Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who helped whom?

Spent the night on the couch at Ian, Mia and Joseph's house in Nanaimo last night so that Ian and I could get up at 5.00 a.m. to do the breakfast shift at the Unitarian Fellowship's Emergency Weather Shelter. We took with us the box of clothes that Kari and Andy had delivered to Ian the night before.

The people working the morning shift were Bill, Ian, Paula, Rob, Wendy and I. We made breakfast for the shelter's clients. After they'd finished breakfast and left, we stripped the bedding off the mattresses, and cleaned the kitchen, the church hall in which the clients had slept, and the washrooms (toilets).

One of the clients needed some help doing things, because she was missing an arm. I wondered what it must be like to cope with one arm.

After the clients had left, we noticed that there was some oatmeal porridge left, and some of us volunteers ate it (with yummy dates and raisins mixed into it). It was really nice to sit around the table and get to know the other volunteers.

Eating is a means of survival. But it also is physically pleasurable and, when I do it in the company of others, it involves an element of celebration. (I became much more conscious of the celebration component when I attended the Food Security Forum a few weeks ago.)

Rob and Wendy, who are members of the Unitarian Fellowship, were telling the rest of us how much help they'd received from the fellowship's immediate neighbours and from non-Unitarians in the wider community of Nanaimo. They said the Emergency Weather Shelter project had brought them into contact with several neat people whom they otherwise might not have met.

A person who was not present, but who was very much part of this story, was Sharon. She is one of the owners of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. She is a full-time nurse. Yet she is a quietly competent person who accomplishes an amazing amount outside of her job. The relevance here is that she is the volunteer coordinator for the Emergency Weather Shelter.

I really enjoyed the morning. It gave me a chance to meet lovely people and to feel even more at home in Nanaimo (although my cohousing connections helped me to integrate surprisingly quickly when I moved here in September 2008).

Most of all, I appreciated the fact that some people had had the forethought to create the Emergency Weather Shelter system. It sure has been needed during this stretch of cold weather that has lasted an unusually long time by Nanaimo standards.

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