Loving our neighbours: and our neighbourhoods
A member of our extended A Rocha Canada community passed away this January. Her name was Debbie, and she was a friend of the A Rocha-led community gardens in Winnipeg.
Debbie spent a lot of time standing on the street near St Margaret’s Anglican Church, talking to passersby and selling copies of the Street Sheet, the local paper published by Winnipeg’s marginalized population. Most people thought she was homeless, but she wasn’t. She struggled with mental health issues, but she was industrious and persistent, and managed, with help from family and unemployment benefits, to pay for a stable apartment.
In 2010, A Rocha began a community garden project in partnership with St Margaret’s, and Debbie became friends with the A Rocha interns.
She volunteered in the garden and attended cooking workshops.
The interns learned that Debbie’s apartment needed to be painted, and they spent two full days helping her clean and re-paint.
She began attending the church itself and brought the priest a chocolate bar every week to encourage him in his sermon preparation.
Debbie eventually became one of St. Margaret’s most faithful tithers, often emptying into the offering plate all the change she’d just earned from selling papers to parishioners outside the church doors.
She had found a new place to belong.
And then she passed away.
Debbie’s siblings, who were with her when she died, say that she was very different in the past few years. They credited her transformation to the power of being loved by a community and of experiencing the peace of Christ for the first time in her troubled life.
The beautiful part is that Debbie wasn’t the only one enriched by her presence in the community gardens. Her friendship, offered from a place of vulnerability, enriched and transformed the lives of those A Rocha interns too, as well as many others around her.
Some would say that Debbie’s transformation and impact aren’t the stuff of ‘planet-saving’ but at A Rocha we think they most certainly are.
Care for creation and care for those on the margins go hand-in-hand. After all, the most vulnerable around the world, even in Canada’s urban settings, are usually the most affected by environmental degradation.
The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding.
– Wendell Berry
Love your neighbour as yourself
– Jesus Christ, Mark 12:31