Close to Home

Despite the worrying and worsening global problems of war, famine,  climate change, poverty, and so forth, sometimes, close to home, it seems like things are moving in the right direction.

That’s how it felt a few days ago when I walked into Nanaimo Bakery. I always like it there — nice spacious environment, good coffee, excellent cinnamon buns — but Saturday was special in that the young musicians from the Wellington Jazz Academy were playing a selection of gentle jazz numbers, sometimes an instrumental number, sometimes with a vocalist. What a treat it was to hear them! All these performers are remarkably talented and the atmosphere they create can’t help but lift your spirits.

Such spirit-lifting is appropriate for Project Rise, the new social enterprise that Island Crisis Care Society has initiated at the Nanaimo Bakery. This is a win-win situation, because the revenue from the bakery is directed towards ICCS and because Project Rise will be helping to support people who have experienced homelessness and other challenges by offering them housing, pre-employment training as well as the possibility of work placement experience.

Many of us have been concerned about homelessness over the past several years, but we don’t always know the best way to help. On the ICCS website they state “Through housing and outreach programs we help people in crises stabilize and find the support resources and services they need to recover and do well.” Clearly, that’s what’s needed.

Here at the bakery, some necessary connections are being put in place. ICCS is helping marginalized people who’ve been living on the streets move into housing, then on to life skills and pre-employment training, and then to workplace experience through Project Rise. It’s satisfying to know that when you have a coffee or buy a loaf of bread at the Nanaimo Bakery you’re supporting all these things. And especially uplifting when you can be listening to good jazz performed by  young people who are donating their Saturday to support this initiative.

We hear a lot of talk about individual rights and freedoms, but the only thing that will allow us to survive as a species and as a planet is through appreciating and contributing to community and connection. In her celebrated book, The Mother Tree, Suzanne Simard tells us about the mycelium network that, with the help of the mother tree, connects fungi, bacteria and plants, so that they can all work together to nurture our forests. “It’s the disconnectedness,” she writes, “that is driving a lot of our despair.”

Science is telling us what indigenous people have always known. My indigenous friends speak of Tswalk, meaning we are all one, all connected. If we’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that individualism isn’t the answer. We need community, and we need connection. With nature and with each other.

The place to start is close to home.

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