Monday, January 12, 2009

Imagine -- Written by Cort Delano

Written by: Cort Delano

On Wednesday, December 24, Calgary musician and performer, Cort Delano performed for clients at dinner. The following is an account of his experience that evening.
Thank you Cort for sharing your talent and gifts. Thank you for touching hearts and lifting spirits.

Cort’s Blog, for Wednesday Dec 24, 2008 --

Downtown was empty. We passed maybe 3 cars on the way through sleeping towers. This may have been the only Wednesday out of a year of Wednesdays where 5 pm rush hour traffic didn’t exist in this city, in any city for that matter: Wednesday, Dec 24 2008. People must have followed that bright star way out of the city somewhere, each to their own little stable. Well, that bright star for me this night shone right above 4th and Riverfront, The DI.

We wrestled the equipment out of the car, on to the loading dock, through rooms, doors, hallways and up the elevator like the employees do this with their eyes closed.
The set up was quick and easy, the chairs filled, folks with “Santa” hats walked by, the volunteers were arriving, there was an excitement in the place, flashing smiles, “let’s here ya sing!” shouts from the wave like chatter from the growing crowd… and just as the first plate was handed out, I strummed my first note. Bah rum pa puhm puhm!

It could have been just my own “good Christmas vibes” that I was feeling, but people began to pull up a chair, sit on the stairs, smile and bounce as I belted out “Grandma got run over by a reindeer”, “Jughound” and “Little Sister”.

Looking around at the people I began to wonder how far away they could be from family, friends, half way across the country? Maybe they don’t have family? Is this just another day for them? But here they are in Calgary. The temperature may have been -30 outside, but all those chilling thoughts were cast away as a couple began to dance, clap their hands, stamping out the gravy they just ate. People coming up the stairs were curious about all of the fuss as the volunteers greeted them with Turkey and cheer. People sang along, we had a party on our hands.

As things winded down and the volunteers were set to go, they received a standing ovation. I sang out an old sea shanty that Stan Rogers would end his live performances with, “Leave Her Johnny” and everyone all joined in as best they could, but not nearly as jovial as the Maritimers. All seemed to end on a Jolly track of Joy, at least in my corner of the DI. People were happy, shaking hands, thumbs up, patting backs, I received a card.

Leaving, we passed through a large room with beds, side by side, by side. We gingerly wheeled the speakers through the quiet hall. Some were sleeping curled up, others sprawled out from a long day or a hard day. A few gathered in the corner around a light, surrounded by snowshoe insoles, layers of clothing, talking into the evening. As we loaded the equipment back in the car, guitar n all, that star was shining brighter than before above the DI, as it shone in each one of us that evening, and still shines on, brilliant as it did so long ago. And the words of a song requested that evening came flooding back to me “Imagine”.

Please visit Cort's blog at -- to find out more about his amazing talent.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Miracle on Christmas Eve

In September he had a serious accident that left him with a broken leg, a broken pelvis and little expectation of surviving. Miraculously, he survived and moved from ICU to a regular ward a few weeks later. But, he couldn’t walk and needed extensive rehabilitation. Staff regularly went to visit him, even though at the time of his accident he was barred from the DI due to violent behaviour and continuous disregard for the no-alcohol policy on the premises.

He was doing well, and then he disappeared. He was released from the hospital where he’d arrived after his accident, but no amount of querying found him at any of the other health care facilities. “We thought he was back on the streets,” said Rob S., who along with Pat M., had regularly visited Al* during his hospital stay.

It was hard for Rob who, over the years of interacting with Al, had formed a relationship of sorts with the man. “When the accident happened, the hospital phoned asking for information on his next of kin. They didn’t think he’d make it. I knew he had an uncle back east, but that was it. The uncle didn’t want anything to do with him so we became his family. We are the DI,” he smiles, “a place where people matter. Looking out for those others don’t want to look out for is what we do.”

Concerned for Al’s welfare, but unable to make headway on locating the man, Rob had to let it go to continue on with his day-to-day work. “I was worried. What if he was out on the streets? In the cold temperatures we’ve had, there’s no way he could have survived, especially given his weakened condition.”

And then a miracle happened. On Christmas Eve,Rob was visiting with clients in a care facility in the city. He had gifts for all of them, and an extra gift, just in case. “Through the Christmas WishList, we had had received extra gift cards. When I asked Mark and Natalie, who were coordinating the gift distribution if they had anything I could take for our clients in hospital, they gave me gift cards for each individual. I was about to leave for the hospital when I realized, I had one extra card more than clients to visit. I was going to leave it here at the DI but my co-worker, Pat, told me to take it with me. 'Who knew when the Universe would bring the right person along for the gift,' he said.”

And the Universe delivered. “We’re having dinner together in the cafeteria and who should walk past, shuffle actually, but Al. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was alive and he was walking.”

He hadn’t had any visitors since leaving the hospital. Hadn’t had any contact with anyone outside the care facility for several weeks. Delighted to see Rob, Al sat down to chat. “Is there anything I can get you?” Rob asked him.

“Anything would be a great help,” said Al. “I don’t have anything left since the accident. It was all thrown out.”

Rob handed him the gift card. “Here, this should help.”

“I didn’t need anything else that Christmas,” said Rob afterwards. “Knowing Al was safe was enough to fill my heart for the year. It really was a Miracle on Christmas Eve to see him.”

And the miracle doesn’t end with Christmas. Al is soon to be released from the care facility. “He has nowhere to go except back here,” says Rob. “He’s a changed man. He’s had to come clean from his addictions. He’s doing really well. So, all I need to do now is lobby on his behalf to have his bar lifted so that he can have a second chance. And that won’t require a miracle. The DI is a place for second chances.”

And third and fourth chances too. It’s a place where no matter how far you’ve fallen, there is always hope of finding a place to rest, a place to find yourself again; in spite of your past, in spite of where you've been or never want to go again. It’s a place where people matter and miracles happen every day. It’s a place where all you have to do is wait and one will walk right past you.

*Not his real name.