Monday, October 08, 2007


Last night I headed down to the Drop-In to help serve Thanksgiving dinner. I was a bit concerned about how dinner would progress. We were anticipating about 1,200 people for dinner, and on Friday, there hadn't been enough volunteers signed up to help out. I needn't have worried.

Over the past few days both radio and TV have promoted our Thanksgiving dinner. By the time 6pm rolled around, over 30 volunteers had turned up to help out and lend a hand serving the meal. Normally, we do not allow young children into the shelter to volunteer. But, a couple of families turned up with their younger children and Cindy, the chef on duty, in the midst of organizing mashed potatoes and gravy, slicing turkey and heating up veggies, found jobs for each of them.

What a gift the children were to staff and clients. They added a 'lightness of being' to the evening. One client commented as I walked passed, "This is great. Everyone's watching their language!" And it was true. Where normally some clients don't think much about the words they use, the room became filled with courteous discourse as everyone made an effort to be on their best behaviour for the sake of the children. Clients quit bickering amongst themselves and staff stretched themselves to encompass our youthful guests at a mealtime that is often fraught with stress as they juggle keeping an eye out for trouble makers and ensuring everyone gets fed. It was a beautiful meal.

As the children worked with their parents to carry each plate filled with turkey and all the fixings to our guests, they concentrated on not spilling a drop. When they reached an individual, they each looked up, gave a shy smile and said, "Happy Thanksgiving". As each guest received the meal held out in a child's hands, they stopped, smiled back and said, "Thank you." Some whispered a gentle, "God Bless," others, simply nodded their heads in gratitude, their emotions too strong to give voice to. But, in their exchange, recognition of the human spirit that connects us all was lit and hope awoke in everyone's heart.

Last night serving dinner, I watched faces transform, hearts break open and minds open up to possibility. Those shy smiles plucked heartstrings. For some, they set off memories of Thanksgiving dinners past, for others they opened up the possibility of dinners to come, hopefully in better times, better places.

A smile is such a simple thing, and yet, such a precious gift. The smiles from those young children will live on in the hearts of everyone at the shelter last night. Dinners will come and go, but those smiles will continue to ignite spirits to the possibility of change. Those shy smiles will continue to keep hope alive.

I left the Drop-In last night filled with gratitude. For the families who came out to help. For the staff who do such an amazing job day in, day out. And, for the clients for whom a child's smile carried such a blessing. Their lives are not easy, but, they keep getting up in the morning and starting over again. Some will be there for awhile. Others will move on quickly. No matter how long their stay, their hope that one day life will be different gives me hope too. I can't change their lives, but as those children reminded me last night, I can share my smile, willingly, freely. Sometimes, it's all I can do. Sometimes, it's all I need to do to acknowledge their presence on my journey as we touch eachother's hearts with gratitude.

As the volunteers left, they walked down the aisle between the tables where satisfied diners sat back, their bellies full, their lives perhaps a little less bleak. As the volunteers passed through, the clients clapped in gratitude. The volunteers were a bit taken aback, embarrassed, except one young boy and his brother. They raced along, chasing each other down the aisle. To them, this was just another part of life they'd never experienced before.

Cindy, the frenzy of getting dinner ready finally over, stood at the bottom of the stairs to thank each volunteer for their contribution. One little girl, her kitchen-helper hair net still in place covering her blond hair, stopped in front of Cindy, put her arms up and gave her a hug. "Thank you for letting me help serve dinner," she said.


It doesn't matter what side of the street you're on, gratitude is a force that can change lives. I am so very grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends, the joy in my life today, for my freedom, for a job I love and for people I admire with whom I work.

May your life be a plentiful banquet of good friends, bountiful food, love and laughter. May gratitude fill your heart and open up the limitless possibilities of your life today as you give thanks for all that you have and all that you can be when you live fearlessly and passionately. May you smile throughout your day.


Anonymous said...

In appreciation of the C.D.I.R.C.S. and the work that they do for Calgary's homeless population I would like to show my gratitude by sending a percentage of all funds from my art work to the C.D.I.R.C.S.
Yours truly,and God Bless you All.
Wayne B.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe what I just read. Obviously whomever wrote this blog must work for the CDIRC. I would be greatly surprised if they didn't.My personal experience when having the NEED to eat at the CDIRC have been quite the opposite. Every chair on the second floor full since the morning wake up calls and staff telling me that if i dont have a chair (even though I just finished working) I have to go downstairs and wait in a line-up. This to me seems as though for some people CDIRC is being used as a crutch or even abused. Being an Aid in keeping people where they are. Instead people like myself who make an honest effort and actually try to be a productive member of society, feel as though they are a lower profile client then those who sit on second floor ALL day and do nothing but develop relationships with CDIRC staff.
I am eternally grateful to CDIRC for being there whan I have needed them, but there is so much work to be done to improve the way of life for some of calgary's homeless. I believe that CDIRC board members should listen more carefully to clients and staff that have been there a while need to Re-examine the line of work they are in as well. Remember CDIRC staff helping people while maintaining respect for them could be a challenge and I believe that most staff have Lost focus on thier goal

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Wayne,

That is very generous of you. Thank you.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, I do work for the Drop-In.

I agree, there is a lot of work to be done. We do our very best. In my experience working at the Drop-In, people work there because they care, and they want to make a difference. I'm glad to hear what we do makes a difference in your life.

Anonymous said...

Your very welcome is my pleasure.
All the very best,