Tag Archives: poverty

Ramsay Whitefish – To be or not to be

Ramsey Whitefish lived on the streets of Toronto and was a friend of many through the dramatic arts program at Sanctuary, a church in the downtown area. On May 18th, he was found murdered not very far from the church’s actual location.

From what little I’ve heard about Ramsay, he was a gentle and good man who had lived through many of the realities that First Nations people now experience in North America.  In this video, Ramsay re-imagines Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 to reflect his own experience living as an aboriginal person on the streets of Toronto.  May you enjoy this raw, poetic insight into the creativity of a young man who was loved by many in the downtown community.

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It’s The Most Loneliest Time of the Year

Our family has a pretty regimented Christmas routine: we make some hot apple cider, put on some Christmas music by Loreena McKennitt and Sting, decorate the tree, and then follow everything up with Swiss Chalet festive specials and a viewing of the film A Christmas Story.

The repetition of this tradition helps our family to remember that we have one another; and that God has given us what we need and enjoy together as a family.

One Christmas in particular though, we invited a friend of ours to join us for this annual tradition. We’ll call him Carter. Carter was quite regularly homeless and transient. One year, he found himself moving between 3 different Canadian cities all within the course of a year. Carter had a hard time holding down housing and was constantly unemployed due to various mental health and poverty issues that he constantly faced.

When Carter showed up at our door, he brought gifts: a photography magazine for Michele (my wife loves photography), some toy cars for our children, and some tea for us to enjoy. Needless to say, Carter didn’t have a huge income, and the fact he thought to bring Christmas gifts was amazing. I was instantly reminded of the widow who gave her last two pennies to the Temple in Mark 12: 41-44. Sometimes, those of us who have less give the most generously.

As I drove Carter home after all of the festivities, he said to me, “I’ve lived in this city for 3 years, and no one has ever invited me into their home.”

Just when you think Christmas is the happiest time of the year for our culture, for many people, it will be the loneliest. A recent article in Psychology Today gives 5 main reasons why people will often be depressed at Christmas time:

  1. The excessive commercialization of Christmas
  2. Excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life
  3. The pressure to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt
  4. The expectation for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with
  5. The loss of loved ones or jobs

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201011/why-people-get-depressed-christmas

For Michele and I, our hope was that a simple act of hospitality might help make a difference for even just one person at the most loneliest time of the year. We had been given much. What could we now give?

The trick however was that this wasn’t just a gift for Carter. We, as a family, also needed to see a renewed sense of significance and joy to Christmas. What was Christmas for exactly?

In Carter’s loneliness, we saw the reflection of our own loneliness that we hide with material goods and money. And for that Christmas, we were several lonely people who came together to remember that we have one another; and that God has given us what we need and enjoy together as a family.

Who might you extend hospitality to this Christmas? Who is that person in your life who could use some good news? What’s that Christmas tradition you enjoy each year that for just once you might include someone else? You might be surprised at the gift you receive in doing so.

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Which way is the wind blowing?

What a windy day! On my way to church today to pick something up, I saw the trees bending over so much it was alarming. I ran into church, and then on my way back home I realized the road was blocked with a tree that had indeed fallen over.

Some of you have had similar experiences, fences blown down, shingles gone, trees uprooted. I have heard more than one person today say that it makes us think of the severe weather that many people in the world have endured; tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis. There are forces in our natural world that can change our lives in a moment.

This Sunday we are going to be talking about a different type of force, a force that works more slowly, but causes as much suffering. The force of poverty. There is a myth in our society that poverty is an individual choice; and indeed there are people who give all their money away and live in poverty, or wealthy people who make a bad choice and suddenly are impoverished.

However, when you know people who live in poverty, it becomes much more complex. The winds of government, culture, family history, and economic systems blow millions of people here and there. This Sunday we’ll be talking about what it means to be a Christian in a windy world. Come prepared to welcome our guest speakers, Hugo and Doreen Neufeld.

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