Residence Manager Madi Eckert tells a recent story of exchange – both food and friendship, happening between residents of Act Five and Micah House.
I’m standing around the kitchen island with a fellow Act Five resident on a Wednesday evening. We are debriefing the dinner we just shared at Micah House. Micah House is a home in our neighbourhood that houses refugee claimants until they find permanent housing, and assists them in navigating the sea of initial paperwork that’s required upon their arrival in Canada. We at Act Five decided about a year ago that we’d commit to bringing dinner to their home every other Wednesday evening – and eat with them.
Now imagine it: 10-20 people squished in a small dining room, and up to four languages being spoken around the table. Food is shared, and laughter rings out as people try to tell stories and get to know one another. It can be easy to take for granted simple life necessities like communication, that is until you have to figure out how to communicate without your default tool – English! (I remember one day I was at a table where English, Spanish, Arabic, and Sign Language were all being used!) It can be an uncomfortable place; it can even cause anxiety and feelings of embarrassment or exposure. However, none of that is a bad thing – I’d argue it’s a very good thing.
On this particular evening it was just myself and one resident who went. The Christmas holidays made it so most students and residents were away with their families. And, there was only one family at Micah House for dinner that night – so it was a much smaller group than usual. As we headed out the door with a steaming hot dinner packed up, I tossed some Uno cards in the bag. I had interacted with this family multiple times over the past month, and the two teenage boys clearly had lots of energy and nowhere to put it. I wondered if a simple card game would bring a few minutes of fun for them (and us) that evening.
We arrived and sat around the table together, sometimes stumbling through conversation, other times hitting a groove and laughing together. I’ve learned that it’s all part of the process – being uncomfortable, hoping and praying for a creative spark in conversation, and finding comfort together. And the cycle continues all throughout the meal. It’s a process that, as you show up each week, you get used to.
After the meal, we cleared the table and brought out the cards. The boys have decent English, so we explained the game pretty quickly and jumped right in. For the next half hour, we bonded over our shared trait – competition. I know it’s just Uno, but there were some sneaky plays happening!
When we got back to Blake Street later, the two of us talked about the evening standing around the kitchen island. While it was only an hour, we ebbed through moments of ease and moments of dis-ease. It was uncomfortable at times! We talked about how it’s easier to live in comfort, and we tend to seek it without conscious thought. That night, we were reminded that ease starts to come more easily through shared moments together. The whole room felt it strongly during that game of Uno.
At Act Five, we want to practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable (within reason, obviously). In the practice of discomfort, we become less afraid. We start to realize that there’s beauty to be found in and on the other side of it.
This rhythm, dinner at Micah House, is one of my favourite rhythms at Act Five. We commit to showing up in places that aren’t naturally easy. We sit around a table when English isn’t the dominant language. It is hard, but the more we show up, the more it feels okay – it becomes life-giving, even.
To put it in perspective, too, we show up for about two hours each month. Those we meet at Micah House live this kind of discomfort each and every day as they adjust to living in a new place with different expectations and cultural realities. It seems like the least we can do is to enter into the couple hours of brain gymnastics required to broaden our compassion.
Hospitality is a value we hold in Act Five. But it’s not just an act we do. Hospitality is a heart posture – it’s a giving and receiving of one another. It’s easier to be kind and offer welcome to people we know, but practicing true hospitality to a stranger takes intentionality and is very necessary to our own transformation as those who are learning to follow Jesus. We bring a meal to Micah House, sure, but there’s a mutual hospitality that’s required. As they host us and we engage together, we feel uncomfortable and exposed. In this, we learn to let our egos go and receive their hospitality towards us – for we are strangers to them, too.
One of my highlights of 2023 was when one of the families staying at Micah House made a whole Mexican dinner for us and brought it to our house to share in the backyard. They did this out of their own generosity and heart’s desire to give to us – and Act Five is no small group of people! We gladly received their gift. It was a moment when I realized we, the folks at Act Five, and Micah House are neighbours. And to be a neighbour in the truest sense means shared hospitality, and pushing through the uncomfortable moments to find comfort together.
To learn more about our friends at Micah House, visit https://www.micahhouse.ca/.
We want to do more of this at Act Five – more learning, growing, and imagining with other people in partnership and community. We sense that Act Five is being invited to grow and go deeper in our work. Yet we can’t do this without resources. Will you partner with us to keep us going and growing? We appreciate any and all financial support. Consider donating a one-time or monthly financial gift.
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