It began simply enough.
Several weeks ago, I signed up to volunteer at a community event -- a short morning commitment with an additional request that I pick up a fellow volunteer who needed a drive. That is how it began.
I picked her up in front of a tiny motel that I'd never noticed before, tucked away as it was between a succession of auto body repair shops and parts suppliers. Stupidly, I thought she must own the motel. Because why else would she have me pick her up there? It didn't occur to me at all that she might have taken up temporary residence there with her three children in a miniscule, nearly windowless unit in the basement next to the laundry facilities.
We chatted a little as we worked together during the event and I learned that she had arrived in Canada only a month before. I thought that she might like a tour of her new city or perhaps someone to share a coffee with from time to time, so I offered both of those things and we agreed to meet up the following week.
I dropped her off that day at a drop-in centre near the downtown core. It's a place I've driven by a zillion times, but never paid much attention. She volunteered there, she told me, and as she took hold of the straps of a bulging, oversized grocery bag that she'd brought with her and entered the building, it never occurred to me that not only would she spend the afternoon helping others, but that she'd also be using the community machines inside to wash the laundry stashed inside her bag and the telephones to continue her search for an apartment for herself and her children.
That was a month ago and in the days and weeks since, we have embarked on a journey to build a new life in a city that I've lived in for six years, but haven't fully seen.
To be continued . . .