Tag Archives: africa

death, where is your sting?

the past few days have been difficult. africa dying hit closer to home than i ever expected. his passing has me thinking about death more. no, not in the morbid sense. im not completely off my rocker yet. its got me thinking about life and the death of life. big picture stuff.

death isnt really the end. its a new beginning to the rest of your life. well, thats what i believe. i think we live forever and ever, somewhere. heaven, paradise, city of gold, kingdom of God, home.

i know atheists will probably scold me for saying such a thing, but i feel bad for atheists. i really do. genuine pity. if i understand atheism, and i think do, the logical conclusion of its philosophy is that there is no meaning, no purpose, no life after death. not only does nothing really matter nor any truth really exist, but when we die thats it.

what an awful thing to believe.

worm food. lights go out and they dont come back on.

i realize that this isnt an argument against atheism, because something being unfortunately terrible doesnt make it wrong, but it does make it terrible and something that offers very little hope for this life. no thanks, atheism.

id rather see and embrace the hope we have in the gospel. thanks, Jesus.

im going to leave it at that. for now.

i miss the dtes a lot right now. i havent missed it there this much since i first left. i wonder how so many people are doing. i wonder how aj is doing and if he has kicked his addiction. i wonder how elizabeth is doing and if she beat cancer. i wonder how daryl has been and if he has gone home to nunavut like he told me he needed to.

i wonder about many others and wonder when ill go back, if ever.

i hope to.

today i worked the door at hope cottage. eddie had taken the night off and andrew asked if i wanted the gig. no apron, greet everyone that entered the building and carry a clicker to count guests. its even better than it sounds.

cheque day was on wednesday so business is slow. the regulars are all there though and a few new faces. kenny comes in with rap blasting from his cell phone. a few heads in the room turn in his direction and he graciously turns it off as he grabs a tray. considerate member of the community.

skylar comes in for dinner late. he grabs some bread and dinner and comes to talk with me. he finally got an apartment! i congratulate him and we high five.

high fiving is a great celebratory gesture on the streets. i quite enjoy it.

skylar was a youth that was living at the shelter when i worked there. i got to know him there and when he came out to play street soccer for a while. smart cree kid, very athletic, advocate for others, but with a bit of a temper.

he has had housing for just over a month. he moved in just before christmas. good gift from santa, id say. already its helping him. he is taking his addictions more seriously and doing what he needs to do to be healthy. hes staying out of trouble which means the police arent harassing him.. as much.

i couldnt be happier for him!

we talk school and where things are at with that. school is next on his list of things to do but he feels lost. hes not sure where to go from here. i agree to help him figure that out. hes too smart and gifted not to get his high school diploma and give himself a better chance at life. he agrees. he promises to come out for street soccer this sunday and bring his sudanese roommate who loves playing soccer with him.

i hear they start playing soccer in the womb over there. i expect this guy to be good.

skylars big success has me hopeful. even in the midst of death, grief and sadness, theres a lot to be hopeful for. hope for at-risk youth getting housed and educated. hope for my other friends on the street rising up out of poverty. hope for me seeing my friend, africa again (and all the others) on the other side.

bye, grief. hello, hope.

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deeper grief

they always come out of left field.

blindsided..

i lost another one of my friends today to addiciton.  he wasnt much older than myself.  losing africa hurts a lot.  much more than i ever thought it would, but then again, i never pictured losing africa.  for whatever reason i thought he would make it out alive.

i hate being wrong.

i met africa my first day on the job at first united.  i was standing in the lobby talking with a new coworker when in walked a very tall, skinny african man wearing a giant hat with large sunglasses.  he didnt walk so much as he stumbled into the building.  as soon as he saw me, he stumbled over to shake my hand.

‘hi, im africa.’

his african accent and intoxication level made it difficult to understand him but i got the gist.  this problem stayed the same for as long as i knew africa.  the more he drank the thicker his accent got and the harder it was to understand him.  sometimes he would lecture me for minutes on end, all the while i couldnt understand a single word he said.

africa’s name wasnt actually africa, but a nickname given to him by his friends in the downtown eastside.  not very imaginative but pragmatism wins out in a world when remembering where you woke up isnt easy.  the tall black man would forever be known as africa and he didnt seem to mind it one bit.

a nickname usually means acceptance and when you are thousands of miles from home, acceptance is just what you need.

africa’s friends got him drinking rubbing alcohol one day and he became hooked.  addiction to rubby (as they called it) was not a pretty addiction.  for me, its quite possibly the worse one to watch someone struggle with.

africa had an apartment somewhere in the dtes but he spent most days and nights hanging out or around first united.  thats where his friends lived and hung out.  this was the case for a few of the guys i knew in the dtes.  they would get a worker in housing to help them get an apartment in hopes of getting away from their addiction and the people they consumed their poison with.  some lasted longer than others but, one by one, they all made their way back.

since i left vancouver ive lost 4 guys from just one group.  since i joined the dtes community ive lost over 15 people.  those are just the ones i can remember..

i hate losing my friends to addiction.

this doesnt seem get any easier..

when i decided to start giving my life to the poor years ago, i didnt think that id see this many people die.  people who i had relationship with, a connection, a friendship.

i didnt sign up for this.

i invited africa to a small church in east van with me one summer sunday.  the church was having a community party in the local park with live music, games for the kids and bbq.  as soon as i told africa there would be food there he was coming come hell or high water.  he marched there like a man on a mission.  for as rail-thin skinny he was, the man could pack down the food.  we could never explain where the food went.

a couple other guys came along as well.  edson, one of my favorite guys to talk with at the shelter, came along with us as did aj (edson is now married and living in northern bc and doing great!).  as soon as the music starts up africa is dancing.  by himself.  in a dance only he knew the steps to.

it was something else to see.

we laughed until our sides split. aj fell off his chair he was laughing so hard.

i like that memory.

just as quickly as i remember that memory, the reality that hes gone comes crashing back.  my heart is grieved deeply..

in fyodor dostoevsky’s ‘crime and punishment ‘, he says something that gives me great comfort in times like this:

“the darker the night, the brighter the stars,
the deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

thankfully, this truth is more real to me than anything else i know.

ill miss you, africa.

africa

harry and africa

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