Friday 20 January 2012

"Reverend Rene and Mac & Cheese"

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."   ~ Albert Schweitzer

Last night was one of my favourite nights in a long time. It wasn't my birthday. It wasn't a holiday and I didn't win a prize. But you could say that I won the lottery. Last night was the night that my friends and I gave something back to our community.

A few days ago I wrote a post about the unseasonably cold weather that we have been experiencing in Vancouver. I, along with most people that I know, have been whining about it - oh, it's so cold that last night I had to put extra blankets on my bed! It struck me that we are all lucky to have blankets, let alone a bed to sleep in. What did any of us have to complain about? So I rallied the troops at work and we were able to scour our closets and come up with enough sweaters, jackets, scarves, hats, gloves and boots to fill the trunk of my car and half of the back seat.

My amazing friends Heather and Simon helped me load up the car and drive the few blocks from Vancity head office (our work "home") to the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's downtown East side. The UGM supports residents of Canada's poorest neighbourhood with hot meals, clothes, and general support. When we arrived we were greeted on the street with offers to help carry bags and one gentleman held open the door for us. The lobby of the UGM is modern, new, brightly lit and warm. The volunteers were so happy and thankful to see us arrive with bags of donations - they must have thanked us at least three times. As we were unloading everything, Reverend Rene came out and we were introduced to him. Again, another thank you. Such a small thing, really - emptying your closet of those extra sweaters and gloves. And yet it means so much to someone else.

After our delivery we headed up the street for dinner at the Acme Cafe. All three of us ordered their amazing mac & cheese and Simon and I also indulged in milkshakes - true diner style milkshakes with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top. De-licious! We talked about this and that, we laughed, and we just enjoyed each others company and that particular moment in time.

Well, that's great, you're thinking, but what does this really have to with anything? Actually, it has a lot to do with everything. Because the night was an example of the beauty of community and connection.

When a person is depressed, they often lose their sense of community. My own experience in the early days of my illness is a case study in withdrawal - I closed myself off from people because that's what I thought that I needed to do to heal myself. Yes, sometimes you need time away to regroup and be alone. But remember, when you are depressed your mind can play tricks on you and you can't always trust your instincts.  The book Depression 101 by John D. Preston and Melissa Kirk speaks about the importance of social connectedness, "...having a consistently active social life can alleviate some of the pain of depression." As I have begun to heal and feel well again I have consciously turned my focus from getting well to maintaining wellness. Connection to friends and community plays a key role in this for me.

So back to the Union Gospel Mission for a moment. Heather and I spoke this morning about our experience and we both agreed about how good we felt afterwards. Not just good but a sense of calm and peace. Peace? Calm? The environment within the UGM felt slower and more relaxed. Hmm - another lesson on the road of life, perhaps? We all live such frenetic lives. We run from meeting to meeting at work, dash to pick up the kids, grab some dinner, do laundry - it seems like we are always on a hamster wheel. Frankly, sometimes I just want to get off the wheel. So maybe the lesson is to slow down and appreciate what we have. Appreciate the warm shoes that we have on our feet, the roof over our head. Appreciate the friends who volunteer without a moment's hesitation to donate winter clothes. Appreciate a warm meal shared with good friends. Stay in the now and feel gratitude.

Last night my inner spirit was rekindled by Reverend Rene and the folks at the Union Gospel Mission. And it was rekindled by Heather and Simon. Last night I won the lottery.

KB xo

For more information about the Union Gospel Mission please visit their website:


  1. So true about how social connection and community can invite you to open your heart to possibilities and gratitude, allowing one to quiet the mind in service of others. Being a catalyst for this activity can also allow oneself to be absorb by action, another help in handling the mind. Great post, Kristin!

  2. Inspiring KB (& I'm not just talking about the mac 'n cheese). Every year we do a couple clothing drives for our local shelter. This yr I was most touched by a group of women who knit a bag full of winter wear. So thoughtful. Xo


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