Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Today I turn 27 years old.
27 isn’t really a monumental age—It’s kinda this weird middle ground age where you are officially in your late 20’s... It’s like you’re basically 30… which can be a scary thought!

I find my birthday can sometimes get lost between the hectic completion of the holiday season and the onset of easing back into routines. I can recall the year as a teenager when everyone forgot my birthday (with my parents as the exception). I can also recall the year my husband planned an amazing surprise birthday party for me. It used to be all or nothing but, as I grow older, it tends to have found a lovely middle ground I like to call ‘low key’. 

Low key is nice. I’m a weird mix of an introvert and an extrovert. I can be outgoing in a social situation where I’m one-on-one with someone new or with close friends, but I can also be 110% content portraying the fly on a wall during an eventful evening, standing in the midst of buzzing conversations from those chattering around me. This is why a low-key birthday is pretty great. It’s chill, easy, and all the attention of a large amount of people isn’t focused on me—which tends to weird me out pretty fast.

Be that as it may, it’s nice to be celebrated! This is the fun part of having a birthday! Taking the time to celebrate individuals just for being born—just for being themselves! If we truly saw ourselves the way God does, we would think every day is our birthday! With that thought in mind, taking some time one day a year seems like a great idea.

Celebrating someone on his or her special day can be an amazing thing. I think the most important part of celebrating someone is to honour them in a way they find special. Lavishing someone with gifts when they are against consumerism may not be the best idea! In the same light, a simple happy birthday text, when you know an individual is 100% gifts or quality time as a love language, also perhaps isn’t the best way. If you know someone well enough, you can do something small that will show them you believe they are worthy of celebration. That small act can leave a significant mark in making them feel special on their day.

Growing up in my family, birthdays were always celebrated. As a kid I can recall my mother making me an epic birthday cake with a marshmallow bunny on it, or a cake shaped as a teddy bear (enter; where I get my creativity in the kitchen from!). She created a poster that could be used year after year with the simple switch of a number (crafty and economical), and would go with the staple balloons and streamers. One simple gift was all that was given and, looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Birthday parties with a few friends would be thrown and, without fail, almost every year an epic snow storm would happen around my birthday to really attempt to throw a wrench into any already made plains. Reflecting on birthdays past is fun and makes you realize what really makes you feel special—and how you would like to be celebrated in the future.

This year for my birthday, a couple of my close friends took me to an old-fashioned tea house. We drank tea out of fancy china and indulged in freshly baked scones with homemade jam. It was lovely. It was very 'me' and it was nice to be celebrated. The attendees both gave me cat cards that meowed happy birthday-- which are sitting on display as I write, smiling at me from across the room. It's like they are begging to meow to me... which actually just freaks out our real life cat.

For myself, looking back at the birthday’s of years past, it’s knowing someone took the time to think of me which makes me feel noteworthy on the day of my birth. Kind words written in a card, a text message with more than the letters ‘HBD’, a small gift chosen specifically because the giver thought of me when they saw it, or a friend who isn’t a baker baking birthday cookies. As I always tend to say, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

When the birthday of a close friend or family member comes up this year, I encourage you to really take a moment and think about how you can show the person in your life how much you appreciate them, how special you truly believe they are, and how you are thankful that there is one day a year made specifically to celebrate their unique awesomeness given to them by God. A birthday happens just once a year, take the time to make people feel as precious as they really are.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When The Homeless Refuse Your Apple Pie

I want to start an open, honest, respectful conversation on a topic I feel doesn’t get much attention—especially in the way I seek to bring it to light.

The homeless are everywhere we go—from the streets of the cities we live in, to the inner workings of systems and places we don’t even know exist.

When I was in school in Toronto I would walk from Union Station to school. The evenings are when I would see the most individuals homeless or begging on the street for change. As a student, the chance of having cash on me was very, very rare. On the other hand, the chance of having a freshly baked good to offer was basically 110%.

This is commonly how a situation would play out:
I would walk down the street and an individual would ask for some change.My response would be ‘no, sorry, but I have some bread/cookies/buns/pie if you want!”

Fill in the blank time! I want you to fill in the individual’s response to my offer of baked goodies. What do you think they would say?

I think, as a very generalized answer in hopes of finding a common response of what most would expect, we would assume the individual we are offering our goods to would gladly accept. I mean, freshly baked anything is delicious, right? Most of my friends feel that way. When I bring goodies to my husbands coffee shop, and offer his staff and friends I see some form of deliciousness, the usual response is how excited they are to have something sweet and freshly baked to enjoy. When I go to a friends place for any sort of gathering with handcrafted and freshly baked treats in hand, people are generally excited and eat at least one of whatever I showed up with.

Now let’s go back to the original scenario— 50% of the time someone accepts my offer, and the other 50% is all rejects.

I’ll be honest, at first it would shock me people would say no.
In my head I’m thinking ‘aren’t you hungry? I’m offering you delicious, freshly baked food that you can eat. I wouldn’t say no and I have a fridge full at home.’
How ridiculous of me to think that—how inconsiderate, how dehumanizing.

There are a few specific times where I offered food to people and their no response has stuck with me…
- I offered a man an apple on my walk home from work one day since it was all I had. He said no because he was allergic to apples.

- At 2:30 in the morning while biking to work a lady yelled at me, asking if I had food for her. I offered the woman a couple slices of bread (which I was going to toast at work) and a banana. She took the bread but not the banana because it was cold and she doesn’t like cold bananas.

- I was walking home from the bus stop after school and had some fougasse (think baguette-type bread but shaped like a ladder or a leaf and filled with rosemary, thyme and olives). I offered it to a gentleman. After describing what it was, he tore off a piece to taste it. He said it was too dry and went on his way without the fougasse.

The one response that stuck with me the most was on my last day of the semester…
-I was walking to Union Station in blizzard conditions and a lady was asking for change. I offered her all I had—a box of various choux paste products; cream puffs, paris-brest and eclairs. She said no but explained it was because she would rather eat a nutritious meal then eat the sweets I was offering.

I can easily remember the moment I realized that, by assuming a homeless individual should be grateful and accept what I have to offer, I was completely dehumanizing them and turning them into these hollow vessels capable of nothing more than to say ‘please’, ‘yes’, and ‘thank-you’. I removed from them the very things that make them who they are—their choices, their preferences, and their taste buds.

None of these individuals were disrespectful to me. Yet, in my wandering thoughts I was being disrespectful to them. An act, which started as a way to help someone, turned into a selfish thought process of ungratefulness and a definite lack of viewing someone as God sees them—an absolutely amazing person, whose passions and interests were given to them to make a difference in the world. Each person is someone who is created to do amazing things, and as someone whose palette preference attribute to the awesome person they are. The same way I don’t like green peppers (they taint everything they end up on!), the gentleman didn’t like the bread. How I could live without eating rice and beans, the lady could certainly live without eating cold bananas. It’s all the same, yet, as soon as someone is asking for food, we typically expect them to take whatever we have available.

I can’t say I know what I would do if I was on the opposite end of the situation. If I was the one asking for change and instead, an individual offers me a slice of pizza covered in green peppers and olives. I dislike olives and green peppers more than any other foods. Would I accept it and power through because I’m hungry? Would I gratefully say ‘no thanks’ in hopes of gathering enough change to buy something I actually want to eat, or hope someone else offers me something more appetizing?

I don’t know what I would do. But one thing I do know is removing an individual’s personal preference makes someone feel worthless, meaningless and unimportant. No one wants to feel that way—not you- the individual reading this, not me- the person writing this, and not the individual asking for change or food on the street you pass as you are going about your day.

Next time someone refuses what you have to offer, I challenge you to ask them what they would prefer—maybe you can get it for them, or maybe you can make a note of it for next time you see them (especially if it is someone you see often enough on your daily commute). One gentleman sitting at Union Station prefers black tea to coffee. It’s a small fact, but imagine handing him a hot coffee on a cold winter night… now imagine handing him a hot black tea instead. While the thought of handing him the cup of tea brings a smile to my face, imagine what it can do for him—not only will the beverage warm him up, he will feel like a real person whose likes and dislikes were thought of—He has value. He is important. He is human.