getting that secret.  i’m taking it to the grave with me.

well, the burgers turn out pretty darn good, i must say.  when jack and rebecca get home they gobble it down and give me the thumbs up.  tony has some too, though a bit differently than the rest of us.

thirty years ago tony was a 35-year-old husband and father to a beautiful wife and daughter with another baby on the way.  goofing around with some buddies on a long weekend, tony accepted a dare to climb a telephone pole.  he hit the wires and fell onto his head.  they saved his life but he would never be the same man again.

after tony came out of a long coma, he had to learn how to walk and communicate again.  he had to have all his food blended up so he could eat.  he had to be helped with going to the bathroom and showering.  his wife couldn’t take care of two children and a husband who needed constant help learning to live with a different rhythm.  he was placed in a large group home before coming to our small options group home.

i take one of the cooked burger patties along with some cheese, fries and ketchup and place them in a food processor.  tony is going to have burgers and fries with us too, a la pureed.

he gives his sign of approval too – a crooked thumbs up and big smile.

maybe that call from the cooking channel will coming afterall.

drew takes rebecca out to grab a coffee while tony and i watch duck dynasty in the living room.  we both laugh and enjoy the silly antics of hillbillies blowing things up and shooting ducks.  if only life were that simple.

the big hockey game comes on.  tony loves hockey so we turn on the game in his room where he can relax and watch it.  equipped with a boost milkshake and a delicious pudding snack, tony watches and cheers as his team kicks butt.

tony wants to get up to go to the bathroom.  i was told to let him get himself up out of his chair.  the more he does it himself the stronger his legs will be.  the whole ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ line of thinking.  it makes sense, only problem is that he doesn’t want to get himself up at times and holds his hand out for help.

‘help up?’  he asks, his words slurred together.

i’ll admit i’m a sucker most of the time.  he probably knows it by now and that’s why he wears that huge grin as he asks me.  maybe he sees ‘sucker’ tattooed on my forehead.

drew leaves early to get to the other group home he works at.  jack and tony are in bed early while rebecca and i watch tv in the living room.  rebecca is a 65 yr old woman with schizophrenia who loves doing crafts, drinking coffee and watching gilmore girls.

apparently i love watching gilmore girls now too.  go figure.

rebecca tells me about the new shoes she got and how much walking she is going to do in them.  two hours a day.  she goes and gets them to show me.  she puts them on and show how she will walk in them.  good form.  i get another compliment on the burgers i made for dinner.

i’m going to milk this accomplishment for a while longer.

11pm comes quickly and my replacement arrives ready to take on the overnight shift.  i say goodnight and run to catch my bus home.  i walk through my front door, drop my keys on the small, white ledge i’ve haphazardly screwed to my old plaster wall, kick my shoes on to the mat in my hallway, and collapse onto my chair in the living room.

i’m tired but happy.

an old quote by john bunyan runs through my mind.

‘you have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.’

i’m not sure i necessarily agree with bunyan on this but i’m willing to accept it for tonight.

i lived today 🙂

cool.

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unexpected

so i’m sitting on my couch reading an interesting article on my laptop, legs propped up on my coffee table with a bag of chips well in reach.  sounds nice, eh?  it’s a good friday afternoon.  phone rings and i see a number i don’t recognize.  thinking it might be a potential boss calling me i pick up expecting a business conversation.

wrong.  pleasantly wrong.

‘is this lucas?’

‘yes it is,’ i reply, attempting to sound as polite as i can.

‘hey, its jeff (last name removed).  i’m glad i remembered your number.  wasn’t sure i did.’

i met jeff shortly after i moved to halifax almost 3 years ago.  half a dozen years younger than me and a temper like a hand grenade, jeff was homeless when i met him.  he split his nights between two of the men’s shelters and the out of the cold shelter where i worked.  we got to know each other staying up late watching movies while i worked overnights.  he would usually come in late looking for a bed and some food.  i’d make him some grub and we would talk life while watching old westerns.

classic guy thing to do.  ha!

jeff had a problem saying ‘no’ to the wrong crowd.  instead of turning and walking away, he got sucked into their bad choices while making his own along the way.  it wasn’t long before the law caught up with him and decided he needed to spend some time away from regular society.  at the time i didn’t know where he had gone.  some times guys disappear.  sometimes it’s for the better, other times it’s not.

prison should be a wake up call for people.  some people get it while others find the same bad crowd inside jail that keeps them entrenched in the lifestyle.  i’ve heard my fair share of guys on the street tell me they became better criminals in prison, sharing ‘war stories’ with other inmates, how they deceived, stole, assaulted and ripped off their way to criminal glory.

criminal college – you may have gone in for break and enter but come out slinging crack in the north end to junkies, hookers and weekend warriors.

this is a classic reason why the punitive justice system doesn’t work.  when you simply lock up offenders up behind metal bars, you aren’t doing them or the community at large any benefits.  while others may argue the offender doesn’t deserve anything since they broke the law, it stands to reason that the community would be better served by rehabilitating criminals instead of creating holding pens where they are put on ‘time out’ for a while.

punitive justice makes the prison industry and all those invested in very wealthy while helping very few others.  restorative justice is a different way of thinking about crime and conflict.  a united nations committee on restorative justice defined it in as ‘a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.’  restorative justice is concerned in holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way, repairing the harm caused by the offence, achieving a sense of healing for the victim and the community, and reintegrating the offender back into the community.

sounds better, doesn’t it?

restorative justice.  look into it.

i digress..

unfortunate for jeff, he didn’t get the wake up call the first time to prison.  he kept the same company behind bars as he did when he was free and it only served him poorly when he regained his freedom.  the second go around sounds like it jolted him.

‘i can’t go back to that life, man,’  he says to me. ‘i want to do right by my family and by myself.  i’ve been doing a lot better since i got out but i’m afraid if i don’t do something more i’m going to mess up again.  i need help though..’

i gave jeff my phone number almost 2 years ago after he told me he wanted help.  i offered to talk with him about housing options and health-related resources.

he never did call..

until today.

‘is your offer still on the table?’ he asks me.

‘i never took it off, jeff.’

‘thanks, lucas.  i called hoping you would say that,’ his voice noticeably excited.  ‘i promise i’m ready to take this stuff seriously now.’

‘i hope so.  i’m no savior, though,’ i explain to him. ‘i can help you figure some things out and put a plan together but i’m no miracle worker.’

that’s where you come in, God.

if you’re reading this, please do me a favor and lift up a prayer for jeff.  addictions be broken, past be healed and restoration done.

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changing my perspective

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spring has come and with it the unpredictable weather changes that often leave me wondering what to wear when i leave the house.  if i bring my jacket, the sun pours down its bright, warm rays and i’m sweating large beads of sweat down my face.  if i don’t bring my jacket, the skies open up and the rain soaks me.

it doesn’t seem like a battle i’m soon to win.

yesterday was another one of those days.  i had errands to do and the weather had decided it would not be cooperating with me.  it would rain and then stop and then bluster some wind and mist into my face then stop again.  i cursed the weather underneath my breath (cursing it out loud might look to others as if i was crazy) and told it to seek help for its schizophrenic behavior.

seroquel anyone?

on my way into the bank i noticed an elderly man sitting outside the front doors holding a sign.  his silver metal cane rested against the telephone pole as he sat on what looked like a walker.  his sign had a plastic tupperware bowl taped to it for people to drop some change in.  i read the sign as i reached for the door handle.

‘please help this man in need.’

i nodded his way and he did the same.

‘not the best day for panhandling, hey?’ i asked the man.

‘i’ve seen worst,’ he replied through a bright smile.

i entered the bank and got done what i needed to get done.  as i left the building a couple were just passing by the elderly man and placed some change in his plastic bowl.

‘thank you so much for your kindness,’ he said to them as they hurried onto the cross walk.

i had more errands to run and with little time to get them all done as the work day was winding down.  i could talk with this man for a bit, i told myself, but needed to be on my way soon.

‘how are you doing today?’ i asked him.

‘well,’ he replied, ‘i’ve met some very interesting and generous people today.  it’s made this weather more bearable.’

i asked him about his cane and walker.  he explained that he had been hit by a drunk driver some 30 years ago, which left him crippled and unable to work much.  he told me about the newly graduated engineering students who had hit him head on while he was driving home one night and how he had learned to forgive them for their poor choice to get behind the wheel.

today, he lived in an old van that he plugged into a house to keep himself warm.  he made an agreement with the homeowner to give him money for the electricity that he used.  he spoke about how grateful he was for the relationship he has with this man and how kind he has been to him.

we talked about his travels across canada, his accident, the comforts and discomforts of living in a van, philosophical ideas and food.

‘are you hungry?’ i asked.

‘yes, but i need to make some more money before i can do that.’

‘how about i get us some chicken wraps?’ i offered.

‘why, that would be a fine idea!’

as i started to make my way across the cross walk, he yelled after me, ‘i still don’t know your name.’

‘it’s lucas.’

i returned with a few wraps for him to nibble on and a stuck a small book i had been reading into the bag along with the food.  he thanked me and was very gracious.  i told him that i had more to thank him for than anything else.

he looked puzzled.

‘before i met you today,’ i said, ‘i was having a rather frustrating day.  i was frustrated with the errands i had to run, the limited time i had to do them and the crummy weather i had to do them in.  after talking with you, all that seemed to disappear.  so, thank you.’

he removed the glove from his right hand and we shook hands.

thanks for the conversation, lauren.  i won’t soon forget it.

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good company

bad company corrupts good character.

i often quote to others things that have been true in my own life.  yesterday, quoting the above statement to one of my street brothers was no different.

i got the call just as i was leaving the gym last night.

‘where are you?’

‘just leaving the gym and heading home.’

‘wait!  i’ll be right there.’

i brought t into my home this time last year in order to get his life sorted out.  he has been running from things in his life for too long but not sure how to face them.  i offered him a safe space to stay while he did so.  no more shelter beds, coaching surfing and sleeping rough.

t gives kat and i a big hug when he sees us.  asks to walk with us while we head back to my place for some dinner.  we talk about his new cooking job and other details of his life.  on the surface, things are looking much better than before.

when we get to my apartment, t decides to come in and hang out for a bit.  he pushes us out of the kitchen so he can cook us dinner.  he amazes us both with an incredible meal that i wasn’t even aware i had the ingredients for.  he often did the same when he used to live with me.

we sit in the living room and talk life.  brass tacks sort of talk.  t needs community.  healthy community.  he’s been drifting back with the wrong crowd for the last while now.  it’s not easy leaving people behind, even when they are self-serving friends who will turn on you and rat you out when the situation calls for it.

‘bad company corrupts good character,’ i tell him.

he nods in agreement.

it’s not the first time we have talked about this and i’m sure it’s not the last either.  i know it’s not easy for t because it wasn’t easy for me.  while the crowds we hung out with were quite different, they both pulled us down like quicksand.  crabs in a bucket, as my uncle says.

t agrees he needs healthy community surrounding him.  he wants to make healthier lifestyle choices but needs help.

i’ve always appreciated t’s honesty and humility.  he’s always been pretty quick to own his mistakes and reach out for help when he needs it.  it’s more than most of the rest of us can say.

pride is a hell of a drug, ain’t it?

t leaves but not without making me promise to have lunch with him the next day.  he doesn’t need to twist my arm.  we agree on a time and hug on it before he leaves.

‘i love you, guys,’ he says through a smile as he leaves my apartment.

love you too, t.

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balance

balance.

my life is a constant struggle between balancing and rebalancing.

relationships, jobs, education, ministry.

priorities.

balance brings with it peace, thus why our (or maybe just my) balance is so important.  it feels good to have a solid foundation underneath your feet.  especially where you are juggling a few too many balls.

one of the places i feel most balanced is at st andrews church on sunday evenings.  getting to share a meal and socialize with a lot of my poor and/or homeless friends is a gift that continues to keep giving me back way more than i put in.

pizza is always a guaranteed component of the meal.  each plate comes with a slice of pizza, then your option of a small plastic bag full of small slices.  this past sunday, the church that was hosting made a delicious (and from what i could tell nutritious) meal for the community.

kat and walked into the gym a few moments after the 5pm public prayer and grace. randy spotted us his way.

‘lucas!’ randy shouted.

i turned to see randy smiling, his right hand upon his now shaved head, rubbing the hairless surface.

‘i shaved my head just like you.’

randy is one of our original members of street soccer.  he competes in several special olympics events and does quite well considering he’s pushing 60.  he doesn’t move the fastest on the soccer pitch nor does he have the strongest kick, but he works hard and celebrates like no one else.  even a bad case of asthma can’t keep him away from playing.

‘my stomach still isn’t feeling well,’ randy said to me.  ‘the doctors at the emergency room told me to take it easy.’

randy can’t play but stays around to watch and cheer on his teammates.

that’s loyalty.

we had another big turnout of players.  international students have been coming more steadily, i guess seeing us as a place where they can play the game they love and integrate into canadian society.  our players have embraced and welcomed them into our little sports community.

i love how we do that.

i end up playing with sim, adele and holly on my team.

sim and adele go to school together at one of the local high schools.  both have immigrated here with their parents from countries in the middle east and north africa.  both have experienced difficulties fitting in here in halifax.  can’t tell if it has to do with bullying or just a difference in cultures.

it’s no fun when you don’t fit in.

but not at street soccer.  they fit in perfectly here.

sim is a talented, young soccer player whose only weakness is that he is so skinny that he gets easily bumped off the ball by larger players.  he took a hard spill this past sunday, knocking his elbow hard off the pitch.  two minutes later he was scoring goals for us again.
what adele lacks in soccer skills he makes up in sheer effort, though his skills have begun to develop considerably in the past while.  adele will often shout ‘no!’ after the opposing team or even his own team scores a goal.  it seemed quite odd at first, but after a while we noticed a pattern similar with that of tourette’s syndrome.  while it often takes visiting players a bit off guard, the rest of the players have become used to the loud outbursts.

just as some of our guys are dealing with depression or schizophrenia or anxiety or adhd or bipolar or whatever else, this is just part of what adele is dealing with.  street soccer is a no stigma community.

and i plan it keep it that way.

holly is one of kat’s friends who started coming out and playing with us several months ago.  holly is an athlete.  a former university basketball player, she holds her own on the soccer pitch quite well.  she plays with a knee that needs major surgery soon and an ankle that not long ago that was one of the craziest colors of purple i’ve ever seen.  she’s tough.  she recently bet val she could beat him in a game of one on one basketball.  not the wisest decision.  valentin won himself two weeks worth of dinners.  ha!

after two and half hours of soccer we are all worn out.  it so happened that someone had left the heat on in the church gymnasium, which was a good explanation why everyone was drenched in sweat.  after a brief team stretch we all gather our things and turn off the lights.

whatever balance issues i had walking into st andrews were no longer there when i walked back out.  another week of street soccer is over.  i’m so grateful that i have such an amazing, authentic and inclusive community to belong to, and one that brings a good dose of balance into my life.

i love this game.

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