Vancouver to me has always been a small city. It gets even smaller during Christmas time when memories are made richer with familiarity, depth and detail. Running into my neighbors and friends in the streets of the West End, everyone seems to be in a calculated and sometimes frantic mission to get things done for the holidays. Buildings are illuminated in the dark for the annual Christmas light show. A giant tree known as the English Bay’s Elm Grove is lit with more than 12,000 lights along the seawall at Bidwell.
The temperature drops in late fall, this year to unseasonal lows. It gets very cold at night, every year feeling colder than the one before, triggering fond memories of the neighborhood I call home.
A woman riding on motorized wheelchair emerges from an alley onto Davie Street, towing an old Redd Rocket wagon with a large pot of soup and a boxful of sandwiches. Quietly she plies the sidewalks between Jervis and Thurlow in search of her care for the evening. Young men and women emerge from the dark and dank corners and alleyways, tentative at first, smiling at her and the hot meal at hand – a welcome respite from the cold.
My memories and lessons of giving bring my team and I to volunteer our time at the Salvation Army Vancouver Harbor Light, serving up hot meals for more than 300 people on a Friday night. The experience is both humbling and uplifting, a solemn exercise of compassion, dignity and hope for some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people of our community.
To my co-workers, family, friends and the staff of Vancouver Harbour Light with whom I have the pleasure and honor to give my time, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for witnessing your grace and kindness to the community. My outside notions of giving during the coldest times of the year are now as real as the warm satisfaction of the heart from that evening.
Several other nighttime wonders await the curious in Vancouver, but a ready heart finds love and time in an unforgettable experience of giving, a predilection for braving the cold sometimes freezing weather a must.