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The Waters of Gratitude

The move from duty to gratitude.

I’m still stuck on this poem by Mary Jo Leddy that I shared here several months ago. Somehow this Catholic nun/neighbourhood builder/writer/refugee advocate has packed all the lessons God’s trying to teach me right now into two lyrical stanzas.  

The move from duty to gratitude. 

From self-protection to open-handed trust and generosity. 

We walk on the waters of gratitude, knowing there is nothing there. . . .

I’m finding, as I take the first steps out onto the waves to follow Jesus, that there is something there, holding me up, keeping me from going under. 

As some friends and I work to start up Open Homes Hamilton, hands have caught me when I was afraid. Friends have offered support. Problems that I was trying to puzzle through by myself have been solved by others, without even asking. People have appeared to volunteer skills that were lacking in our team: 
. . . a woman who knows how to navigate legal issues; 
. . . a man who understands city bylaws; 
. . . a pastor who’s eager to spread the word in his congregation; 
. . . people who have recommended grant opportunities; 
. . . a ministry leader eager to coach us through our start-up process; 
. . . generous landlords who are willing to offer apartments at subsidized rates for newcomers.
 

SAFETY NET(WORKS)

Maybe you’ve experienced this, your network showing up for you. Although I try to figure it all out myself, to be seen as “responsible” and in control, I’m not, and it’s okay, because my network has got me. Is that ever comforting! Dr. John Perkins calls network sharing a key part of poverty alleviation. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a newcomer friend tell me, “You’re my only Canadian friend.” It’s not a compliment – it’s a lament. 

This can be one of the most painful conundrums of a refugee claimant’s work to adapt to Canada. Just at the moment of their greatest need, they’re in a foreign country, absolutely network-less. And now they have just two weeks to submit the story that is the basis of their refugee claim, needing to deal with culture shock, get enrolled in English classes, find housing, get a phone and figure out the bus system. I’ve seen refugee claimants overcome these obstacles time and time again and I’m in awe of them.

As someone who’s lived in another culture for an extended period, I know how helpless I felt when I arrived somewhere new, but even then I had a network – people to help me barter at the market, tie my wrap skirt and use a gas stove.

This is why Open Homes and many other Christians across Canada are inviting refugee claimants into our lives, into our networks – so that they can access those riches too. We set up a circle of support for refugee claimants: people that they can call, people who will introduce them to yet more people.

I love it when people from different parts of my life meet each other. That’s part of why our wedding was so fun . . . my Maman from Mali sitting with my Dutch-Canadian grandma and my brother’s Eritrean-Canadian in-laws, my friend Juan chatting with my sister-in-law, my work friends rubbing shoulders with Dan’s work friends. . . . Bridging those differences and forming new community can be chaotic. It can be awkward. But it’s so beautiful! 

We walk on the waters of 
    gratitude
knowing there is nothing there
trusting there will be enough 
to go on. 
We were drowning in the boat
consumed by the work 
of getting ahead, getting around, 
getting to it all. 

Now we walk on held up 
by nothing but memories
of how love becomes solid 
when it is given away
of how loaves multiply 
when shared among many
of how we become sure 
and serene on the water.

– Mary Jo Leddy 
(Radical Gratitude, 38)

Author

  • Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan is a Host Connector with Open Homes Hamilton, a Christian ministry that supports refugee claimants by offering home-based hospitality in Hamilton, Ontario.

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