The first snow of 2010 came two days ago spreading across the Lower Mainland. Like many people, I was ecstatic to see the flurry whites. However, as happy as I can be, I am also reminded of many others who are currently homeless and houseless (as said by good o' George Carlin) who might have a lot more trouble this season if the predictions of a harsh winter come true - especially their feet.
My change I wanted to effect was that my neighbourhood, gastown/dtes, be transformed into a place where those of us with money would integrate with respect, care and humanity with those among us who are marginalized. But I'm weary.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the biggest snowfall we had last year and the day Got Hats was born. Many of us living in Vancouver at the time were at home enjoying a 'snow day'. It was a beautiful sight, the mountains and trees and streets covered in the beautiful crystalline stuff. PJs, hot cocoa, video rentals, snow angels, snowmen, and shrieks of laughter and joy from local parks where little ones who had never played in the snow were delighted to be off school for the day. But there was a darker side to the white stuff that fell that day; local shelters were well over capacity and people were literally freezing on our streets. That was when we decided to see what ChangeEverything.ca was made of. We posted a blog on the site asking if people 'Got Hats?' and if they did, could we come collect them. In just under 48 hours the community had used the site to organize, connect and inspire each other to collect over 4000 items of warmth to share with the people living in the Downtown Eastside. I am guessing that for many of us, the year that followed has been a pretty good. For me, it was a year full of learning and growth, love and most of all abundance. I am surrounded by interesting, funny, charming, quirky, wonderfully weird people. I have gone on a couple silent meditation retreats, travelled to beautiful parts of the BC coast, attended weddings, played with new babies, hosted dinner parties and shared countless laughs with friends. Sure there have been down times, and things that seemed downright crappy have happened, but more than anything, this year I have been absolutely gobsmacked with how much I have. Recently my car was broken into twice in one week. I was struck by the realisation that I have so much that I could not account for all of what might be missing - and I hoped that whatever the person took from my car was helpful to that person in some way.This year has been abundant with changes for the people on ChangeEverything, too. We saw Envirowoman blossom into a plastic-free superhero, the hugely successful bikeshare program. And there was Spare the Cold, a project that was incubated on the pages of ChangeEverything.ca by one of the volunteers who helped me pick up all the clothes in Got Hats. Gab used the pages of ChangeEverything.ca to reach out to members of the community to collect goodies for her dream of to delivering 102 backpacks filled with everything from warm gloves, socks and toques to chocolate and lip balm to people living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Christmas Day.As I write this, Spare the Cold 2007 is in full swing and is looking for people like you to donate items to make up this years care packages that will be lovingly delivered to homeless people in three Canadian cities this Christmas day. And another inspired action has begun to take root, a very special soul named Satinder has taken it upon herself to organize this years' clothing drive with all the clothing going to the shelter we supported last year with Got Hats. Looking out the window to the promise of snow, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all I have and for all I am able to share. Lets rally the way we did last year and support these two important, loving projects.
3 cheers to Workspace, a business in gastown, who pulled together a chunk of change, bought top-quality pizza, and delivered it to the folks hanging around Pigeon Park. Not a whole bunch of talking, debating, deciding if the people were morally fit to receive an act of generousity. Just feeding some hungry people.
There are a lot of kids in the downtown eastside, be we don't get to hear much from them and we don't see them a lot either. But here's a new initative worth supporting that gives kids something I had as a kid, and it made all the difference in my life: music lessons.