At the Monday morning drop-in for people in need, we always display a colourful drawing done some years ago by cathedral member Rachel Schmidt. She illustrated Maya Angelou's famous quote: “Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.”
Currently, we are unable to be that rainbow for our usual guests or for any newcomers. Due to the COVID-19 threat and the provincial state of emergency, we cannot gather in a group larger than 10. Thus, no outreach drop-in!
“We always welcome 15 to 20 people, sometimes as many as 65,” outreach treasurer Doug Milander explained. “The new rules mean no drop-in, food and beverages, used clothing bank, live music, the popular services of the parish nurse, and so on. We miss helping people, and I'm sure our usual guests are disappointed not to be able to come.”
One longtime guest has often told volunteers that his doctor recommends regular attendance at the drop-in for the benefit of his mental health. He loves coming to chat, eat sandwiches, occasionally find a new shirt, maybe take home some fruit. He says the volunteers are always good to him, and he loves being there.
Marc Schneider plays the banjo and sings Christian music at the drop-in. He says he understands and respects the public health rules, but he does miss participating on Mondays.
“I try to bring a sense that Jesus offers solace, companionship and sometimes healing in our brokenness,” Marc said. “During my years playing with the music group, I have noticed that the lines between workers and attendees have blurred. More and more attendees seem to be helping.”
Some of the female guests have become volunteers in the kitchen, and some of the men help to set up the hall or put away tables and chairs and boxes of clothing at the end.
“Some of the attendees who were showing extreme symptoms earlier have become much more peaceful and happy,” Marc continued. “Healing is occurring, and I believe this drop-in is church, as much or more than the congregation that meets Sunday mornings for worship.”
Doug said he thinks the COVID-19 pandemic will be a difficult time for drop-in guests who range from a baby to a senior and everyone in between.
“They're already challenged by lack of money, and many have problems with inadequate housing, precarious health, unemployment, addictions, illiteracy, etc.,” Doug said. “A disruptive, unsettling event such as the pandemic is a real blow for them. Please keep these vulnerable people in your prayers until the crisis passes.”
He said he hopes that everyone can somehow keep safe. He looks forward to the resumption of the drop-in whenever authorities allow it.
-- by Ann Deveau
[Photo] PRIOR TO SOCIAL DISTANCING! - When drop-ins were still being held, outreach treasurer Doug Milander enjoyed chatting with Arthur Linton, a longtime attendee and a dependable volunteer.