Eighty cookies and two hours later, I’m back in my warm house where the comforting aroma of freshly brewed organic, fair-trade coffee wafts my way. I’m feeling pretty cold, but the heat is turned up and I chuck my neck warmer beanbag into the microwave to kill the chill. I settle into my cozy chair with my hot coffee and start my day as I always do, in conversation with my dear husband. Today, every inch of this happy picture of everyday life reminds me just how damned privileged I am.
Earlier this year Victoria’s local champion of the poor and homeless, Reverend Al sent out a plea for cookies in a Face Book post. Of course I was all over that immediately. I love to feed people. I live to feed people. I have a beautiful commercial kitchen and pallets of wholesome ingredients. I’ve been making cookies since I was a kid. I was on it. So, I came up with a healthy oatmeal cookie recipe and started baking large batches and delivering them to Reverend Al to distribute to the homeless. Easy peasy. Civic duty done and I can get back to my comfortable life. But then what? Where do those cookies go? Who are the people receiving them?
Seven dozen cookies baked and ready for distribution.
I met Reverend Al and his small team down at one of the local shelters at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am, hopped into his warm van and we started making the rounds. We spent the next two hours driving up and down streets, pulling over every few blocks to find ourselves surrounded by a small crowd that appeared out of nowhere. They were there for the coffee, the cookies, perhaps a water bottle or a clean pair of socks, a word of comfort, a piece of advice, or a hug from their beloved Al. In those few hours I met people who have found themselves living on the streets for any number of reasons. I met drug addicts. I met people with debilitating mental health issues. I met people who had chosen the street over an abusive relationship. I met people who, from their first breath, knew the deck was stacked against them. I met people suffering from trauma, personal and generational. Some of them had made poor choices which led them to their current circumstances. Others made the best choice they could in difficult situations. Others still really had no choice at all. Each of them was so happy to see Al (though they see him six mornings a week), and grateful for our small offerings.
Reverend Al Tysick enjoys a laugh with members of his street community.
A few days after my morning on the street, coming face to face with our society’s most vulnerable members, the Paradise Papers were published exposing a long list of millionaires and billionaires who have gone to great lengths to avoid paying taxes. Taxes that could be funding housing, and programs, and education, and nutrition, and medical care. While these people wallow in their vast wealth like pigs in mud, others are struggling to exist, not always successfully. The disparity is sickening.
I’m going to be completely honest here and let you know that this is a blatant call for support for The Dandelion Society. Having spent only one morning making the rounds with Reverend Al and his team, I saw first hand where our donations go. The food, clothing, bedding, water, etc. go directly to the people who need it. Each cup of coffee or cookie is accompanied by loving concern and compassion. It’s a way for Al to keep an eye on the individual members of his street community and help out those who need a little extra care or assistance. Cash donations go towards running the Society’s van and buying supplies to be handed out. Every donation of either cash, food or goods, goes a long way towards helping the poorest members of our community survive.
With the number of homeless people appearing on our streets growing daily, it is hard to know how to respond. We are all so frustrated by this situation. It feels impossible to, as an individual, make a difference. While we sign petitions, and rally our politicians to close tax loopholes (oops! So many politicians on that list!), or hang our heads in despair, one thing we can all do that brings immediate relief to the marginalized members of our community is to feed them. Everybody needs food, and most of us can either buy a little extra, bake a little extra, or find a few hours to volunteer at a kitchen the provides the homeless with hot meals.
Tent City - Home to hundreds.
It feels good to help others. Every batch of cookies I’ve baked for the homeless, has added to my happiness. Meeting the recipients touched me to the core. I’ve never met anyone who regretted serving the poor and hungry. Mother Theresa is our archetypal role model for compassion and charity, and everybody loves her. What I’m trying to say here, is I can guarantee that if you donate to The Dandelion Society, or join Reverend Al on his rounds, or serve lunch at Our Place, not only will you be providing real and immediate relief to our vulnerable citizens, but you will bring yourself more joy and happiness than any offshore tax haven can offer. Sermon done.
To find out more about the Dandelion Society and how you can help, visit their website at https://hopeliveshere.ca/
As well as baking cookies for Reverend Al, we also make monthly donations of organic porridge to our local schools through the SBG Porridge Project. Learn more about it at https://www.singingbowlgranola.com/pages/sbg-porridge-project