thoughts after a day of wandering...

One of the things I do when I am away and by myself - beyond resting, reading and reflecting on life - is to go on walkabout and see what life on the street is saying. In Ottawa right now, there are precious few tourists. It is almost spring after a hard, snow-filled winter. The guests will arrive once life becomes warmer in these parts. They will also flood the city for the nation's 150th birthday. So, with the streets much emptier than my previous visits in the summer, here are a few observations:

+ The local merchants are convinced that springtime is arriving. A number of the outdoor terraces - wooden eating/drinking areas outside a club, bar or eatery - are being repaired from snow/water damage. The sound of circular saws fill the air and the smell of sawdust is omnipresent. Locals say this is a good sign that winter really is finished.

+ The folk who are out on the street, both the mentally ill and addicted homeless, are fewer in number but more aggressive and even frightening. They gather outside upscale bars and clubs and verbally assault customers who don't fork over some change. Three times during my walkabout yesterday I was screamed at by unhinged souls demanding money because they are homeless. I'm usually chill about this sad reality but some of these souls seem like they are on the edge of physical violence.  (NOTE:  It is my conviction and experience that unless a person is willing to establish a relationship with one who chooses to live on the street - and help them get some type of treatment - giving up some spare change is more about dismissing the problem and ignoring the pain than doing good. I believe that giving a street person a few bucks is really saying, "I don't have time for you." And that's probably true. Moreover, most of us don't have the skills to deal with schizophrenia or other diseases of the mind so we shouldn't attempt a quick fix. It is unsafe for everyone involved. Thirty five years of urban ministry is clarifying.)

+ Local people called yesterday's grey day without rain "beautiful weather, hey?" It made me smile every time someone said that; yes, it was a type of beautiful day but it wasn't balmy or sun-filled. Just a little warmer and without tons of rain. Perspective is so important, yes? Today it will rain again and not quit until Friday.

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