Monday, May 19, 2014

What Happens When You Go Beyond Hello

This is a story of an absolute miracle that you just have to read.  It shows how connected lives really are and what happens when you go beyond just saying hello.  The Beyond HELLO blog is written by Kristi Blakeway to share the stories of people that she meets on the Downtown Eastside.  Here is Cindy's story and how she got to see her daughter for the first time in nearly 28 years.

Part One - All Too Familiar Streets: Day One of Beyond Hello
Part Two - Miraculous Moment: Cindy's Daughter is Found
Part Three - Mom and Daughter Speak for the First Time
Part Four - Feeling Complete: A Miracle on the Downtown Eastside

Please read each of the four parts listed above (or at least part four!), written on, because it is quite the journey.  When I first read about Mrs. Blakeway's lunch with Cindy, then how her daughter had been found and how the story unfolded, I felt shivers run through my body and tears come to my eyes.  Not only did it help me better understand the challenges faced by someone living on the Downtown Eastside, but her words and photos also shared a difficult journey filled with such strength and courage.  It has helped change how society has taught me to view addictions.

I am so grateful to have been able to help with Project HELLO.  I've loved connecting with people, hearing their stories, and being a bit of a stalker to help find their family or friends.  Just before Mother’s Day, when we were on the DTES giving people the opportunity to write cards, we stopped by the Portland Hotel where Cindy lived.  Mrs. Blakeway wanted to let her know that her daughter Paige had booked a flight to Vancouver.  That’s when we got the amazing news that after speaking to her daughter, Cindy decided to go into treatment for her addictions.

Last week we picked Paige up from the airport and I was so excited knowing that her and her mom would soon be getting to meet for the first time.  Then today, as Paige and Cindy were about to see each other, everything just felt so surreal.  Time seemed to slow down as they walked towards one another on the sidewalk and embraced in a hug.

My favourite moment was as we walked down East Hastings towards Save on Meats where we would be eating lunch.  The street seemed much busier than it had been on my past visits.  We weaved in and out of people selling anything and everything, people listening to music, talking, yelling, and laughing.  Behind me was Mrs. Blakeway explaining all the crazy connections and coincidences to Ron, Cindy’s boyfriend.  In front of me were Cindy and Paige, mother and daughter, exchanging their first few words in person.  Cindy put her arm around Paige and handed her a gift.  Once again, time seemed to slow down.  Amongst the buzzing activity of the DTES, it was such a beautifully peaceful moment.

Over lunch Paige shared pictures of her growing up, and I listened to her and Cindy exchange stories that were quite similar.  Saying goodbye to Cindy and taking Paige back to her friend’s house brought a strange feeling – almost like letting something go too soon.  Even though I knew they would see each other again, it felt awkward to be parting ways.  They seem to already have such a strong bond and have so much in common.  I can't imagine how this day must have felt for them.

I wish that more people took the time to go Beyond Hello; to see inside someone, to share struggles, and to share successes.  Connection is why we are here – I don’t mean connection through internet or social media – real, genuine, human connection.  Today was an extraordinary example of that.

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