Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gen. 2:15 - To dress it and to keep it

When God created humans he gave us a sacred charge.
"To dress,... to keep, " How far we have fallen
(caution - some scenes of animal cruelty,
but even more provoking -
some challenging thoughts about
where Christians should be in all this):

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When We Heard She Was Dead

We hear of some homeless person found dead on a street corner and we go on with our lives barely giving it another thought. Did anyone know her name? Her story? Who cares?

Then I discovered we did know her name. As did her street family. And they knew her story. And they cared. Deeply. It was Angel.

I remembered the young woman we met early on during our hot-diggity-dog street people venture. She had just finished her snack and was about to leave when she stopped and turned to the many stuffies hanging from her backpack and thrust a bright yellow Pluto towards me: "Here! His name is J.C.. He'll watch over you guys while you're out here." And she wandered away into the night.

I propped J.C. up on the van. From then on it became our our first order of business during set-up for the hotdog distribution to attach J.C. to the tailgate.

Angel revisited us a few times over the early summer. She seemed to enjoy just hanging out with some of our young adults. I thought to myself that the young street women were enjoying a few moments of just being normal again. Here they could let down their guard. They could chat about clothing or hair cuts or fashions and forget for a little while where they'd be tonight and what they'd be doing to survive.

The street folk have their own community and it's just like any other community in many ways - better by some standards in fact. And one of Angel's friends, Taz was deeply saddened that there was no memorial for Angel that he could attend. Angel's other family lived in Port Alberni and that's where her funeral services were held. During the week I'd found Angel's obituary online. I read it out as a sort of impromtu parking lot memorial to a woman I barely knew. But I knew God knew her very well. And in His arms she finally found rest.

A couple of notes from my journal:

2008 March,31,Sunday,

• we used up two dozen hot dogs but gave out several doubles

• client Angel donated a stuffed Pluto doll “JC” as our mascot

• team debriefed afterwards at MGM

2008 June,8,Sunday,

• Angel came by and was happy to see our mascot J.C. that she’d given us many weeks ago.

2008 July,20,Sunday

• 4 doz hot-dogs went out in a leisurely manner ... nice people

• Started by reading Angel’s obituary ... Taz appreciated that...

• Bronwyn from the Firehall restaurant came over to ask why we’re doing what we do and if we think it helps.. she lives in the area and the homeless often hang out around the restaurant

Angel’s Obituary and newspaper comments

Obituaries (07/18/08) CAMPBELL Angel Dorsheia (Hassel) Passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at the age of 27 years.

Predeceased by her husband Stoney, and sister Lorrinda. Angel will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by her parents Lillian and Soupy Campbell; her children Lillian and Jimmy; step-son Morgan; grandparents, numerous nieces and nephews as well as many, many friends. Angel spent most of her life in the Alberni Valley. She loved the outdoors, especially fishing and hunting and shot her first deer at the age of 10. Angel loved the water and could swim like a fish. One of her life goals was to become a Fisheries Officer. Angel had an outgoing and free spirited nature as well as the ability to make friends easily.

A Funeral Service will be held 3:00pm, Saturday, July 19, 2008 from the Chapel of Memories, 4005 6th Avenue, Port Alberni, BC with Pastor Les Schrader officiating. Cremation will follow after the service. In lieu of flowers, if friends so wish, donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, 5060 Argyle St, Port Alberni, BC., V9Y 1V4.

Condolences may be forwarded to the family by visiting .

Chapel Of Memories Funeral Directors 723-3633 137921 Vancouver Island



I kept some responses to the online news story that reported Angel's death as a supposed drug overdose of just another homeless woman:



Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 01:27 PM

Yes, they are human beings, and whether they’re a loved one or not, it doesn’t matter! I am honestly sick of all this sympathy all these low-life junkies are recieving. Honestly they’re so selfish and lazy. And I have every right to say this because I used to be a junkie myself, living on the streets in East Van. I always looked for excuses to blame other things for my way of life. And whenever someone would speak up and say “oh you poor soul” I’d soak it up! I loved it! they helped me blame other things for my problems. It wasnt until one day when I was asking for spare change when somebody shouted out the typical “get a job” that was when I realized that I need to stop blaming other things for my problems and get a grip on myself and reality. So I started doing labour jobs and saving my money, eventually I started renting an apartment and now I work as a supervisor at a successful business making $80,000 a year and I own my house and my car. And I owe it all to getting off my lazy ass and started taking responsiblity for my life. I say overdosing is just a good way to sift out the hopeless ones.


James Cunningham

Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 03:47 PM

I was a resident on the corner of Victoria RD & Milton ST for 3 years I moved here from Alberta in 2001. When we (our family) started noticing the incredible amount of drug use and drug behavior on that corner I decided to go on a mission and ask every department of the city of Nanaimo If they could come and sit at our house to view what was going on so that they may come up with a solution to deal with this problem. I sent hundreds of emails over this 3 year period to all in power at city hall and Nanaimo RCMP. I sat as a representative of our neighborhood at the restorative justice meetings with RCMP, Johns who were picked up during prostitution stings and X- prostitutes. I had to tell these people how their behavior had affected our family and the families of our neighbours. My intentions were to try and get help for these people, I did not hate them I hated what drugs were doing to them and I knew they could’nt see it because the drugs had taken over their lives. My final attempt to get help was at city hall as a delegate speaking about prostitution and drugs in Nanaimo. Councilor Loyd Sherry asked me not to speak on the matter but I did anyway but since that evening things have got more out of control than ever. The Nanaimo RCMP asked me to document all johns picking up prostitues license plates and colour of the vehicles. I did that and presented it to city council with over 350 different vehicles picking up prostitutes just on the corner that we lived, Who knows how many more there were. I will not say some of the people who I saw picking up prostitues as to protect their privacy but if I was to give out this information the people of Nanaimo would be shocked. Just for the record I still have all the emails and plate numbers on disk from my computer. It’s unfortunate that good people are dying because there was not enough effort put into helping them when we lived in the area.



Fri, Jul 18, 08 at 02:02 AM

I just want everyone to know that Angel was a real person. She was very close to my sister when we were all yonger. I remember having one of the best snowball fights of my life with her on new years eve. When you are 13 it is hard to imagine what your life will be like in five, ten or fifteen years; even though I havent spoken to Angel in a very long time I know she had walked a very hard path. My sympathy also goes out to her parents, I’m sure many of you may not know this but Angel had a sister who passed away almost ten years ago. It is a tragedy for a perent to lose a child, but there are no words to describe how it must feel to lose two. Drug involvedment or not, whenever any person passes away it is a sad event fro those who loved them and I know Angel was still loved.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Embrace the Blessings!

Yesterday morning my eighty-four year old mother quoted a poem to me. My mother, like anyone else in their eighties has survived many of life's toughest challenges and she has come through with her sense of humour and love of life and God intact. She has lived through the Great Depression and Second World War. She has survived raising four teenagers during the turbulent sixties. She survived the death of her husband and then rebuilt her life with another wonderful man, my step-dad. She has survived breast cancer and currently lives with lymphoma in remission. My mother is a survivor and a wise old woman - the Matriarch of our family.

So she read me this poem over breakfast yesterday morning and I found myself initially thinking how schmaltzy it was - sort of an extended Hallmark card. I smiled indulgently trying not to be distracted by my opinion of the quality of the poetry.

Later that morning I watched as my mother also tried to share this same blessing with her grandson, my oldest child. And I squirmed as he pulled back in irritation, interpreting her efforts as "pushing her religion."

I see now that he and I were both rejecting a Blessing.

I thought about how often I reject offerings of love and Blessing that are sent my way because my inner editor distracts me regarding the quality of the language being used, or the music being played or the world-view being expressed. This latter one especially. I now realize that when anyone reaches out with a blessing it is only natural - in fact necessary - that they do so from their own worldview - not mine. So why should I be offended and reject a blessing because of that?

Why should I not accept a greeting of, "Have a good day!" from an atheist because I wonder how an atheist judges good or bad without an over-arching moral code emanating from a moral creator? Why should I deny a blessing of "Good luck!" from a fellow being just because I wonder if luck exists. I'm missing the point. Why should anyone deny a blessing of "Go with God," just because they disagree that God exists or know her by a different name? Why should I deny a blessing of "Salem" from Muslim or Jew simply because my view of God differs? It makes no sense.

Interestingly, the one member of my family who beamed at my mother's poem of blessing and received it whole-heartedly with a big smile, hug and "thank you!" was my dear wife. This woman is known as a blessing to all who keep her company. She laughs easily and loves deeply. She turns everything she does into a joyful adventure throwing herself into it with all her might. Consequently, she is successful, wise and charming. Despite serious setbacks during her life she remains constantly optimistic, positive and encouraging. If ever there was a "proverbs 31 woman," she is it.

I wondered at the connection between her openness to my mother's blessing and my wife's success in life. Surely there is a connection. Surely she is onto something that I have missed. Surely life goes better, no matter what our circumstances, when we are open to the blessings being offered us on all sides. From the physical helps of friends and neighbours, to the friendly greetings of passers-by, to the expressed love and support from our closest family members. Blessings abound. If we will only recognize and accept them.

May I learn this lesson well - to Embrace the Blessings!

By the way, here's the poem my mother recited - I offer it to you as a blessing:

you are here for a reason.

you are part of an intricate plan.

you're a precious and unique design,

called God's special woman or man.

you look like you look for a reason.

our God made no mistake.

he knit you together within the womb,

you're just what he wanted to make.

the parents you had were the ones he chose,

and no matter how you feel,

they were custom designed with Gods plan in mind,

and they bear the master's seal.

no, that trauma you faced was not easy,

and God wept that it hurt you so;

but it was allowed to shape your heart,

so that into his likeness you'd grow.

you are who you are for a reason,

you've been formed by the master's rod.

you are who you are, beloved,

because there is a God.

Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What do you see when you turn out the lights?

I heard of a "guru" nearby who leads his congregants through a fascinating exercise. He asks each member of the group to make a list of the ten most important things, aspects or qualities of their lives and rank them in order of significance. Participants come up with items such as: my spouse, my children, my musical talent, my painting ability, my stamp collection, my job or my ability to work, etc... There are no particular rules about what can be on the list. The items just have to be your way of expressing the most precious aspects of your life.

Then the guru has them work up the list meditating on: "What would happen if that was taken away from you? How would you feel? How would you cope? How would you go on?" It's an exercise that takes most of the day, and requires the participants to reflect deeply as each item is torn away. And they are left to ponder: "What is left when the entire list is gone?"

When I heard of this I thought it was a great exercise because this is exactly what life does to each of us. Whether gradually or suddenly life takes away pretty much everything we have and everything we are.

Think about it. At some point everyone we care for will die - or we will die - either way those relationships are lost. Age takes away our physical abilities. We lose our vitality and health. Our limbs lose strength. We lose our ability to play, to ski, to skate, to run. We lose our beauty. We lose our voices and our ability to sing. We lose our agility to play musical instruments with the finesse we once did.

Our eyes grow weaker so we can no longer read. We lose the ability to work, to earn money. We lose our money one way or another - we can't take it with us no matter how wealthy we may be at the end. Nor can any amount of money push off death forever.

Life eventually strips us bare with no hope of reprieve in this world.

So are we left with nothing then? Isn't there some final "essence" about us that nothing can touch? Is there anything to show for our voyage through this life?

That's an important question. Answering it should be the goal of our spiritual lives. I think that's what the philosopher meant when he said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." As Steven Covey says, we might spend our lives climbing a ladder only to discover when we arrive at the top, that it was propped against the wrong wall.

In my quest for an answer I've come to a couple of conclusions, half-baked as they may be for now. The first comes from my sister who was once told that in dying we take nothing with us. Her response was that this is not true. She said, "We take our character with us. We take into our grave and beyond whatever character we've formed during this life."

I see her point and agree. Finally, we are left with ourselves. With who we are. With what we've become through our choices in life. If I take a line from those gurus of my youth, Lennon and McCartney: "What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know it's mine."

I thought that was 'the answer,' but now I've seen that it leads to a more important insight. For our personal identity is by and of itself, ironically, meaningless.

When the lights go out if I'm left with only myself - if I'm totally alone and have only my individual life remaining - then I am in a bad way. I have no ability to know who I am. Where I am. What I am. Or even that I am. Nor do I have any hope of determining anything as I have nothing for refernce.

If a single point exists in an endless void of nothing, then there is no way to know anything about that point. Is it large? Is it small? Is it moving? Is it facing up? Down? Does if have a shape? We can know nothing about it without some frame of reference around it - some measuring system that exists beyond it.

Likewise, our selves - our identities, our being, our character - cannot exist in a void of aloneness. Unless we exist within some sort of community we become totally irrelevant and without meaning. Our very existence becomes impossible to prove. Illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

Then I realized that thankfully, when the lights go out, I am not alone. There is always an overarching Presence that provides the frame of reference. I am eternally part of a communion with God, who in and of himself is also a tri-union of being (that we struggle to understand as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and in another sense, he/she is an entire communion of (potentially) every human who has ever lived.

So, to give Lennon and McCartney the last word: "I just need someone to love."