by: Lorraine Lam

I had a really hard time coming up with a word that fully captures all of what this year’s community 5K means to me.

Finally, it dawned on me. I am making strides for amazingness.

Yes, amazingness!!

It doesn’t have quite the same oomph as “justice”, might not sound as refined as “beauty”, and definitely does not have the same ring of importance as “healthcare” – but before you scoff, giggle, or dismiss me – hear me out.

I googled a few definitions of the word “amazing” – and even looked it up on Urban Dictionary (you know, gotta get with the times). Being a part of the outreach team and working closely with our community volunteers – a privilege I get to have all the time around here is witnessing amazingness in so many various contexts.

Amazing is defined as something that is “startlingly impressive”;

Our community lunches and dinners provide meals for 150-180 people in our community. The number of people in our city who are hungry and require these meals is an impressive number (in a sad way). The reality is that there are few resources in the city for individuals who are struggling with poverty. The meals that the kitchen crew puts together every week are impressive – they are nutritious, delicious, and it is not an easy feat to make so many meals (with a variety of meal restriction accommodations!).

It “causes great astonishment & wonder”;

Meals don’t happen without Donald, our kitchen manager, and a team of all-star community volunteers. Perhaps in more conventional soup kitchens, many volunteers are outsiders who help and serve those who are less fortunate. At Sanctuary, our core volunteers are often people who are part of our street community. Despite the various elements of instability and overlapping barriers of systemic oppression in their lives, they prioritize this community and make it a point every week to volunteer around the building (in the kitchen, in our backyard, etc). Whether struggling with addiction, broke because cheques have run out, or feeling tired from health issues, our volunteers show up.

I marvel in wonder at our volunteers’ dedication, loyalty, and incredible love for this place.

Something that is amazing is “breathtaking/awe-inspiring”; 

Being on the outreach team means that my schedule has a lot of space to spend time with our friends – inside the building, outside the building, and wherever else the wind blows. Nothing makes for better quality time and conversation than a long drive to a farm in Alliston, or a day at the beach, or even a visit in jail or the hospital.

As relationships deepen, I am humbled that this community has chosen to share their lives with me. Their life experiences, their narratives, their resilience – my world is richer and fuller because I have been given the gift of being able to bear witness to them. 

This community is awe-inspiring.

Amazing is “stunning”;

The way that worlds come together in this community is pretty stunning, as is the generosity of this community. People who are from the most different of worlds – class, race, privilege, etc – know each other’s names, embrace in friendly hugs when they see each other around the building, and look out for each other on the street. I will never forget this past winter: Ricardo* sleeps outside, even in the coldest of nights – so every sweater layer, every hat and glove, matters. My friend Sienna* forgot her mittens and would be cold walking to the subway. Ricardo offered his only pair of gloves to her so she would be warm heading home to her warm bed as he slept outside that night.

If that generosity witnessed in the collision of worlds is not amazingly stunning, what is?

*names changed to protect privacy

Amazing is “something that makes your heart beat faster”;

It is “something that tops everything else”;

Sharing life with this community that we choose to call “family” makes my heart full.

Here, things of the world seem to turn upside-down – those who are poor are rich; those the world considers unimportant are the ones giving and pouring out to the rest of us –

it reminds me that indeed, the Kingdom of God belongs to the least of us. The last, indeed, are first.

Amazingness is experiencing this community together: its rawness, its grief, its joy – the entire package of it all. The really tough and messy stuff, the moments of joy and laughter, the full spectrum from grief to delight, from seeming hopeless to the smallest or biggest of miracles –

It all makes my heart giddy with joy, knowing that I am sharing life with this community.

Amazingness is our friends knowing how deeply they are loved simply for who they are; it is them knowing that this is family and that they belong.

This community tops many, many things in this world.

Your contribution to the 5K will help facilitate opportunities for the amazingness in our community to continue to thrive and grow – whether it is through our meals, our outreach endeavours, or even supplies for our friends outside (winter is coming!!).

I am deeply grateful that I get to witness all the various moments of amazingness around here, and so I am participating in the year’s 5K in hopes to make strides for even more of it.

Will you join me?

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