Updated: Jan 2, 2019
A while back, I was going through a difficult time. I had an injury that was causing me constant pain. I couldn’t pick up my one-year-old daughter when she cried or play with my four-year-old son, and I had no idea when things would get better.
One day, on the way home from a rehab appointment, a panhandler approached me in Osborne Village. It was clear *Geraldine had some serious addiction issues – and even though I was in a hurry to get home, something told me not to walk away. I offered to take her for lunch and after thinking about it for a while, she agreed.
Over the next two hours, I heard a powerful story. The story of a woman who had a family – just like me. Who had children – just like me. Who loved making meals for her family and friends – just like me. But Geraldine had a physically abusive partner and when she looked to ‘the system’ for help, the system failed her.
Geraldine faced some impossible choices. She was forced to flee her northern home and her children in the middle of the night. Tormented by her loss and her pain, she turned to alcohol and to life on the street in Winnipeg. Sometimes she had a place to stay, sometimes she didn’t. She told me that she drank to try to forget what she had been through and how much she missed her kids.
That day I saw more similarities than differences between the two of us. And that day, even though I was in constant physical pain, I knew I could still give back. I knew what I was experiencing was nothing compared to the profound emotional pain that Geraldine wrestled with every day.
I started volunteering at #Oak Table in Osborne Village, and later on, for the 1Hope Winnipeg campaign (which is now 1JustCity). I wanted to help ensure that missions like Oak Table, #North End Stella, #West Broadway Community Ministry, #St. Matthews Maryland, and #Rainbow Ministry could continue to reach out to people living on the fringes in our city. People like Geraldine – marginalized by addiction or mental illness, without a place to call home.
I feel so fortunate that I am able to give my children so much, materially and emotionally. I want to give back. I know I need to give back. It’s important for my children, for Geraldine’s – and for me. Through my experience with 1Hope Winnipeg, I have come across a profound truth – that given the opportunity, Winnipeggers will open their hearts, contribute their gifts, their talents and their time.
Why? Because we might look different when we meet on the street, but we all have the same hope for a more loving world and a better future.