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SPRING 2001 Newsletter

233 Murray Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5M9

Phone: (613) 789-8210 Fax: (613) 789-0888

e-mail address: Shepherdsofgoodhope.@mail.Com

Charitable #: 0639815-01-10

"Help us Grow in Wisdom and Love"


 
Suddenly I Saw Things Different Fr. John Hunt OMI - Chaplain
Out of the Cold Jamie Chasse - Staff
Overnight Drop-In Raymond Tremblay - Staff
Breakfast Bonanza Donna Stratton - Staff
Gardening For Shepherds of Good Hope Ann McDonald - Staff
Anything Is Possible Renée Béchard - Staff
Eulogy to Denis Pigeon Arif Jinha - Friend of Shepherds
Mary Ann's Thoughts Mary Ann - Acting Executive Director

 

"Suddenly I saw things differently"

As I write it is the 2nd Sunday of Lent. As much as there is a certain attraction to the stories of the Saints and ordinary people of the past taking on severe practices of penance and fasting, I just don’t feel that same inner drive and emotion. My reluctance is topped with a dollop of guilt, which I soon get over.

Even when I shift my gaze from doing penance and acts of self-discipline, to other peoples needs, I feel overwhelmed by "visual" statistics. I want to ignore the newspaper, turn off the radio and mute the TV and retreat to the manageable comfort of my room, "my room, my womb!" The other day someone e-mailed me the following observation. They said if the world could be reduced to a village of 100 people, this is what the village would look like:

 

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent. But a change demands a conversion of spirit, of heart. Steve Covey, a writer, tells of an experience he had on a New York subway one Sunday morning. The people were sitting quietly. Some were reading newspapers, some were dozing, others were simply contemplating with their eyes closed. It was a rather peaceful, calm scene.

At one stop a man and his children entered the car. The children were soon yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s news-papers. It was all very disturbing and yet the father just sat there next to Steve Covey and did nothing. It was not difficult to feel irritated. Steve could not believe the man would be so insensitive as to let his children run wild and do nothing about it. It was easy to see that everyone else in the car was annoyed as well. Finally, with what he thought was admirable restraint and patience, Steve said to the man, "Sir, your children are disturbing a lot of people, I wonder if you couldn’t control them a bit more?" The man lifted his gaze as if coming into consciousness for the first time and said, "Oh, you’re right, I guess I should so something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think and I guess the children don’t know how to handle it either."

Steven says, "Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? Suddenly I saw things differently. Because I saw differently, I felt differently. I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behaviour. My heart was filled with this man’s pain. Feelings of compassion and sympathy flowed freely. "Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?" Nothing changed in that subway car. All was the same: the same people, the same irritation, the same kids. What did change was a way of seeing it all, and with the seeing, a change of behaviour. Transfiguration! Resurrection!

Fr. John Hunt OMI

Chaplain


Out of the Cold

Image yourself wandering street to street, the blistering winds scratching at your face, searching for a place to lay your head — somewhere warm and safe to spend the night. Then in the distance you see a light and you hope for an open door. You pray someone will be there to welcome you in from the cold.

There are those who choose to stay outside. They embrace the cold with God’s blanket of shimmering stars above their heads; they sleep peace-fully. Then there are those who through difficult circumstances have had to abandon their homes; they search for refuge from the wounds of the world.

Our most valuable gift to the men and women who come is safety (you cannot sleep when you are afraid). The Shepherds of Good Hope Chapel provides sanctuary to this most vulnerable and difficult-to-serve of the homeless population. Some of these people arrive as a result of shelter overflow. Others, because of their exceptional circumstances cannot be housed even in a shelter — they may have a pet, or they may be too fragile or too solitary to cope with the rigors of shelter life. The chapel becomes their preserve. It is a place of peace, and the chorus of snoring betokens much needed rest. Since the chapel doors opened on January 18th, there have been 300 bed-stays. As winter progresses numbers increase — a testament to the desperate need for affordable housing.

 

by Jamie Chasse, Staff


Overnight Drop-In

Who could ever contest that this winter isn’t unusually cold and snowy? The freezing rains of February scared us as we were reminded of the Great Ice Storm of 1998. Life becomes even more difficult if you are among the homeless. Where do you seek refuge and a warm bed when all the shelters are filled, or if for some reason you do not qualify for their programs?

You have heard that the regular Drop-In of the Shepherds of Good Hope never fails to provide hot soup, sandwiches and desserts to guests on a daily basis from 3:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. You succumb to the temptation of visiting, and are not disappointed. Your hungry body craves for food and the tasty provisions satisfy your appetite; extra clothing, toques, mitts and scarves are made available for those who need them.

But what about your need for a warm place to sleep tonight? You dare not risk the elements one more time. You overhear other guests saying that they plan to stay overnight in this very building. You cannot believe your ears. You ask the Drop-In staff if you too could sleep here. Much to your surprise the answer is positive. What a wonderful relief! You are inclined to go for another serving but decide on a coffee and donut instead.

The Evening Drop-In is about to close and at 9:50 p.m. the last call for coffee is announced. Volunteers and staff are busy cleaning tables and washing the last few bins of dishes. By 10:00 p.m. those who are not staying overnight have left the building. Overnight guests assist with sweeping the floor and arranging mattresses at strategic locations on the floors of the chapel and dining room. You wonder how you might be helpful, but this first time the others find it acceptable for you to simply prepare your own bed as pillows, bed sheets and warm blankets are provided to each guest. You are asked to provide basic information on a written form. You don’t object since this apparently has something to do with Shepherds receiving funding for this program.

Thank God lights go out at 10:45 p.m. Though some of the guests have stayed up for a few more cigarettes, it is finally your chance for a full night’s sleep. At times during the night you find yourself awakened by new arrivals. You understand that they too need to be protected from the cold. What distracts you more is those who are restless or boisterous. You’ve noticed that these few truly test the patience of staff. It’s no wonder that occasionally one of those unruly guests is referred to the Shepherds "Recovery Program". Police assistance is some-times required to assist those out-of-building escorts.

The wake up call is at 6:15 a.m. and the building must be cleared by 7:00 a.m. This same area will be used to prepare the noon meal for 350 individuals. Cereals, coffee and juice are offered for breakfast. There is limited time to socialize with other guests, to share a cigarette or two.

You have discovered that there is a daytime Social Recreational Centre (Centre 454) on Murray Street, open from Monday to Friday. Just across the street from Shepherds, it is a refuge from the cold until lunch is served. You are tempted to return to the Evening Drop-In at Shepherds and you know that you no longer have to face the elements overnight if you want to sleep inside in warmth and safety.

We are happy to receive your thanks as you arrive and depart from your overnight stays. We are happy to have been of service and thank you for the opportunity of fulfilling our mission as employees of Shepherds of Good Hope. We look forward to serving you again.

by Raymond Tremblay, Staff


Breakfast Bonanza

One morning while Liz and I were on a day shift at Hope Community, we found ourselves chatting with residents about previous jobs. In the course of the conversation we discovered that Denis used to be a "Breakfast" cook. Suddenly a community breakfast was in the works.

Denis made up a list of everything we would need for such a breakfast: bacon, eggs, potatoes, sausage, fruit, bread and coffee (of course). We called Support Services (the Soup Kitchen) and asked if they could fill our requests. Since the breakfast bonanza would not take place for a few days, the kitchen assured us they would set aside our requests as they came in (if they came in). We kept our fingers crossed, knowing that the kitchen crew would do whatever was possible to make our breakfast a success.

The day before our "Bonanza" was to happen the kitchen called over. They were able to assemble ALL of the items necessary to the making of a gourmet meal. They provided us with lots of pots and pans, and as a special treat they gave us a couple of crates of yogurt. Yum!

Denis and Danieka (a co-op student) picked up the supplies. Once back at community Denis grabbed a bag of potatoes and started to peel. He had a special home fries recipe that required at least a day’s worth of work. We didn’t see him until 7:00 a.m. the following day.

Danieka, Liz and myself started preparations for the 8:00 a.m. serving time. We dubbed ourselves "Denis’ Assistants" since he was running the show. The three of us made toast and warmed sausages while Denis fried the eggs, bacon and home fries. Another resident, Fares, cut up fruit to make an amazing platter. We were true team-work in action.

At 8:00 a.m. we were ready to begin. The turnout was better than expected. Over 30 of the residents at 275 King Edward joined us to eat. Those who normally isolate themselves sat and ate with us, truly a surprise. New residents were introduced to the community and friendships began to flourish. It was truly magical!

After everyone had been fed (Denis made sure of that) all the residents participated in clean up in their own way.

It was an honour for Liz and I to take part in such a special day. If it hadn’t been for Denis, it wouldn’t have been possible. That day will always hold a special place in our hearts. It made us grateful to be "Shepherds".

P.S. Denis’ home fries were the best we’ve ever tasted.

by Donna Stratton, Staff


Gardening for Shepherds of Good Hope

Seven years ago when Cameron Laing and Janick Lorion were searching for a volunteer project, they learned of the Shepherds of Good Hope Garden and offered their time. They started inconsequentially, working with other volunteers. They planted beans. They weeded and watered the various crops in the garden. And they enjoyed it. There was lots of fresh air, pleasant exercise, friendly people to work with and the satisfaction of seeing hard work transform bare earth to a generous harvest. Their interest in the garden grew, and in 1996 they themselves provided straw mulch to control the weeds. In 1997, their involvement intensified, and in addition to the other activities they joined the team of volunteer harvesters. In 1998, along with their regular commitment, they decided to plant and grow a patch of zucchini and squash, using seedlings they had started themselves, and employing plastic mulch and drip irrigation. They were so encouraged by this experiment that they planned to get even more involved the following year.

But in 1999, it was learned that Shepherds could no longer provide a staff liaison and the garden would be discontinued. Cam and Janick felt that Hope Garden, which had prospered because of the dedication of volunteers over so many years, should not be lost. They decided to manage it themselves for 1999. With support from other volunteers, and 20 hours a week of their own time, they produced large quantities of beans, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, squash and watermelons.

Then spring 2000 arrived bringing unusual amounts of rainfall, and as a result, lots of problems. Before the land became dry enough for planting the weeds took hold. Already a month behind schedule, their little band of volunteers dug, hoed and weeded to open beds for planting. Armed with their own seedlings — and with those donated by Green Thumb Nursery and Ritchie Feed and Seed, and bolstered by the good will and hard work of the other committed helpers, the garden began to take shape. Through epidemics of weeds, tomato blight and potato beetle, they persevered and eventually a crop was produced.

Hope Garden makes a direct and essential contribution to the food supply of the Shepherds of Good Hope. It needs your support. There is the ever present need for material supplies: seeds for lettuce and carrots and dwarf beans would be appreciated; bone meal, onion bulbs and peat moss, and organic fertilizer (containing nitrogen and phosphorous and potash) is essential; The tools of the trade — a rotor tiller, forks, hoes, shovels and trowels are also needed.

There is also a need for volunteers who care, as do Cam and Janick, about plants and gardening and about the environment — people who know or are willing to learn how to distinguish between a plant and a weed, how to imitate nature’s gentle rain with a water hose, how to use and store equipment and how to harvest a crop. Once the seeds are in the ground, the volunteer’s main responsibility is care and maintenance (watering and weeding). We ask for a 3 to 4 hour time commitment weekly, but the schedule is flexible depending on your availability.

by Ann MacDonald, Staff


Anything Is Possible

Before doing work as a front-line shelter worker, I had never encountered the situations, or heard the unique stories, and often wise and amazing insights that have come to enrich my own (perhaps a little naïve) experience of life. It had been easy for me to pass a judgement or place blame. When I really started to wonder about the diversity that exists in people and in their circumstances, I realized they are in fact victims.

On top of having the opportunity to do work for the Shepherds of Good Hope, I have a volunteer position at the Children’s Hospital (CHEO) in the prenatal) genetics department. The two positions offer complementary exposure — as sometimes the biology behind certain disorders explains much about them.

These two opportunities make me wonder about the amount of control we have over the circumstances life throws our way. Who plans the amount of nurturing their parents are capable of providing for them as they are growing up? Or the social issues one is born into? Or one’s family’s financial situation?

And on nature’s side, who chooses their brain chemistry to go haywire and provoke such disorders as mental illness? We probably don’t realize how much we are at the mercy of biochemistry. For example, which schoolteacher could not tell you that good nutrition is important for effective learning? How about alcohol and the effects it has on one’s behaviour? And what woman couldn’t tell you about the effect chemistry has on her health and her moods every month?

One of my tasks at the genetics clinic involves categorizing files by foetus chromosomal abnormality and normality. Still a rookie in genetics, I had heard of people with trisomies such as Down’s Syndrome. Down’s is where, instead of a count of 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), an individual's 21st pair has tripled giving a total of 47 chromosomes. This results in some mental retardation as well as some physical challenges such as heart problems, etc. But this case was highly unusual, at least to my inexperience. It had 69 chromosomes! 69! ALL of this person’s chromosomes were tripled! A he-she! Unbelievable! This child would have so many difficulties, it would probably never even make it to the pregnancy’s term.

Dizzy with stupefaction, I ended my day’s work, but the case of the tripled chromosomes never left my mind. I thought about the parents who must have received this news — how devastating it must have been for them to encounter such an unusual ordeal. How does one cope with such complications, when the hope of the pregnancy can vanish in an instant?

If there was anything I learned that day about my convictions, it was that deep down, they mean nothing until I consider the individual circumstances. And as I look around me at the people I encounter day after day, I am that much more empathetic towards them because really, I have no idea what their life is and feels like to them. Anything is possible.

by Renée Béchard, Staff


Eulogy to Denis Pigeon

There is this bottle of port

and the memory of you

there’s a silence now

and I can’t be comforted

Lovers don’t know

what it’s like to live without you

we’re lost in these tears

and these dregs of wine

 

You who had a heart that

could fill this world

a smile so genuine it warmed

this heart of mine

a goldmine and a rare

treasure chest

I miss you more than our Pierre

I love you, brother

 

Your heart belonged to God

and he’s bringing you home

peaceful journey,

I’ll be with you soon enough

and we’ll share this bottle of port

intoxicated with the wine of love

and pure as your generosity in

this world

From this world to the next,

my friend,

my blessings and prayers

 

Soul II Soul

by Arif Jinha, Friend of Shepherds


Mary Ann's Thoughts

In the work that we attempt at the Shepherds, we are constantly called to grow, as our belief systems are challenged, as a necessity of trying to be present to all that enter our lives.

The prayer "Help us Grow in Wisdom and Love" needs to be constantly with us in our daily lives if we strive to become who were made to be.

Some say that we "entertain angels." Angels as messengers in human forms give us the opportunity to love instead of fear, to share ourselves with generosity instead of selfishness, to improve ourselves and trust those in our presence, to teach honesty, compassion, love and respect.

John O’Donohue states "The human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace."

We learn that only when compassion is present can people allow themselves to see the truth, to be vulnerable to the truth and accept it. Compassion is the guide.

Father John tells a story at the beginning of the newsletter, of how we understand more about what really is, not what it may seem to be, we see more clearly and, therefore our reaction and feelings are very different. Yet nothing has really changed except that we have grown in Wisdom and Love.

In our work we are reminded on a daily basis that our compassion enables those with fear to trust, to see the truth about their lives..... Transfiguration! Resurrection!..... occurs for all involved.

 

Mary Ann Glazer,

Acting Executive Director


 

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