Friday Night in the Downtown Eastside: Drinking from a Deep Well

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There were seven of us girls hanging out at the Great Room last night.

I imagine this is what Gwen dreamed about when the Great Room was still just an idea. I imagine her to dream about a place where women could come into a safe, beautiful environment, find sacred space, friendship, grace and love.

Last night I got to be me in that very room.

It’s in harsh contrast to the intimidation of drugs, gangs, pimps and police happening outside.

Around 7:45pm last night, as I walked up to meet Elizabeth at the Great Room, one of our friends was being arrested outside the front door. Jacynta stood and watched, to make sure she was treated with dignity.

Upstairs and inside the lights were on and Carol was teaching Tracy how to make cards. Elizabeth was watching the events unfolding outside the window, waiting for me.

Trisha, Jacynta and Arely joined us.

“I needed to come home tonight,” Trisha said. It’s my community. I needed to be here.”

Strangely, every time I come, even as a visitor, I am drawn up into this deep well of community in the Downtown Eastside.

It’s Water.

As we talked without an agenda or a purpose last night, I tasted something different. It felt like expectations were off. Not one person had to bring anything to the conversation except her honest self. I couldn’t tell you what anyone was wearing. Nobody made a meal. There were no invitations. There was no hierarchy in the conversation. It just happened.

Jacynta went out earlier in the evening to buy Coke, Fanta and milk for tea. I laughed and told them the last time I drank Fanta was with the girls at the hairdressing school in Nairobi.

We talked about tattoos. Trisha just had a big one done on her left upper arm and it was itchy. We talked about how to become a landed immigrant and laughed at pee stories and awkward kid moments. We talked about holding babies in an orphanage in Africa. We talked about being home.

I remember having a moment, thinking: Why don’t I do this more often? Just this barefoot being with girlfriends.

Too many schedules to sync, probably. Too much cleaning up and picking up to do before I want to let anyone in.

And so I miss out on drinking from the deep Water of community. I don’t think I’m the only one.

Question: Where have you tasted community?

Also, do yourself a favour and check out the work of Linwood House Ministries.

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