I met Reverend Al this past Tuesday at 5:10 am. The pre-dawn morning was filled with stars, which would have been comforting on a summer day, but on this December morning it simply meant cold. I was joining him on his regular early morning mission to serve and connect with Victoria’s most vulnerable. We loaded up his Van with hot coffee and headed out on the morning run. The morning was so cold I found it hard to believe that we would find anyone out on the streets, but as we pulled into our first stop people began to emerge from all directions. Hot coffee, day-old donuts, and a cigarette were received with gratitude, as well as dry socks, coats, blankets and other items that helped fend off the elements.
We made our rounds through the city, stopping at all the regular spots. At each location there were people waiting or fast approaching as we pulled up to the curb. Al, knew most everyone by name, stopping to converse and connect. We counted the number served by the number of cigarettes we gave out (one per person). We went though about five packs, a bit fewer than usual given the weather, according to Al. Everyone seemed grateful for the connection, the hot beverage, and for some warm dry clothes. By the fifth stop we were out of sugar, milk, and donuts, and the coffee was nearly gone. We had emptied a good many boxes and bags of much needed clothing and blankets. There were more stops to make but no more supplies for the day.
Each morning that Reverend Al goes out, equates to several hundred dollars in supplies — not for a 4 course breakfast, but a simple roadside continental breakfast. The money and supplies come from donations alone.
As I sit in my warm house writing these words on my lap-top computer I can now put a face to all those members of my community, that were previously unknown to me, people who are living outside on this cold night. I close my eyes and try to imagine what it feels like to sleep on the cold frozen ground, aware of just how fortunate I am, and I find myself wishing for more for each and everyone of them.
If you would like to get more involved with Al’s work visit his website to find out how. In the meantime, please continue to bring by your extra sleeping bags, blankets, tents, warm coats, socks, hats, and mittens. All you donations are greatly appreciated and are being put to good use!