Saturday, December 26, 2009


December 26, 2009

May 2010 bring you Enough
Enough joy to share
Enough love to grow
Enough blessings to care

That is my Holiday wish for all of you. What does it mean to have enough or more importantly to be enough. Friday night was the Lotto Max drawing, everyone at Christmas dinner had a ticket. As I listened to the young people talking about their plans, all any of them wanted was enough. No dreams of mansions or jets... just a home of their own and enough in the bank to provide a secure future for themselves and their children. Wouldn't that be enough for any of us. The Buddhists believe that all suffering is born of avarice (wanting); by wanting we are focused on the future not on enjoying the moment we are experiencing right now. When we focus our energy on having enough, instead of more, we'll create a natural balance in our lives. Any self-help guru will tell you, balance is the key to a healthy mind, body & spirit.

Joy is the root of the word enjoy. Joy is not given to us by the universe, it is a gift we give ourselves. How many moments in your day do you enjoy? By opening our hearts and minds we can find joy in most experiences, a crisp breeze, a child's laugh, a hot shower;-) Make a list for yourself and practice consciously enjoying every moment you can take joy from. There is enough joy in just being is for us to embrace it. Share your joy, your smile and your laughter with those around you. You will quickly become a welcome presence in the lives you touch everyday (you'll be the popular kid LOL).

To have enough love we only need to give love at every opportunity. The Greeks had separate words to express every type of love; family, brotherly, humanity, passionately, and romantically. To truly love is not conditional on being loved in return (we feel what we feel), But loving does grow love into the world & into our own lives. Just as an apple seed grows into an apple tree which over its lifetime will recreate the cycle a million fold... so by loving, freely and openly in every possible way we grow love into the universe. Express your love by word and deed at every possible opportunity. It is really the only way to heal our hearts and our world.

Blessing are all the good things that come our way, be they wealth, health or peace. Apprieciating the blessings we have, warms our heart; knowing we are special enough that God (as you know him to be) has chosen to gift us in such a way. Look at the people around you and open your heart those who have not been blessed enough. Those whose blessing have long faded behind, veils of fear, pain or self-loathing. Don't ever be afraid to share your blessings, for, like love, blessings are infinite and self-propagating. The more you give, the more will be bestowed upon you.

Since 59% of Canadians are one paycheck away from financial crisis, it is important to address how money fits into my concept of enough. Money is a necessay part of life in our and of itself it is neither good nor bad. Once we have our basic needs (rent/mortgage, food, heat, clean water, transportation etc) met, do we need more? For some people yes....but the important thing is not to give up your life to support a lifestyle. Every dollar we own is purchased with a piece of our life. So what pieces of your life are you giving up for your extra dollars? Your nine year old might light up when she sees her new bike, but at 29 all she will remember is that you missed her first dance recital. And all you will remember is how she looks in the video you keep replaying.... with that nagging little ache in your heart that says,"I wish I could have been there". Life is not so kind as to always give us the options we want... but if your priorities are of abundance and NOT wealth, you will have more riches then you could have ever imagined.

As I have said before, time is the only thing we cannot save, grow or reclaim; once it passes it is gone forever. NO DO OVERS. Our only choice is to spend it wisely or poorly. To look back at that moment with gratitude or regret...In Don Miguel Ruiz's book "The Four Agreements" one of the agreements is "Always Do Your Best". Your best will change from moment to moment, but if you do the very best you can at any given point in time; it is all anyone can ask (including yourself). That is the nature of being enough.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

December 22, 2009
Wow, I have been back in Calgary for 10 days now and it has been wonderful. One of the best things about going home, is that at Christmas time so many other people are doing the same. Friends who have moved to other parts of the country are all together in the same place. I was very fortunate to be able to spend a few days hanging out with one of my favourite people. Beyond challenging me intellectually and always making me laugh, he takes the time to tweak my computer anytime he visits. Who could ask for more.
Spent an evening with some of the girls I used to work with and tomorrow I'm seeing more work friends, one of whom is visiting from Vancouver. And I've been able to visit my D.I. friends, most of whom are doing o.k.; thanks for asking ;-)
Today I dropped off gifts for my friend's 4 small children, kids are so much fun. It was wonderful spending the day with them. Although my children and I won't be having Christmas until April (when my youngest will be able to join us)...those of us in Calgary will be getting together for turkey dinner on Friday.
In a city the size of Calgary turkey dinners for the homeless are served several time during the month of December. Agencies and individuals provide gifts, blankets and spend time volunteering. Everyone is so generous this time of year. For all you do, this toast is for you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


December 12, 2009
Someone commented that it felt like it had been some time since I was in a shelter. It has been 2 weeks since I last directly referenced shelter experience in my blog...sorry guys got kind of caught up with the Bilbo Baggins thing. Actually, I was in the shelter until about a week ago...then I visited my sister and now I am back in Calgary until mid-January. Too much op/ed, I'll try to balance the input a little better, next time out.
Before I began this journey, one of my co-workers at the D.I. (a veteran front-line worker) told me to be sure to take a few days off every month to spend time with family and friends. He said, "it is too easy to become caught up in the street culture and forget who you are and why you are there. If you burnout, you won't be any good to anyone". Because of the travel distances involved I have not been able to follow his advice, I have only been able to reconnect once every few months. Although this is supposed to be downtime, I spend much of it with the Calgary homeless, both current friends and former clients. Also spend much time updating my notes and spreadsheets. I have discovered that extended periods of time living with this population does not diminish my sense of self. My work among the homeless is a big part of who I am, so living with them just saves me the daily commute LOL.
Even when I spend time with family I have the chance to educate them about the current situation. They will make statements in keeping with the stereotypical perceptions of the homeless and that affords me an opportunity to share what I have learned through my work and travels.
The biggest mis-perception people have is that all homeless are Drunks, Druggies and Drop-outs. Which, as I have mentioned before is only 30% of the shelter population. Today I'd like to address this population, the 30% who (not as individuals but as a demographic) will likely always need the shelter system and it supportive networks. When asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I can guarantee no one, answered "a homeless junkie". Bad things happen to every one of us, no one's life is perfect or easy, But some of us are bless with good coping skills or the supports from family or friends that we need. Addiction is rarely a lifestyle choice...the drunk, the junkie you pass on the street was once somebody's baby... innocent and perfect in every way. Just like every other child born into this world. It is not our place to be judgmental or smug about another person's misfortunes or mistakes. I have found such behaviours seem to always result in God giving us an opportunity to learn a little humility, through first-hand experience.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Altruism vs. Service

December 8, 2009
I have spent the last few days discussing, o.k. debating the nature and value of service with Chris aka Mr. Baggins. These conversations have brought me back to previous thoughts on the subject of altruism and service. When I was at university we were presented with the idea of altruism as a personality trait. This definition of altruism says it is a person who gives and does for others with no regard for self-interest. I reject even the possibility of such a thing. Serving gives everyone something, even if it is just a warm fuzzy feeling. The person being helped really doesn't care what our motivations are as long as we are giving from the heart. It isn't kindness or service if your gifts are conditional upon something from the receiver. Then it ceases to be a service and becomes barter, again there is a place for such things. “Will work for food” was common in the 1930s… these days many clients at soup kitchens and shelters volunteer for clean-up and food prep. It allows us (clients) to give back and reduces the burden on the facilities. Dropping toonies into a busker’s guitar case isn’t charity, but it is kind, you didn’t solicit that particular service at that time but you paid for it anyway.
Returning to our topic of altruism, if we look at the great humanitarians we see that there is always self interest in the decision for their service. Mother Teresa believed she was acting on God's will for her life, Albert Schweitzer was repaying a debt to… you guessed it, God. What can I say among so many other Supremes, God is the supreme motivator. Again God’s love is unconditional, so don’t be motivated by fear, be motivated by the bible’s example of perfect love. If our individual and collective commitment to give ourselves to helping others is service… then what is altruism? Altruism is an event… a moment in time when a perceived need is met a perceived ability to fulfill that need. In that regard so is heroism… the person to races into the burning building does so with the sincere belief they can successfully return with the rescued party. There is no time in that moment to think about self-interest, any resulting reward was unsolicited…and well deserved. An example of altruism was the dress Flora gave to me in the blog Generosity (which posted last summer)… She was not looking for approval, gratitude or anything else, I ran into her several weeks later and she didn’t even recognize me LOL. She saw I had a need which she believed she could fulfill and took action.
A kind heart or an empathetic nature are the personality traits which allow us to see the needs of others. Possessing those traits does make certain people more inclined to service, both as a career and voluntarily as with Chris and I and countless others. There are so many different populations with so much need right here in Canada that every one of us can find a cause to support, with time, money or both. Youth, elderly, sick, poor, disabled, hospitals even neighbours; do something for someone else (maybe just one thing each day) and you will be amazed what it does you. ;-)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bloggin on Baggins again

December 6,2009
First I should update you all on the Bilbo Baggins matter. Mr Baggins and I have exchanged 2 emails since his initial editorial arrived and was posted. He explained that he chose to email me because he did not wish to publicly disrespect me. I explained that I am open to public input...good, bad or whatever... that is why I have a comments option on the the Blogsite. Also the FORUM page was set up specifically so people could talk to each other about poverty, homelessness and related topics. Share your personal stories, news articles or opinions, use a pseudonym like our Mr Baggins if you wish. Since the FORUM is open you will be able to read any comments or feed back on your submission. I will not publish personal or contact information but all comments are open to public view. These 2 option are woefully under used... and if there is no activity over the next few months, on the FORUM I will probably just remove it from the site all together.
Mr Baggins volunteers tirelessly with the homeless and disadvantaged in his community as do so many across the country. It was his deep compassion for the people he works with which prompted is concern and outrage. The perspective he voiced was informed by that experience. I hope our conversations have helped him to see, this issue of poverty and homelessness is a problem which needs to be addressed on several fronts. Although my work is different from his our goals are the same. A just society where everyone can live comfortably, secure and with a measure dignity.
I published Bil's letter for two reasons. First if he has these concerns so do others and they should be able to get answers. I am grateful to Bil for giving me the opportunity to address these concerns...and if anyone else has concerns please do NOT hesitate to contact me. Second I want very much to encourage everyone to openly dialogue on this topic... Every one of us is effected by the homelessness crisis in North America. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Even if you don't care enough about the subject to get involved, we should all care enough to get informed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A conversation with Bilbo Baggins

Mr Baggins wrote an email to Angels of the Road which I would like to respond to and share with you. Mr Baggins' comments are in regular type face and my response will be in bold face type.
Mr Baggins I appreciate your concerns and very much appreciate your comments...I am including them in a blog so others can read them also. I will insert my responses to each comment within the text.
Shall we begin:

I can't believe your arrogance and disrespect to those trying to help.
The homeless people who know (have met) me in Calgary and my other stays know I have nothing but profound love and respect for them. I discussed this potential journey openly with my client friends at the D.I. for months before getting on that first bus. I have their complete support for what I am doing. My co-workers in Calgary and the front-line workers, I have shared with over the past 6 months are glad that someone is out here telling their story and trying to raise awareness of the situation.

I am assuming that you are also being dishonest in obtaining accommodation Actually I use my own name and disclose complete financials when asked. I have lived in my daughter's home since Oct. 2005, so I am in fact homeless . Even with a pretty good salary from the D.I. housing in Calgary would be a struggle as it is for 59% of working and working poor Canadians. But that is not what prompted my journey. For that information read Nov. 3rd blog In the Beginning

and possibly denying a woman who really needs shelter by taking a place reserved for those in real need. I have never stayed in a shelter that was filled to the answer is NO, no one has ever been turned away for me. I carry a small tent just in case.

Perhaps your ethics and morality need a check up certainly you don't adhere to any recognized professional research . Millions of dollars are spent annually on research into poverty and homelessness (Angels of the Road doesn't have any of that money). None of it getting the answers I needed. I have seen the shelter system as a civilian, as a volunteer, and as a worker...the only perspective left was that of the clients. Feel free to go back to the blog beginning and actually get to know what I have learned from all the Angels I have met along this road.
I attended the international conference on homelessness in 2009, when I talk with academics, researcher and delegates about Angels of the Road, All of them expressed their approval for my "observer / participant study". A common protocol used in anthropological research and social sciences. Although no one could remember a study of this scope being done on homelessness before

In many communities facilities are limited and women are turned away daily. Has someone been denied shelter for your research? Shame on you for using resources that should be reserved for those truly in need. I have no income when on the street (I quit my job to do this, no E.I. for me) My saving are all gone and my RRSPs which I use to support my internet, bus tickets and cell service won't last much into the New Year. Selling my dream-catchers gets me a little pocket money. I continue trusting the Creator to provide for the journey He has sent me on. When I am in a strange city my need for food and shelter is as desparate as anyone elses in that moment.

If you had started your journey by actually living on the streets for a week or two so that you could really experience homelessness perhaps the facilities and food you have taken under false pretences would have been more palatable. That is an odd suggestion, Calgary is the one place even on the street where I could NOT truly experience homelessness. I would be surrounded by dear friends within the population who would guarantee I lacked for nothing. By beginning my homeless journey in Regina, where I was completely alone, I effectively removed that advantage.

You speak of mental issues and substance abuse and the prostitution that goes with it and then can't understand why computer access, cell phones and computer time are limited. I DO understand why these things are restricted, when I speak to lack of computer access or time it is simply to inform my readers as to a lack of length or content within the blogs and at that particular time.

Shake your head, street smarts are not taught in school and your education won't help you with this although common sense might. I was street smart long before I went back to university in my 40s and got book smart. Why would you presume the two are mutually exclusive? As for the uncommon gift of common sense I have been truly blessed. Thx for your concern.

Your self professed journey is a total farce, you are not homeless you are simply using facilities provided for the homeless. This is not the way that a professional conducts solid research. Now we are repeating ourselves Yes I am homeless and YES this is an accepted method of study. Assuming you have read the above I need not repeat.

Stop your journey and sarcastic comments of those helping and do some real good by joining the front lines with those who provide concrete resources that you say you once did. OK the Nov 21st blog was sarcasm...I don't really think there is a brainwashing conspiracy going on. You will find (if you read the blogs) I have never been anything but supportive of the agencies and workers in the cities I have visited. I have harsh criticism for Government rehousing policies at all levels. I share my experiences good and bad with my readers. I promised my friends in Calgary that I would be truthful in telling their story and I will do nothing less. There are too many myths, stereotypes and misperceptions about homelessness and the people who are homeless. I just hope that sharing my experience will help bridge some of the knowledge gaps for people who can't learn about homelessness any other way.

Many homeless shelters are run 100% by volunteers who staff facilities overnight, clean up and then go to work. Food is cooked and brought by volunteers, laundry is done by volunteers food is donated by stores. Does it meet Canada recommended nutrition probably not but people try and I have yet to see a homeless person criticize people for giving and doing what they could. Reserve your criticism for 100% funded government facilities not those run by people doing the best they can with what they have. Again not sure where you feel wrongly accused. The diets are hi-carb / low protien. The lines for everything are long. Dis-repair abounds. There are shortages in everything. These are not criticisms, they are facts and if it encourages one person to pitch in and help who may have spent the rest of their life opting out... then it is worth it. Government funding is rationed out to private chartible organizations and like the voluntary organization they are doing the best they can with what they have. NO one working in the shelter industry is over paid even the executives at the D.I. are getting 1/3rd of what they could get with a job in the private sector. My own take home pay after 3 yrs was equal to what the guys were making doing day labour...If you work with the homeless you are in it for the love. And I thank you for that.