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July 13, 2013

What about Crowd-funding to Change Homelessness?

What’s the right thing to do when you are acquainted with someone who finds himself living in a tent at almost sixty years of age? Do you invite him to come to live with you knowing that’s not what you want and it wouldn't work for him either? Do you help him try to solve his housing problem? Do you give him money? Do you know that giving him money, when he is without employment, isn’t going to fix what led him down the treacherous path.
He moved to Salt Spring in 2005 or 2006. He worked at a variety of places before he remained with an employer and worked consistently for about three years. He didn’t make much money. He lived on a boat. He became very depressed. Mentally and emotionally, he couldn’t return to that job. In a very long story, mostly related to depression and his way of being, he lost the boat he lived on. He then managed to find a rental for $400 per month. He was receiving EI and that ended. He was evicted. He was given a two-person tent and has now set that up on a wooded property offered through the empathy of a young couple in the community. His TV set is now situated beside the campfire.

There's a new site called ShareSpring that describes itself as community crowd funding for Business, Organizations and Personal Causes. The giving is dedicated to the Salt Spring community and projects and people that live there. As it says on the website, ShareSpring is a project of Virtuous Circle Social Venture Corporation, a company incorporated in British Columbia, and owned by Michael Contardi, a Salt Spring resident. Ky Fox provides video and video editing support.

Most recently, the community stepped up through ShareSpring when Kilaya Singh, a three-year old girl, was killed during a tragic car accident on the Fulford-Ganges Road. Sharespring sprang into action and the community, near and far, raised funds for her family and for the driver of the van involved in the crash. It would have been easy to say, well, one or both people were driving at inappropriate speeds for the road conditions, and then, to do nothing. Instead, there was an outpouring of compassion and dollars.

There’s a new restaurant called The Gathering Place. Helping it with start-up was a project. The abattoir which is so vital to those who are raising animals, making it so that the butchering and all that entails of selling meat locally is more economical and feasible is a ShareSpring project. 
The description on the site about what it supports also mentions “personal causes”.

This friend’s current state could be a personal cause. He has lived on Salt Spring for more than seven years. It’s easy to think, well, that’s his problem. He got himself into that situation, he’ll have to figure out how to get himself out. I mean, it’s not like he’s twenty-something.

But, at what point is that distancing just not good enough. It’s too easy. Especially given that something could be done if people came together to help. He could be offered a helping hand to get back on his feet. There’s a place for everyone and the “right place” where he can contribute and continue to live on Salt Spring can surely be found.  

It’s so easy to take the self-righteous road. But when there’s a crisis, regardless of how it came to be, what’s the virtue in judgement? What does that solve for this man? Do you think that this idea is a good one or way off base? I’d be curious to know. What would you suggest?  

July 07, 2013

Purple: The Colour of Intuitive Interactions

What I'm about to tell you is the type of interaction that happens all the time on Salt Spring. Or, perhaps I should just speak for myself. Although, from anecdotes, I know this type of serendipitous interaction occurs regularly.

My day began with a drive to the South End. I passed Drummond Park, and took the right hand fork up Musgrave on  my way to Sacred Mountain Lavender because I wanted to get a glimpse of the sumptuous purple in bloom, blooming, about to bloom. English. Spanish. French buds tinted the green landscape mauve. My visit was not going to coincide with the annual Sacred Mountain Lavender Festival which will take place this Sunday, July 14th. I was one week early.

After my wander around the lavender fields, I went into the small store on the property. Lavender coffee, tea, pepper, lavender wands, spritzers, white cotton night gowns embroidered with lavender, massage oil, salves, bunches of the purple buds. A quick trip to lavender heaven.

I spoke with a woman working there. Her name was Diana. She asked me where I was from which launched me into the story of my former residency on island.  She asked me why I'd left. “Didn't think I could handle another winter. Couldn't make enough money. Wanted to be closer to my 92 year old father."  I told her he'd died a month after I returned to the city in November 2011.

She asked me what I did. I said I was a writer, about to start a new writing job but when it came to writing, what was really consuming me, was the completion of the first draft of a non-fiction manuscript I'd been working on. I told her that I was having trouble pulling my thoughts together to create an ending that would deposit readers to a more insightful place about Salt Spring, about themselves, about mid-life journeys and jumping off points. I'm not sure why I felt I could tell her this. 

“I think you need to incorporate your father into that ending.”

I was silent. My father? Why was she saying that?

“I feel somehow that your father has something to do with helping you find that ending,” she said. 

I barely mentioned my father. Why was she saying this? 

I said that I didn't see how that could be and I didn't really want to write about my father but I would think about it.

I told her that Ruckle Provincial Park was my touchstone, the place I had camped at when I first came to the island in the late 1980's, a place that had not changed in the 20 or so years since I’d been coming to visit. I told her I was writing about Ruckle trying to explain how a physical place can become as important as the relationship we have with another person. It takes on the persona of an individual and our relationship with them.

She told me her touchstone was Mount Douglas in Victoria and all the Garry Oak there.  "I go back there and I’m nine again," she said. We decided that everyone probably has a geographical place that is, for them, that kind of place and if they don't, they should.

After having left, I notice that when I return to the island, I always feel a little fragile. It’s hard to explain.  As a visitor, I don't belong. I feel wistful and regrets arise about not having made it work better - financially - so that I could have stayed, knowing that it's a place that holds such a significant place in my life, yet knowing that I have a lot of company in both regards and knowing, as well, that I wasn't meant to stay any longer or I would have.

She told me that her sister was a writer and on their father’s 80th birthday, they had given him a list of everything about him that mattered to them as his children. He loved it, she said. He loved being written about.

She seemed so convinced that my father has something to do with the ending of the manuscript and as she said this and we talked a bit more, we both began to have a wavering in our voices as we spoke and our eyes became glassy and she admitted that just thinking about it was making her cry and I told her to stop because she was about to make me cry. We shared a moment of being disarmed by each other’s openness and we hastened to hold back, to stop what might come, but there was a raw feeling there; a chord struck. Emotion as intuitive messenger.

Now, having lived on the island, I know to pay attention when these types of interactions occur. I know they are not a coincidence. I know this because it was a similar type of recognition that helped me move here in the first place.  These types of interactions are a gift, a message from the other side or from the future that’s being formulated for us.

So, I will consider Diana's suggestion seriously, not because I'm convinced that it is the right one. It may not be. But, I will consider it because when we spoke, emotion rose quickly, connected us, brought our humanity to the forefront and that’s the kind of emotion that makes a story worth  telling; the kind of story we can all learn something from.

And besides, purple is the colour of the crown chakra. It's the colour of peace, and wisdom, of the quest for fulfillment and personal identification with the infinite and that's good enough for me.