my blog reminded me today that 3 years ago i started this blog. it sure doesn’t feel like that long ago. crazy how time passes by so fast.
in light of that, i thought i would share a memory from 2010.
it’s a bit past 1am before i get to new beginnings church where lou has been living during his internship. if you didn’t know any better, you’d think we were robbing the church. we whisper and creep inside the side doors of the church and into the basement.
that’s where our stash is.
two large garbage bags full of pastries, donated by a local baker who cares for the poor in his community.
tonight is going to be good. lou and i are both psyched.
new beginnings was a church just on the fringe of the downtown eastside of vancouver. just a hop, skip and a jump from the glow of the dtes. surrounded by cheap public housing for first nations and immigrants populations, the church was created to help the local community in any way they could. pastor joe was a large man (i felt like a dwarf beside him) who had an even larger heart and a crazy redemption story he didn’t mind sharing.
back outside, we sat on the ledge beside the church contemplating our midnight mission. we had about 70 pounds of sweets between the two bags we found in the basement.
we would head south until we found someone or we hit the industrial park. bags slung over our shoulders we set off.
bill was filling his cart up with new cans he had found in the gas station garbage bin when we crossed paths with him. his haul was quite substantial. he had been working hard for several hours before he met us. pushing the cart around all day had made him really hungry.
‘how about some muffins or donuts?’ lou offered.
‘can i have both?’
‘you can have a few of each if you want.’
bill didn’t need to be told twice. out came four pastries of his choosing, a few oozing with icing and creamy filling.
a big smile came across bill’s face and our own. we talked with him for a while, hearing his story about life on the streets. he gave us some wise advice which he repeated for emphasis.
‘don’t you boys forget this now, ya hear?’
we promised we wouldn’t and shook hands to seal our new friendship with bill.
we veered left heading towards the dtes. a few street girls were working on the corners as we passed. they all looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, maybe weeks. i felt a bit bad giving them sugary, innutritious food but it was all we had and they needed something in their bellies. they were very grateful. we wished them a safe night and kept going. their pimps don’t like you hanging around for very long, even if you are feeding them.
oppenheimer park was empty but the streets surrounding it were crawling with action. drug deals were being done in the shadows of sunken door ways on the street corners. a group of people were huddled up against one of the buildings have a bit of a party. we asked if they were hungry, knowing full well what their answer would be.
‘yeah! what do you got?’ came the reply.
‘donuts, muffins and other sweet stuff.’ i replied.
arms shot up like i was a teacher in an elementary school class room asking who wanted to go next for show-and-tell. everyone was hungry.
‘why are you guys doing this?’
lou and i looked at each other and shrugged.
‘we had food and figured there would be hungry people on the street to share it with. we also figured it would be a great way to make some new friends.’
‘well, i’m definitely your friend now!’
and with that one of the guys stumbled to his feet and threw his arms around us to give us a big hug. a couple of others joined and the group hug got bigger.
donuts + conversation + late night walking in the ghetto = new friends
i love that kind of math.
we meandered our way on to east hastings where most of the action was happening. a cop car races by on their way to something important as drug dealers offered us ‘some of their best stuff.’ persistent guys considering i’ve walked by them for the past 8 months having said ‘no, thanks’ every time. we offer them some sugary snack but they wave us off. they can afford better food with the money they make of selling crack to the addicts in the neighborhood.
part of me wants to drag them into the nearest dark alley way and beat the drug dealer out of them. it might work but there’s too many of them and more waiting to replace them. it’s an unending battle. drugs kill here. overdoses are far too common in this neighborhood. and, before it kills you, it robs you of everything else you ever had, keeping you chained and in slavery to the poison that’s slowly killing you.
i hear some drug dealers carry guns. at the very least they have large knives. i’m mad but not stupid.
another cop car passes by us slowly. their suspicious eyes are easy to spot. i don’t like the police here and it’s not because of the way they look at me.
far too many of them treat the homeless and poor in the neighborhood as sub-humans. i’ve seen cops do some pretty nasty things and get away with it. the pivot legal society, an organization that tries to create social change by focusing on breaking down systemic barriers to the full realization of human rights, has their hands full with complaints against the vancouver police dept. accountable policing is a serious issue here.
lou and i meet a young guy (i can’t remember his name) who is roughly our age. he is partying with friends and heading to another bar when we cross paths. he asks what we are doing and we tell him a bit about our midnight mission. the look on his face visibly changes. he tells his friends to go on without him and he will catch up.
he joins us and we continue walking down east hastings, feeding anyone with a hungry belly and a desire to satisfy their sweet tooth.
he comes from a good family but has been running with the wrong crowd for a while. he knows he shouldn’t but the allure is too much for him. he has a weakness for strong drink, cocaine and easy women. he feels trapped.
we walk around for hours with him, talking life and becoming friends.
as he leaves us to head home, he swears our time together has changed him. we hug it out and say goodbye. we walk away hoping that
it really has.
lou comes back to my place and we debrief. he falls asleep in the big, comfy chair in the corner of my room. i grab a pen and paper to write down everything that happened. i don’t want to forget this night.
i never did.