Tag Archives: halifax

silent hospitals

silence

the hum of the hospital elevator still buzzes in my brain. one of those sounds that puts you at ease and into a comfortable, deep sleep. i remember the furnace in our basement gave off a sound just like the hospital elevator’s hum. i was 7, maybe 8, and i wouldn’t fall asleep until i heard the click of the furnace, then the hum that followed after.

mental thumb-sucking, probably.

dave is sitting up in his bed when i arrive, attempting to eat his dinner. pork chops and mashes potatoes. looks decent for hospital food. small cartons of milk and ensure line the right side edge of his hospital table. he really likes milk.

“is it snowing again?” he asks.

i shake my head. “not today.”

he reaches over and removes a couple of books from the visitor’s chair.

“here, sit down,” he tells me.

i thank him and sit. a trio of nurses looks over our way and talk amongst themselves, about which i can’t be sure. i’ve met a couple of them since i’ve been visiting dave. they seem friendly and caring. dave tells me some of the older nurses don’t even acknowledge him, even while administering to his medical needs.

i wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that he’s a homeless man.

dave tells me he received good news from the doctor. one of three infections surrounding his heart is successfully being treated by the cocktail of antibiotics he takes everyday. still two more infections to fight off, though but he seems up to the challenge. i don’t get the impression he wants to lie down and die.

not yet.

somehow, him and i begin talking about ancient historical leaders and the times in which they lived. dave has a few things to tell me about alexander the great. the brief history lesson draws in one of the younger nurses and soon there’s three of us discussing and debating and laughing.

dave has a good hearty laugh at one point, but it’s interrupted by a cough that echoes deep in his lungs. it puts a halt to the conversation. he puts his head back against the upright bed and closes his eyes.

“i could really do without those,” he says.

everything is quiet for a while. the nurse goes back to her station, i listen to the hum from the elevator still trapped in my head and dave rests his eyes.

i lean back to check the clock on the wall.

“you got somewhere to go?” dave asks me.

“actually, i do, but not for a while.”

he slowly nods and smiles, his eyes fixed on the ceiling tile above his hospital bed.

“i stare at the tiles on the ceiling for hours,” he explains to me. “i try to count the black marks on each one, then try to estimate how many ceiling tiles there must be in the entire hospital. i’ll figure out how many black marks this hospital has by the time they discharge me.”

i’m almost certain he will.

i notice a new necklace he is wearing. it’s made of fabric and has something written on the back of the square-shaped wool pendant. it says something to the effect that ‘anyone who is wearing this when they die will not go to hell’. it’s an old roman catholic superstition from what dave tells me.

“a priest brought it by for me. i figured ‘why not?’ it couldn’t hurt, right?”

“you scared of dying?” i ask him.

“not yet,” he says, eyes fixed on mine. “but i’m sure i will be if or when things get worse.”

“ya?”

“ya..”

silence.

i’m hit anew with the gravity of dave’s situation. this is happening right now. this isn’t a movie i can turn off and return to watch later if i want.

“if i grab that necklace from around your neck, yank it off and run out the door, would you feel any different about your present condition?” i ask him.

he laughs at the idea and tells me, “no. this necklace isn’t going to save me. God restored my soul many years ago. i may have been running from him these past years, but he’s not going to undo what’s been already spiritually done in me. it was grace that changed me and it’ll be grace that keeps me until my final hour.”

his back seems to have gotten a bit stronger after saying that because he’s sitting up straight now in bed, not slumping like he was. his face looks resolute as he turns towards me, courage seems to beam from his eyes. i’m not sure what to say or if any words are even necessary.

more silence.

when i was in grade school we had to read john steinbeck’s book ‘of men and mice’. my teacher’s love for the book inspired my classmates and i as we read through the novel together. it was the first book i remember having such an emotional impact on me. during a particularly important moment in the book, steinbeck writes:

“as happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. and sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

and, so it was for dave and i as we sat there together in his hospital room, letting the silence do all the talking for us.

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if excuses were only enough

i had all the reasons and excuses i could think of not to go and still, there i am covered head to toe in snow, walking down my street in the middle of a blizzard. excuses begin to poke and jab my mind, trying to convince it to turn around and head back to my warm apartment. each snowflake that scrapes at my eyes gives the excuses more confidence to continue their harassment.

i almost buckle.

the walk isn’t long. at the end of my short street sits the queen elizabeth hospital. it, too, is covered head to toe in snow.  i avoid the sidewalk snowplow and then a sliding car on my way to the entrance.

my years of athletics pays off again.

knock on wood.

the wide glass doors open as i’m approaching the entrance. another set of doors open as well and welcome me into the hospital lobby. i see a few people busy hurrying to separate places in the hospital.  a quick pause to de-snow myself a bit.

i don’t like hospitals.

i push the big white elevator button with an arrow pointing towards my feet. automatically the door to my right slides open. a large coffee spill accompanied by a bright cone indicating ‘slippery surface’ are my ride mates to the next floor.

i start thinking about what i’ll say..

the elevator door opens to a large corridor that makes me instantly recall  creepy movies i’ve watched in the past.

hospital-corridor-bwweb

more excuses come rushing in, though these of the more irrational variety.  as gripping as the picture in front of me looks, these excuses are much easier to shrug off and i make my way down the hallway.

IMCU.

i flick on my phone to see if this is the place.  it is.

i have no idea what the ‘m’ stand for but i’m fairly certain that the other letters spell out ‘intensive ____ care unit’. i’m not really sure what to expect when i enter. i take a deep breath and open the door.

‘hi, may i help you?’ asks the short, kind-eyed rn.

i ask her where i can find my friend.

she points down another corridor, though much shorter than the last. i thank her and make my way towards bed 7.  i see him before he sees me.  he doesn’t recognize me at first. he wasn’t expecting company.

who visits homeless guys in hospitals?

‘hi, dave. how are you?’ i ask.

‘hey, lucas! i’ve been better but i’m alive,” he replies.

we talk and catch up on the past couple months. i know dave from the streets of halifax. i wrote about his incredible survival about 5 months ago, when he was jumped by a couple of punks and left for dead, and his fight with a garbage truck when it scooped up the bin he was sleeping in.

after updating me on all the injuries he received from those incidents, he brings me back in time a bit.

‘i was born almost 10 weeks premature. they didn’t think i’d make it. well, i’m here now!’

it appears dave has the nine lives of a cat, because, by all rights, he should be dead by now.

i put it off question longer than my mind can take until it can’t take any more.

‘why are you here?’ i blurt out.

his eyes drop and he explains how a head cold he got while staying at the men’s shelter turned into an infection surrounding his heart. and if one infection wasn’t enough, two more have since jumped on board.  he now has 3 separate infections surrounding an organ than we can’t live without.

dave is rather casual while describing it. he doesn’t seem depressed by the diagnosis nor overly thrilled about it. he says it hurts when he coughs. like thousands of needles poking out his lungs and esophagus.

right then he coughs, and i can almost feel the pain he feels by the look on his face.

his optimism makes me feel optimistic, too, even if i know it’s only make-believe. the vicious kicks to the head from the robbery and the crushing steel walls from the garbage truck couldn’t kill dave, but these infections probably will.

this is what i was afraid of.

i was afraid i’d have to say goodbye to another friend from the street.

and it looks like i was right..

i track down the nurse who was attending to dave earlier in our visit and ask her his chances. she shakes her head,’i’m technically not allowed to tell you anything without his consent, since you aren’t family.’

‘is he going to die?’

i ask but i don’t really want to hear the answer i fear is coming.

her eyes drop.  people’s eyes always drop when they give bad news.

‘it doesn’t look good..’

i head back to dave’s bed to say goodbye for the night. i pray with him and say i’ll see him tomorrow.  i tell him to get healthy so we can move him into the new apartment he just got before he became sick.

‘..you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  what is life?  for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.’ james 3:14

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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

blogpic

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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bob the bus driver

my alarm clock ring is the most annoying sound i could find on my phone.  it had to be in order to wake me up because when (if) i get to sleep, i’m out cold.  it makes for waking up not the most pleasant part of my day.  add to the mix that i’m not much of a morning person (at all) and some mornings it’s down-right sinful when the alarm goes off.

this morning was one of those mornings.

the bus that takes me to work is a 15 walk from my place.  not bad.  the walk gives me a chance to wake up a bit.  it’s been a good time to get into some prayer and start my day off centered with the right frame of mind.

‘morning, fella.’

‘morning, sir,’ i replied to the bus driver.

i grabbed the daily paper and took a seat in the back of the bus.  the bus hadn’t left yet and no one else had boarded.  i took up two seats on the right side bench and made myself comfortable.

‘you just getting off work?’ the bus driver asked, as he made his way down the aisle toward me.

‘no, sir, just heading to work actually.’

‘what do you do?’

i told him and we got rolling from there into conversation.  his parents had run group homes for many years here in halifax, something he said that had molded him into the man he was today.  when i asked him if his parents still worked in group homes, a frown dropped his face and he sighed a large sigh.

‘my mother just passed away two weeks ago.  it’s been a hard a month..’

a much stronger man than i.  there’s no way on God’s green earth that i’d be back at work two weeks after the passing of my mother.  i’ll be a wreck for months.  his tone seemed pained but his demeanor was solid.

‘she’s in a better place now, anyways.  no more suffering.’

he had found acceptance in her passing.

he went on to tell me about the faith of his mother, how she had been the rock of the whole family.  he attributed it all to her strong faith in God.  she was a dedicated community volunteer on as many fronts as she could put herself on.  if someone needed help, she wasn’t far away.

it was really quite endearing to hear this man, my bus driver, talk about his mom with me.  i could tell that he had really loved her.  that he was so willing to talk about it with a perfect stranger really surprised me.  maybe i shouldn’t be anymore.  this seems to be a trend happening in my life.

i’m not complaining.

looking down at his watch, he said, ‘looks like we better takeoff before i make you late for work.’

good call, so off we went.

i decided to move up to the front of the bus so we could continue talking.  for the next 30 minutes we shared as much as two people can in such a short period of time.  he talked about his kids and retiring in 8 years, i told him about my new job and moving to halifax from vancouver.

fast friends.

‘hey, thanks for talking with me this morning,’ he said to me. ‘it was just what i needed to start my day’.

‘me too.’

as we pulled up to my stop, we said our goodbye’s and realized we hadn’t properly done our hello’s.

‘by the way, my name is lucas,’ i said, with my hand stuck out inviting a shake.

‘nice to meet you, lucas.  i’m bob.’

bob the bus driver, and my new friend.

‘hopefully see you again, bob.’

‘it’s a small city.  i’m sure we are bound to see each other again,’ he said with a smile and a wink.

i hope so, bob.  thanks for making my day.

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happy birthday, pax

 

yesterday was a special day.

paxnorth, the church i’ve been apart of for the past two and half years, turned 5 years old yesterday.  we have come a long way.  having started in a small living room in the north end of the city, then moving into one of the local bars in the area, then to a local elementary school, the journey has been interesting, to say the least.

to celebrate our coming of age we threw a large birthday party, complete with streamers, balloons and a big community lunch.  but before the birthday party festivities kicked off, a couple of brothers who i’ve come to develop deeper friendships with made the decision to take the big plunge.

jeremy, one of my small group brothers, decided it was time to get rebaptized, feeling that his former plunge wasn’t what he felt it should  be.  in the presence of close friends and family, jeremy explained what God has been doing in his life for the past while.  he described how God has been freeing him from past hang ups, hurts and addictions.  he spoke about the difference this freedom has meant in his life today.

jeremy is a talented musician and worship leader.  his very presence on stage is like a breath of fresh air.  his heart to lead people into a joyful celebration is really incredible.  he is also a new father to a little boy, levi, who was a miracle to hilary and him.  watching him with his little boy is pretty awesome to see.  he wears his love for his boy right on his sleeve.

if only all fathers could do the same, our world would look different.

before jeremy got dunked under the water, our small group gathered at the front and had a chance to share a few encouraging words with jeremy.  i got choked up like i knew i would.

those finer moments in life always seem to get me.  i’m glad that they do.

irish decided he too would  make the jump into the cold tank on stage and take the plunge.  he shared with the congregation his story, which for those who had never heard it before, was powerful and moving.

irish has been a gangster of halifax and dartmouth for many years, attempting to fill that empty hole inside of him with as much drugs, violence and crime as he could.  he ran as far and as fast as he could away from God.  eventually, through the freedom offered only in the gospel, irish left that lifestyle behind and embraced the life God had been calling him to for many years.

irish and i have journeyed together for a while now.  he has lived with me for a time and has spent numerous hours in my living room talking life, God and everything else that falls in between.  we have shared meals, ideas, dreams and doubts.  we have laughed, cried, celebrated and mourned together.

brothers from separate mothers.

after irish took the plunge, we met in the middle aisle of the room and embraced.  tears, friendship and celebration all wrapped up into one.  i didn’t even care that he was soaking wet.

ok, i cared a bit.

i realize some people reading this right now might have no idea why yesterday was a big deal.  so what?  some guys got wet in a water tank. big deal.  making public commitments are special in their own right (eg. marriage) but commitments to the Creator of all things falls into its own separate category.

happy birthday, paxnorth.

thanks for an awesome day!

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