Recently I wrote a post on about the idea of becoming– and someone posted a really interesting comment about what I said. He or she said that “becoming is a denial of being”- interesting. Definitely something to think about. I think there is still something to be said about recognizing that we change, learn, grow WHILE still knowing that we are already loved, accepted, holy and chosen by God. I am not sure if this is what the commenter was implying, but I am grateful for the chance to think about it a little more.
One other thing that this commenter said really struck me and seemed to be a perfect starting point for this post:
“Knowing is not enough you must apply; willing is not enough you must do.”
I have been thinking a lot lately about how I know a lot but only do a little. This problem was magnified in a recent trip out west. My mom and I went to Vancouver to visit my brother and his girlfriend. They are living out there for the summer, so it was a great opportunity to see some of the country and take a quick trip to Seattle. I lived in Whistler for 4 months one summer during my undergrad, so it was amazing to see all of the changes as they prepare for the olympics.
Let me say this; I love the west coast. A lot. I think I could live there (although I should also say that the summer I lived there and this past week had incredible, sunny, warm weather, uncharacteristic really). The scenery is to die for- mountains, rain-for Tofino est, and ocean= amazing. I’m so envious of the surfers in, the Skiiers in Whistler and the patio dwellers on Granville Island.
When I was in BC during university, I really didn’t spend too much time in Vancouver. I have known for a long time about Vancouver’s problem of homelessness and drug use and on this trip I saw it with my own eyes. I have watched documentaries about the safe injection sites on East Hastings and have heard that Vancouver is a city with completely unacceptable levels of homelessness, but seeing it first hand was far more powerful. I am sure that if I had the opportunity to meet and get to know some of the people who live on the streets, the experience would have been even more real.
To get to my brother’s girlfriend’s house we had to drive down East Hastings for a while. I was appalled, surprised, saddened and confused about the number of people on the streets. I am aware of the problem of homelessness in Toronto. I have some friends that work and volunteer at a community church that lives and works in community with the homeless in Toronto, but I have never seen anything like this. There were hundreds of people on the streets, pushing shopping carts, pan handling. The sheer number of people was shocking.
I am ashamed to say that I really didn’t have an interest in domestic poverty until after I graduated. I studied international development and falsely assumed that some people were concerned about domestic issues like aboriginal justice and poverty and others were concerned with problems abroad. Thankfully, my thinking changed and I realized that I can’t compartmentalize like that.
My mom and I talked a lot about Vancouver’s situation. I felt stupid and ignorant to be surprised that poverty on such a massive scale exists like that in Canada. Perhaps more importantly, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help these people- because no one should have to live like that.
I know part of the problem is drug abuse and mental illness. These are diseases. Can you imagine if many of the people with diseases like cancer, parkinson’s and MS faced the social exclusion and treatment as those with mental illness? The problem is, I don’t know what can be done. I know that my friend who works with people in Toronto spends a lot of her time just being with people who live on the streets. She genuinely considers them friends, she is changed and bettered by them and hopefully vice versa. I know that you cannot throw money at a problem and expect it to be fixed. I know that people need to regain the humanity that has been taken from them and that this involves genuine care, love, time and a listening ear. Perhaps we need more social workers, more funding, better social policy. But as I drove down East Hastings, the problem just seemed so huge…that is why this quote ” Knowing is not enough you must apply; willing is not enough you must do” is so striking. Because its true. Thinking and theorizing are safe for me but sometimes “doing” doesn’t feel as comfortable. So I have come to the conclusion that I must “do”… whatever that means…I want to be part of a solution, not ignorant, not turning a blind eye. I feel like I am back in a familiar place that I have been so many times before- I want to help but have no idea where to start. I am ashamed to say that this has been my frequent excuse for inaction too many times. I hope this isn’t just another example of that.
* this photo is borrowed from missingwomen.blogspot.com (Oct 16th, 2007)