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  • Writer's pictureReuben Berger

An empty church and a fire in the park

It was the Spring Equinox, after hours working on various writing projects and exchanging messages with some dear friends I drove down to see a great friend.


We walked up to The Church of St. Mary Magdalene at the end of his block and looked inside the glass windows on the front door; you could barely make out the huge main floor with rows of seats and the Church altar. I mentioned how those front doors were locked likely most of the time ~ all that warm, quiet, holy, safe space that is empty while so many have to sleep on the streets, perhaps even on the front steps of the church. The bench in the front yard was just flat so at least someone could lie down on it.


There was a big playground behind the church.


My friend mentioned that he had just read the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and how she was perhaps the most important disciple. According to Bart Ehrman, "Mary (Magdalene) is accorded a high status among the apostles of Jesus." I found that interesting for in my exploration that I had done on the life of Rabbi Yeshua/Jesus, she was hardly mentioned at all; Seems as though this a good time to learn more about her for from what I understand she helps to remind people of the importance of the divine feminine ~ something our society could truly use much more of.


I was looking forward to reading more about her.


We decided to walk through Christie Pits. I enjoyed walking down the hill filled with snow, realizing that it would be one of the last times as spring was just around the corner.


We saw a fire with some people standing around it and music but we were not sure if we should head over. We stood and watched the scene from a distance and then someone invited us over and so we went.


We were greeted warmly. The fire was soothing. I ended up having a number of conversations but three of them lasted for quite some time and each was truly fascinating.


I spoke with one young man who truly seemed 'at one' with himself. He said how there were people at the fire representing many regions on earth but around the fire, it was like we were just one big family. He kept saying how grateful he is for his life, his wife, his children. He shared how he does his best to help people everywhere he goes. He said how so many turn away when someone needs help. He said if he saw someone hurting someone else he would go up to them and say, 'Remember your mother, father, your grandparents ~ what would they think'.


He told me that the World Cup would be in Toronto in 2026 and that it might be Lionel Messi's last world cup. He said how Messi is his favourite person in the world and mentioned how Messi is a very good father and family man. As the flames danced and kept us warm we mentioned how fire is one of the elements (air, fire, water, earth) that is missing from the lives of most. We also agreed that most people could use a lot more grounding.


When he gave me a hug when he was leaving, it was one of the longest hugs I had ever received in my whole life.


I spoke with a woman who was more like a zen master, top executive, probably around thirty years old. She talked about being diplomatic when talking with people and also about the importance of being honest and real. She told me how she had land in Jamaica and wanted to turn it into a quiet place where people could go. She shared with me about her boss and how he can be quite rude and we talked about the importance of being clear with people when they do something that is inappropriate because if no one ever tells them, most won't change their behavior on their own. She shared some of her knowledge on marketing, it's amazing that you can truly learn something from everyone.

The last person I spoke with shared with me how difficult a childhood he had growing up in Chile and that he has been in Toronto since he was twelve years old. He told me the story of how a woman saved his life once. He had been in a very bad situation for many years with a very serious addiction. When she met him she told him to get into her van and she took him to a Vipassana meditation center in the mountains in Quebec. He said that after 12 days of being mainly in silence and meditation he was practically cured. They asked him to stay on for another 12 days to work in the kitchen but still in silence. Then he did another twelve days of meditation.


This story reminded me of the image with the lit candle and the burnt out one, she clearly saw that this man needed help and she reached out to bring him to a safe, quiet place.


He ended up staying for three months and never returned to his former addiction. He mentioned how meditation is the cure for addiction. He mentioned that there was a center close by that charges $1500 to teach meditation but that it is something that should not be charged for.


He also told me that there was an emptiness inside. He shared more about his life situation and how he is practically the sole caretaker for his parents. He said how he always just needed someone to believe in him. Isn't that the truth. We talked about some ideas for creating more spaces where people could go where they'll truly feel seen, supported and encouraged to achieve whatever dream they may have.


I said goodbye after quite a few hours ~ the warmth of the fire and human connections made the night feel a bit warmer as I headed home.


I was truly looking forward to this first full day of spring that I was walking into.





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