• Nathaniel G. Sands

2KTwenty - New Year's Revolution

This is a big year for me. I just recently quit my job of Seven years without knowing my next move. With options before me, a difficult decision was made, and I have never before in my life felt or experienced such a surge of purpose and understanding. My life is becoming increasingly eventful and meaningful. These last few months I have been so aware of the significance of each breath I take and action made, and I can only hope and encourage you to open your eyes and ears, and see how true this is of each and every one of us. Whether you are going through the motions or starting something fresh, everything we do has as much meaning as we choose it to have... never forget that you are loved and have the opportunity to share that love, whether it's with family, friends, co-workers, or the variety of random people you cross paths with everyday.

It is now the year 2020, a milestone of the human endeavour. A celebration of what is, what was, and what is to come. I had an eventful celebration of the new year, one that will be imprinted on my heart for years to come:

I went to the Rickshaw Theater for a private karaoke party. I had a lot of fun at the party but it was my time in the alley behind the theater that left its mark.

The Rickshaw is on the corner of Main and Hastings street in Vancouver. Anyone from the lower mainland knows that this is the heart of the downtown eastside - the hub of those living on the streets. And this night I formed an unlikely bond with one such person.

His name is Dancing Water. I called him Ocean, a nickname that uncontrollably came out and stuck. We had a multitude of genuine conversations and intimate moments. We discussed culture, family, employment, heart-aches, special women, blessings, death, divine interactions, ect.

At one point it began to rain and I got cold. Ocean put his jacket over me as I began to shiver. I commented on how nice a jacket it was. He lit up! a smile from ear to ear, saying his eleven-year-old son bought it for him so he wouldn't freeze on the streets. I told him he was so blessed to have a son who loved him so much. He knew this to be true, but even as I write this now, my heart breaks. The truth is, Ocean hasn't seen his son in five years. I don't know how or why, I didn't ask how this beautiful jacket made it's way to him, all I know is that this special bond of father and son is real. I told Ocean that I believed he would see his son very soon, and that this year was going to a positive and happy one for him.

"Whence come the highest mountains? I once asked. Then I learned that they came out of the sea. The evidence is written in their rocks and in the walls of their peaks. It is out of the deepest depth that the highest must come to height."

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra

He also shared with me a song he wrote, a RAP that would rival anything you could find from modern artists. The deep lyrics and moving rhythm hit my soul each time I heard it, as new listeners approached and fell into a moving silence - listening intently as their souls stirred with emotion.

It seemed so easy and so natural to talk to this brother of mine who wandered the streets, where many wouldn't offer even a glance. It cuts me deep knowing how many people are out there right now, just like Ocean, torn from society.

from a few years back, when the two Bradleys and I stayed several nights at Anita Place Homeless camp

Although we shared moments of deep sorrow together, throughout our conversations there was a joyous smile on both our faces. Throughout our interactions, out in the back-alley of Main and Hastings, I heard Ocean say to another that before this chance encounter he felt like giving up. That it felt so good to be treated like a human being. That all he needed was a friendly conversation. He expressed in sincerity how good it felt to be welcomed as an equal, and that he had a renewed energy for his life.

The only regrettable fact of this encounter is that it didn't happen a year from now. You see, I made the decision to go back to school. Starting this month I will be working toward a diploma as a Community Support Worker - Social Services, a program at Sprott Shaw College. I am so excited to begin working in an area I am so passionate about, and to be able to help people like Dancing Water beyond just a friendly conversation.

In addition, I plan to get my dog Bradley certified this year as a therapy dog. He loves people so much, and it was only a few weeks ago on our walk that Bradley was getting his chest scratched by a woman with a cart full of personal belongings, sitting on the wet ground, telling me he must be therapy dog, that I made the connection, and realized how effective we would be as a team, and how much joy we could spread within our community.

This passion of mine was handed down to me by the late and great Michael Sands. Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of my father losing his life to ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). He was a young man, relatively speaking, who was full of passion and life, leaving his mark on all he encountered. He had a genuine love for all people - being a nurse in psychiatric hospital and in group-homes, my dad on a daily bases interacted and dealt with countless people who did not fit. To honour him on his fifth year separated from us, we handed out little gifts to anyone on the streets who would accept them. The picture above is of Leah and Bradley as we prepared to set out in search of those in need.

Each of us has value and worth. My hope is that you find yours this year. Life is a funny thing... One day we are born. One day we die. And in between, a series of actions, reactions and silence. Make the best out of what you have been given and each scenario you find yourself in. And remember, You Are Loved!

God bless, and happy new year!

Searching the local library for people in need, finding "The Event Horizon" by Nathaniel G. Sands on display!

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