Category Archives: For Heart and Mind

See Inside: Grand Manor (Excel Society)

Supportive Living Facilities play a crucial role in providing home for people who need the extra help because of age or illness, disability or injury, or even addictions.

Grand Manor is one such facility run by the Excel Society.  They provide home and support for people 25-100 years of age from a variety of needs and backgrounds. The entire facility has 118 individual suites. Three are 1-bedroom apartments, the rest are studio style.

Thirty-two beds are on a secure unit where people are not allowed to leave unless accompanied. Sixteen beds are for PDD (persons with developmental disabilities) – a new program. Edmonton has lots of group homes providing home to PDD tenants, but as people age they need greater support.

Here are the services Grand Manor provides in-house:

  1. 1. On-site support staff: 24-hr LPN care and Health care aide. A Physician is onsite twice per week.  Psychiatrist once per week. Podiatrist once every six weeks. RN, M-F. Supportive living case managers M-F. They have an occupational therapist on-site with a Mental Health specialization who tests a person’s capability, helps them set goals, and perhaps find work).
  2. They have a Harm Reduction Program for people with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption (Managed Alcohol Program). More details below.
  3. They provide Financial counseling to clients who need that assistance; including a program that allows people to live in a cash-free environment, with credit used in the small store on-site.
  4. And of course food! In the older part of the facility, residents from 55 suites use a main dining room. In the newer part of the building, residents meet for lunch on each floor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does a person qualify for a supportive living facility like Grand Manor?

Alberta Health Services oversees assessment and placement. People first contact the Continuing Care Access Hotline: 780.496.1300. From there, people are assessed and are connected with facilities that have the proper resources to address their needs

2. How much does room and board cost?

Room and board costs around $1900. Many clients receive funding from AISH or CPP, but others are funded privately through savings or by family support. In the event someone is unable to afford this kind of help, AISH and CPP are able to provide an increase for clients in Supportive Living.

3. How does the Managed Alcohol Program work?

At Grand Manor, staff work with each resident to develop an individual alcohol management plan that takes into consideration how much the resident wants to drink and what the resident can afford to drink. The goal is to determine what is enough to satisfy the resident while still being safe for that person. In some cases, they help the client find a safe level close to what his/her body is accustomed to and then gradually help them taper down. At Grand Manor, alcohol is purchased by staff using funds clients have provided. They then serve the alcohol to people in their rooms in regular doses, perhaps once every hour.

Who is currently in this program? They have people anywhere from 55 to 90 years old. Many of these have severe alcohol addictions and often have mental health issues. Some are men grieving the loss of a spouse who were not doing well on their own, and began to drink more. Others were people living on the streets.

How is a managed alcohol program helpful? Almost all residents that enter the Harm Reduction Program have come with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption. This causes numerous problems such as incontinence, injuries related to falls, alcohol-related dementia, seizures, poor nutrition, and verbal and physical abuse. Through the harm reduction program, Grand Manor has been able to assist the clients to reduce their alcohol intake to a safer consumption that allows them more control over their lives.

A success story: A woman came into Grand Manor from living on the streets. The hospital sent her to Grand Manor to be part of the Managed Alcohol Program. She had diabetes and high blood pressure. Coming into the program, she expressed her view that she doesn’t really enjoy drinking, but that when you are on the street, ‘It’s what you do.’ She began to participate in the recreational programs and make friends. She only drank for a week, and then stopped. Today, she is no longer on any blood pressure meds; is on minimal oral diabetic medication and doesn’t drink at all.

When haven’t people been successful? The program has not worked for people who want to binge drink, and value that more than a roof over their head. Some choose to go back to living on the streets

4. How does financial counseling work at Grand Manor?

Most clients at Grand Manor have a trustee to help them manage their budget. The trustee could be a family member, or their is a staff person who can play that role if need be. In more difficult cases, a person can sign a third-party agreement to directly allocate their income to cover their room and board at Grand Manor.

To learn more about Grand Manor, visit the excel society’s website: http://www.excelsociety.org/care-options/grand-manor

 

 

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Beyond the Big White House

Jacob and Aafje Prins helped more than 800 Dutch newcomers settle in Canada and the hospitality of their big white Beverly house with lilac hedges became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

They were immigrants themselves who brought their eight children to Edmonton in 1927. Forever grateful to their new country, they worked tirelessly to pay it forward.

Delighted at the prosperity of their new life in Canada, Jacob Prins began encouraging other Dutch to emigrate and, when three families arrived from the Netherlands in 1936, he found farms for them to live and work near Lacombe. When more families followed, he found it necessary to scout other locations and this turned out to be the start of a remarkable career.

Prins often contacted the Canadian National Railway for information on available land parcels and, in the winter of 1937, the railway sent him to Holland to promote emigration to Western Canada, reports a history compiled by Tina Van Ameyde. After World War II, the Christian Reformed Church’s Synodical Committee appointed him as fieldman for Central British Columbia.

The railway even provided Prins with a pass to travel freely in the west and, on one of those trips searching for locations suitable for Dutch farmers, he discovered the Bulkley Valley. It was a valley ideally situated on the railway from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, where settlers would be assured of work in the lumber industry during winter months. Many Dutch families subsequently settled in the communities of Smithers, Terrace, Houston and Telkwa, B.C.

img_0516Aafje died in 1949 and her daughter-in-law Ann Prins stepped in to help with the workload, getting up before daybreak to prepare a meal for hungry travellers on their way to British Columbia. Jacob received no remuneration and, for a long while, paid expenses out of his own pocket.

Until 1960, when at the age of 74 he had to resign on doctor’s orders, Prins travelled once a month to B.C. to check up on “his” people. Through his efforts, more than 800 Dutch families were welcomed to Canada and many settled in the Beverly area.

Known as “dad” to the hundreds he helped, Jacob died at home on April 12, 1963, while reading a book in Aafje’s favourite corner. The funeral service filled First Christian Reformed Church to overflowing as people travelled from all over Alberta and B.C. to pay final respects to a man who lived his life in the service of others.

See the full article at: http://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2015/11/17/the-prins/

 

Riverbend & Terwillegar Talk Housing

On Saturday, October 29 from 1-4pm, CRIHI invited eight neighbourhoods in Riverbend & Terwillegar to a workshop and conversation called ‘Homes4ourNeighbours’ at Riverbend United Church.

There were about 25 people in attendance, including 15 interested neighbours. This event provided good information on affordable housing, shared frontline stories and experiences, and then gave neighbours a safe place to share their worries, concerns and ideas on how neighbours can respond to new proposals and new neighbours.

riverbend-united-churchAlthough this event had a modest turnout, there was a good cross-section of people and opinions engaged, including representatives from two community leagues (the Ridge and Riverbend), members of the Terwillegar Homeowner Association, Brander Gardens ROCKS, faith leaders, and neighbours at large. It was also a respectful conversation, taking place under rules that stated: Everyone has wisdom. We need to hear everyone’s wisdom for the best result. There are no wrong answers. And everyone will both hear and be heard.

In our December issue of the Neighbourly, and in this post CRIHI summarizes three (out of seven total) key points of conversation and what the group heard from each other. The full report is available below and includes summaries of the presentations and several additional points of conversation.  CRIHI thanks our hosts at Riverbend United Church (pictured) for their provision of space and refreshments! 

Full Report:  report-on-affordable-housing-workshop-october-29-2016-in-riverbendterwillegar

Here are three points discussed by the group:

NUMBER ONE: We need quality consultation!

group-conversationsSeveral participants in the group shared their frustration at poorly done consultation. If the developer doesn’t have a good process for engaging the community, and is unable to address reasonable concerns, that will trigger much higher levels of fear, worry and concern in the local community.

The group highlighted two positive examples of consultation done well: The Right at Home Society for its planned development of the Westmount Presbyterian Church site development in North Glenora. They spent one year in dialogue with the existing local community. It was observed that it takes a strong commitment to dialogue as communities do not naturally want to be inclusive of new/different neighbours. The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta was also highlighted as a positive example in the development of a Permanent Supportive Housing project in the Bonnie Doon area.

A healthy conversation with a diverse group of voices was identified as necessary at both planning tables and in consultations. They also advise Developers to give neighbours some choices, and to take their input into account when fine-tuning a project.

NUMBER TWO: This is What a Healthy Neighbourhood Response looks like:

Assuming the development/property management agency has engaged properly with the existing community, such a response should be:

  1. Inclusive of many perspectives, recognizing that not all are in agreement (accepting that some views may be supportive, others that are opposing, and still others that are questioning)
  2. Willing to be part of the process and to dialogue – meaning there is opportunity for all to be listened to and to be heard – to give and take. Requires respect as not everything may go ‘our way,’ but it doesn’t mean we haven’t heard or been heard.
  3. Welcoming of new neighbours, even if a process or development does not unfold as it should. Positive example: The existing community in the Haddow neighbourhood has come to a broad agreement they will accept and welcome the future new residents of the Haddow First Place development, even though the poor consultation process sparked strong resistance to the project.
  4. Connected to a neighbourhood’s story – where the look and feel of a project fits the surroundingneighbourhood so that community culture is maintained and enhanced and positive outcomes and opportunities are perceived and known.” Related idea:   A neighbourhood could benefit from the development of a “charter” of what is community (a community charter of neighborliness).”
  5. Aware of the need across the city, and our community’s responsibility to help in meeting that need. Ie. “Our responsibilities include that with the inner-city expanding, we need to promote Affordable Housing in all areas of the city” (From a Terwillegar resident)

NUMBER THREE: The Need to be Good Neighbours

“Our responsibilities should be to welcome and include our new neighbours, be open-minded without prejudice – we should assume they are good people – there are a lot of ways to get to know folks”bgrocks-drum-lesson

“We need to find ways to get to know our neighbours. An offer of free topsoil has enabled my family to get to know many neighbours whom we had never met.”

“As in the “Welcome Home (Program),” we need to welcome new neighbours to our neighbourhoods.”

“The success of “Brander Gardens Rocks” results from its being based on a reciprocal relationship between the residents of that Community Housing project and the existing residents of the surrounding community. Over the years, attitudes have changed from “us and them” to just “us” and from “we can do it for them” to “we can do it with them.” “Just because a person has a lower income doesn’t mean they don’t aspire to a better life. Many of these people want to give back.”

Existing neighbours can organize community dinners and block parties to welcome newcomers.

 

 

The Good Neighbour

What is a good neighbour? These days, we tend to think of a good neighbour as someone who keeps their yard trim and tidy, their walks cleared, the noise down after ten, and their beer bottles on their side of the fence (not mine!). But is this really what a good neighbour looks like?

neighbourq

People of Faith most always aspire to some form of good neighbour code. Love of God and neighbour are marks of righteousness. How does that love show itself? We often say it involves: hospitality, generosity, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice, underscored by a commitment to be there for each other.

In my neighbourhood, I am pleased to know many good neighbours. Certainly, it is not all smooth sailing as relationships never are. But on my street, I am happy to know that if my family or I have a crisis, we have at least five different households who would be there for us in a heartbeat. Taking the kids on short notice; bringing food; grieving with us; saying prayers for us; coming to visit us in the hospital. And of course all the little things: borrowing their lawn-mower, or a few eggs. I’ve even had one of my eighty-year-old neighbours bring his snowblower and clean my sidewalk after a heavy snowfall!

Opening my door to my neighbour continues to be a source of incredible treasure. Along the way, my wife and I have had the opportunity to share life with single parents caring for their kids; seniors grappling with the demands of age; with families for whom money is always an issue, and who need help occasionally in getting to appointments or talking to their social worker; and people grieving significant loss or battling mental illness. Our door is open to our neighbours, and in return, their door is open to us. When we are there for them, they are there for us!

In the last few years, I was privileged to be part of one very powerful neighbour story. A family with small kids was going to lose their home only two weeks before one family member was to undergo treatments for a serious cancer diagnosis. In response to this need, our neighbours and my church community together raised around $3000 to get them caught up on their rent, and helped negotiate a renewed lease for another year. It gave them time and space to heal!neighbour6

Recently, several local households celebrated thanksgiving together as many didn’t have family close by. We ate turkey, stuffing, Asian noodle dishes and springrolls, Kenyan flatbread, trifle…yum!   So this neighbouring thing… Give it a go!

By Mike Van Boom, from Edmonton’s McCauley Neighbourhood

 

Come Healing: a Prayer by Leonard Cohen

On Thursday, November 10, fans of this Canadian poet/singer/songwriter grieved the loss of a friend.  This prayer in song speaks into the grief and longing of so many of us.

O gather up the brokenness / And bring it to me now / The fragrance of those promises you never dared to vow / The splinters that you carry / The cross you left behind / Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mindcohen2

And let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy / In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving / The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing / Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding / That tore the light apart / Come healing of the reason / Come healing of the heart / O troubled dust concealing / An undivided love / The heart beneath is teaching / To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter / Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar / Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches / To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries / To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it / The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb

Hospitality in Islam

A guest  (Muslim or non Muslim) enjoys a special place in Islam.

In Islam all actions performed daily can be raised to the status of worship simply by doing them to seek the pleasure of God. Having a guest is an opportunity to earn God’s pleasure by showing moral excellence in how we treat our guests. Before all else, believers must offer respect, love, peace, and cordiality to each guest. A welcome merely based on food offered, without showing any love, respect, or peace, would not be pleasing.

Prophet Muhammad treated his guests with utmost respect and generosity.  He anticipated their needs offered them the most comfortable room, the choicest food, took interest in their conversation and gave them his full attention.  In Islam hospitality is a right rather than a gift, and the duty to supply it is a duty to God.

There are several examples in the Quran about hospitality. One is about a Prophet’s companion, Abu Talha who welcomed a hungry traveler into his home even though they had very little to eat. He asked his wife to bring whatever they had and gave it to the guest.  While the guest ate his meal, they pretended to eat in the dim candlelight.  The following day Prophet Muhammad gave them the great news that God had revealed a verse about them and their generosity.   islamic-tea

Prophet Mohammed also gave the example of Prophet Abraham, how he treated his guests, which displays an important feature of hospitality. The Qur’an portrays this incident in the following manner:

“Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Abraham? Behold, they entered his presence and said: “Peace!” He said: “Peace!” (and thought: “They seem unusual people.”) Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a roasted fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: “Will you not eat?” [Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27]

The above paragraph from the Quran is an example of how Prophet Abraham, entertained his visitors. He reciprocated their greeting, despite the fact that they were strangers to him. Furthermore, he quickly and discretely arranged for a meal without asking, if they would care for anything. The meal consisted of the best he could offer. Once the meal was ready, he placed it close to them and refrained from ordering them to eat; instead, subtly invited them to partake in the meal. There are similar stories in the bible on hospitality.

In Islam the guest too has responsibilities.  One of them is to announce their visit in advance whenever possible and not to over stay or ask for anything which might cause hardship or be a burden on the host. Another is to hasten to taste the refreshments offered and to pray for and ask blessings upon the host.

In Islam the extension of hospitality and sharing of meals offer opportunities to embody remembrance of God. Sharing of food among Muslims is a very important feature of their social life.

Submitted by Sofia Yaqub, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities

 

They are Witches!

The following story of compassion and hospitality was shared with CRIHI by Christina Mhina, from All Saint’s Anglican Parish in Edmonton. 

My grandfather, the late Canon Samuel Stephen Mwinyipembe was a special influence in my life. He was a loving, caring and compassionate person.

I remember when I was a child, about nine years old, there were rumors that neighborhood witchcraft was a problem in the village that I was born and raised.

It was believed that this was a problem in neighboring villages too. These were village communities where the inhabitants largely rely on each other. Accusations of witchcraft were usually due to personal disputes, jealousy, and conflicts between neighbors or family over land or inheritance. In many cases those who were accused of practicing witchcraft were shunned away from their families, and in some cases they were murdered.

My grandfather, as a faith leader felt that he had a moral obligation to support those in need, therefore he invited the suspected witches to come and stay at our home until the tensions in their families were resolved. Our family structure was a big extended clan, so I and my siblings thought we were related to everyone that lived in our house. Now there were three old women, who lived at our home who were quite isolated and who did not take part in any household chores (as they were not allowed to do chores such cooking, cleaning, fetching water for the fear that they might try to poison the family.) Because they had lots of time sitting around, my siblings and I spent a great deal of time interacting, listening to the stories they shared and playing with these old women.

Then one day, at night while everyone else was sleeping, I was awakened by voices of people talking. As I listened carefully I realized the voices of my grandfather and my grandmother arguing. In their argument I heard my grandmother furiously saying “you have to send them away, they are witches, and they will bewitch our grandchildren”. My grandfather responded calmly and with confidence, “there is no certainty that these women are witches, but we know for sure that these are human beings in need. They need our support. They will stay with us. I assure you, our grandchildren will be safe.”

That night, I could not get back to sleep, I kept thinking of the three isolated old women that played with us, and that all this time they had been “witches!” The following day I interacted with them being cautious, but within a few days’ time, I forgot about my grandparents’ arguments. We continued to live with the accused ‘witches’ who seemed to be friendly and harmless to me and my family members.

Since that time I always remember my grandfather’s concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others which has influenced me in my interactions with others. I try to pass on what I have learned from my grandfather down to my children and those I interact with.

witches2

 

A Habitat Story: the Change of Heart

At the recent launch of this summer’s Interfaith-Habitat works on July 7, Alfred Nicolai, CEO of Habitat Edmonton told us a story about what moved a change in the heart of a neighbor.

A few years ago, Habitat for Humanity was building thirty units of housing in the Beacon Heights community. A large piece of grass that had always been green space was now to be made into homes. But as is often the case, this change sparked resistance and pushback from neighbours. A few neighbours got together to say, ‘Let’s stop this!’ They got out their clipboards and went door to door to get support, and stood up in opposition to the project.

The conversation covered the usual ground: concerns over parking and an increase in traffic, how close the houses would be built together. And as the city reports came in response, clarifying that these issues would not be problematic, this group continued to stand strong against the change.

One day, one of the lead women in opposition to the Habitat project happened to hear her son talking with a friend. His explanation of why they were opposing the project was as follows:

‘We don’t want those people living here.’

As her son said those words, this mother was deeply convicted. What was she teaching her children? Was this her inner voice being spoken out loud from the mouth of her son?  She found she had fallen into a horrible trap. How could she not want hard-working families as neighbours who were working towards a better future for their children? It took her son’s voice for her to realize that there was bigotry hidden inside the other concerns around structure, traffic, parking etc. That it didn’t matter what god they worshiped or the colour of their skin. Those people were very much like us!

Following that, she turned 180 degrees. She phoned Habitat for Humanity and apologized for her opposition. She then became a proponent of the project. Today, she continues to support Habitat and volunteer, helping families build a better future for their children.

What about those people who have found their home in the housing development? Anderson gardens people are leaders in the Beacon Heights community league and the local school. And their kids have lots of sleepovers!

Habitat group anderson gardens

 

Finding Home at Ottewell Manor

“…these are just normal people who want what anyone else would want: a good quality of life.”

Kim Ruzycki remembers her first visit to Ottewell Manor. She recalls touring the building, walking through the dining room and seeing all the rooms in the building that she and her neighbours would be living in. She had spent the previous year living at Rosary Hall and many of her neighbours there were also making the switch to Ottewell Manor, so she wasn’t nervous about moving. In fact, as she settled into her new home, she was surprised by what her living conditions were like.Ottewell Manor

“We can make all of our own decisions and do things for ourselves,” Ruzycki says. “But there is a strong support system here.”

Ruzycki is one of 38 residents currently living in Ottewell Manor. And like all the residents at Ottewell Manor, she’s living with conditions that would make living completely independently almost impossible. Residents at Ottewell Manor live with a range of different conditions from depression and anxiety to bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Ottewell Manor was built in 1962 and was a seniors lodge for many years. In 2010, negotiations between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Greater Edmonton Foundation Seniors Housing (GEF Seniors Housing) began with the intention of dedicating Ottewell Manor strictly for seniors struggling with mental health conditions. In May of 2012, Ottewell Manor’s first new residents started moving in.

“None of us had any background in mental health before Ottewell Manor opened,” explains Shelley Fox, Assistant Manager with GEF Seniors Housing who spends the majority of her time overseeing the operations of Ottewell Manor. “We received some training from AHS before we opened, but we also set some clear guidelines in our agreement as to where the mental health support would be coming from.”

GEF Seniors Housing’s partnership with AHS focuses on the operations and support for its residents. Therapists, case workers, and even some homecare providers work directly with GEF Seniors Housing to ensure that everyone living in Ottewell Manor is receiving the mental health support that they need.

“AHS are the experts in mental health, we know and respect that and we wouldn’t want to try and replace that,” says Lisa Bereziuk, Manager of the larger Ottewell portfolio of buildings for GEF Seniors Housing. “What we as supportive living are doing is ensuring that the other side of that quality of life equation is being met. We’re making sure that the food we serve is of the best quality, the recreation options are things our residents are interested in, that the building is clean and well taken care of, and that the day to day of living here is the best it can possibly be.”

Like all GEF Seniors Housing supportive living sites, Ottewell Manor features a full commercial kitchen with a Red Seal chef on staff, a designated recreation coordinator setting up programs for the residents, and the freedom for the residents to choose what they want to take part in.

Both Fox and Bereziuk attribute a large part of Ottewell Manor’s success to the open communication they continue to have with their partners in AHS. With each organizations’ roles so clearly defined, there’s very rarely any disconnect between them, and that helps keep the operations in Ottewell Manor running smoothly and ensures that all the residents have a great quality of life.

“Hospital visits are considerably down for our residents, and most of the time you can’t even tell our residents are living with any sort of condition,” says Fox. “The work being done here is helping a lot with breaking the current stigma around mental health. Even within GEF Seniors Housing, new staff will be hired and not realize what Ottewell Manor does and they’ll be visibly uncomfortable about it until they actually visit Ottewell Manor and see how wrong their misconceptions were. That these are just normal people who want what anyone else would want: a good quality of life.”

What’s most important for Fox and Bereziuk every day is that the residents are happy with where they live. And they get to see their efforts help people with everything from just getting comfortable with where they’re living to helping with larger issues such as hoarding. The residents often show their appreciation for what the staff with GEF Seniors Housing does for them; some a little more vibrantly than others.

“There was one resident who became especially attached to the Ottewell portfolio’s previous manager Susan Scott and during our opening this resident actually hugged [Scott] so hard that she needed to see a chiropractor afterward,” says Bereziuk with a laugh. “But I think that resident expressed what a lot of the other residents were feeling that day and still continue to feel. And when we see our residents express that level of happiness, we know we’re doing a good job at giving them a good quality of life.”

Article and accompanying photo provided compliments of GEF Senior’s Housing.

 

Dead Weight …People?

I recently had a conversation with René Lamothe…

René is a man of Cree descent who serves as a Spiritual Advisor at Ambrose Place in Edmonton.  Rene made a very interesting observation about how we have come to think about or weigh each other as people.  He noted that when medicines are made or plants are studied, biologists and chemists will often focus on a plant’s “active ingredients.” Drawing out the things that enable life and purpose in a plant, and discarding the rest.  Rene suggested that we tended to do the same things when we look at each other as human beings.  We tend to celebrate and venerate those among us who we see as active and vital players in our functioning as a society. 

As we reflected on the implications of that, we came to realize that this is true of how we can think of each other even at a neighbourhood level.  A community might see a Senior’s complex in their neighbourhood as a liability, and not an asset.  Why?  Because a community thrives with strong families and individuals who can volunteer and serve actively in their community; running their soccer program and organizing neighbourhood events.   What runs behind this thinking?  The idea that seniors are no longer active ingredients in a community’s makeup.  But is that right?

Or how about people in poverty or people with mental illnesses or addictions?  Here too, we might paint brush with some of the same sentiment, believing that a neighbourhood with many people in poverty has few active ingredients to make the community tick.  In our broad judgment, we believe people with addictions or mental illnesses do not tend to be contributing members to society, and we are reluctant to see them as such.   Rather, we will sometimes discuss them as burdens that we have a responsibility to care for.   And while it may be true that people in crisis are often able to give very little, many of them are happy to give from what little they have to make their community stronger. 

Maybe our desire to celebrate only the strongest members of the community is unhealthy.  After all, in the human body every part plays a role.  The mind and the heart do play pretty critical roles with lots of heavy lifting, but the smaller pieces are also of great significance.   In the Christian tradition, the Apostle Paul uses exactly that analogy in his letter to the Ephesians to talk about how people should see each other.  What should our response be towards those in our midst who are suffering, in crisis, or gradually losing ability?

If I smash the tip of my finger with a hammer, what is my instant response?  I take notice.  I care for it.  I might try to gently massage it to help get circulation back so it is able to be restored.  It may be fairly tender for a while and require some time and energy, but my body’s natural response deems it worth the sacrifice.  Our bodies are not quick to write off any part as dead weight, instead their primary practice is to nurse an injured part back to health. 

Can we cling to the same outlook for each other?  People in poverty struggle against many roadblocks that keep them from thriving.  Could those of us with strength to do so help clear some of those out of the way?  People with fixed incomes are having trouble affording housing in an expensive market like Edmonton.  Can we help build creative and healthy solutions that will enable them to live in safety and dignity?  People carrying the burdens of trauma and mental illness too often find themselves doing so on the street, in a state of constant crisis.  Can we provide safe and supportive places for them to grieve and to heal?  People of all backgrounds experience the life-draining effects of loneliness and isolation.  Can we work together to enfold each other in safe and warm community; a community that gives life to all of us?

We do not easily give up on our bodies when they are injured; instead we fight for the possibility of healing and restoration.    Let’s take that fight for what is possible to the work of restoring, loving and healing each other.

by Mike Van Boom,  June 1, 2016