Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beer Can Angel

Calling all angels, calling all angels
Walk me through this one, don't leave me alone
Calling all angels, calling all angels
We're tryin', we're hopin', we're hurtin', we're lovin'
We're cryin', we're callin' 'cause we're not sure how this goes

Jane Siberry - Calling All Angels Lyrics 

Photo Credit Heidi Hunter of Runs With Scissors
Forgive me, another angel post.

Dino is a lone wolf, a middle aged Wolseley woman, a character with short curly, faded red hair. She watches the neighbourhood and searches the alleys and riverbank for lost cats and dogs. She's a weed pulling pop-up gardener, a flyer delivery girl, and a blue bin scavenger.  Social assistance provides her with the bare necessities while beer cans allow for indulgences. She ekes a meaningful existence, however humble.

Dino is invisible to most.  She tends to lurk in the background and eye contact is difficult for this angel. She will talk, but minimally so.  Dino has an intellectual disability and speech is difficult.

I first noticed Dino many years ago while walking my pretty Annie early one morning. She was deep in the bush in front of Laura Smith School, hidden from all except those who choose to see.  I noticed her red head bobbing among the bushes.

"Good morning" I said, "what are you doing?"

"I'm pulling the weeds" she replied with a tinge of impatience as though I had missed the obvious, and went back to work.

I thanked her for her good work and continued on.

And there I would see her day after day, month after month, year after year. Pulling the weeds in Wolseley public spaces, Laura Secord School, Wolseley School, and others. No matter how rushed I was, I always stopped and commented on what a good job she was doing and I thanked her for her work.

"Our neighbourhood is more beautiful because of you." I would say.

"K, thanks" she replied shyly and continued weeding.

She was uncomfortable with the compliment. but secretly, I know she liked it.  I continued to thank her whenever our paths crossed.

"Thanks for making our neighbourhood beautiful.".

"K, welcome".

I commented on one occasion that I hadn't seen her pulling weeds at Laura Secord school for quite a while.

Dino replied, with typical no eye contact, "They asked me to stay away because I was scaring the children.".

"Scaring the children? What do you mean?" I asked.

She explained some parents complained their children were frightened by her presence.  To the parents she looked unkempt (my word) and suspicious, always in the bush, crouched down and hidden from view. Invisible to all but those who choose to see.

What a wasted opportunity.

Instead of welcoming her into the school community they reacted to unfounded fear. Instead of seeing a model citizen for students to aspire towards, they saw a threat. Instead of showing compassion, they showed intolerance.  They failed Dino. They failed the children. They failed our community.

Thus is the life of the beer can angel.

Calling all angels,
Walk me through this one
Don't leave me alone...

Last August I found Dino curbside rummaging through my blue bin.

I approached her and asked "What are you looking for?"

Startled, she backed away from the blue bin, afraid I was angry with her, fraid I was going to yell.

I told her "It's okay, I am just curious, what are you looking for?".

"Beer cans" she replied "They're worth 10 cents a can."

Choking on the words, 10 cents a can, I asked if it would help if I separated the beer cans and hid them from view in front of my car on Sunday evenings, the night before recycling day. Our little secret.

"K, that would be good, thanks" she replied

"It's my way of saying thank-you for pulling the weeds and making our neighbourhood beautiful".

And if a ten dollar bill happens to fall into the beer can container, so be it.

Dino, the beer can angel, now gets my beer cans, 10 cent each, ten will get you a dollar.

I think of Dino as I run and I consider all the good she does and how she is invisible to all except those who choose to see.  I think of Dino, the pop-up weed pulling gardener, the blue bin scavenger, the flyer delivery girl, the cat rescue, dog loving, beer can angel, and I smile.

It's a good day to be alive.

Mike