This clatter was followed by the sound of a car’s shattered bumper hitting the asphalt.
What we hear next are vehicle doors opening and the exchange of raised voices and frustrated words.
“What were you thinking?”
“I don’t have time for this!”
“I can’t believe this just happened!”
“This is just my luck!”
We came to understand that a 2015 Audi A4 had rear ended a Dodge Ram.
This was the start of my first ‘Sandwich for a Story’ experience. When the two cars collided, I was standing with Sam Sawchuk and Joey Hubbard, two members of the ‘Sandwich for a Story’ team, at the corner of Edmonton Trail and Memorial Drive in Calgary preparing to walk the downtown streets of Calgary.
When the accident happened, Sam, Joey and I jumped back slightly, assessed the situation and determined no one was injured and continued to cross Memorial Drive to start distributing sandwiches to Calgary’s least fortunate. We walked onto the Langevin Bridge and across the Bow River towards downtown Calgary. In our hands were bread bags filled with ham sandwiches made by the students of Rundle Academy’s Kid Helping Kids group.
The Langevin Bridge took us from the luxury cars of Calgary’s downtown culture to the reality worn out shoes possessed by those sitting and standing outside the Drop In Center. As we approached the heart of the downtown we met one individual after another and asked them if they would like a simple sandwich. To a person, everyone did.
What struck me about each of the individuals who accepted our goodwill token was their warmth and generosity of spirit. They were willing to stand and talk about the weather, about their day-to-day frustrations or their hopes and dreams.
Maybe most memorably, under one of the flyover overpasses we came across a woman who is in her mid twenties. She wore a single shoe, was wrapped in a worn blue fleece blanket and was surrounded by remnants of her daily life; a toothbrush, a can of soda, a lighter, and a jacket she was using as a pillow. We asked how her day was going and she indicated that it was actually going pretty well. She went onto tell us that her day would be better if the people at the Drop In Center would just give her some toothpaste and shampoo, she really wanted to ‘clean up.’ During the course of our conversation she said she just wanted to do the ‘normal things’ like going to the gym for a run and being able to go to work. As the conversation evolved, the subject of personal dreams came up and she said she wanted to act and maybe even become famous one day.
Listening to her concerns brought several thoughts into my mind. It reminded me that the first step to success is being afforded personal dignity; the opportunities to have two shoes, to wash your hair and to brush your teeth. In addition, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the human soul is hard wired to have dreams and aspirations; our new friend was no different. The image of her sitting with one shoe and no toothpaste but still having a ‘pretty good day’ is imprinted on my memory.
It took us less than 30 minutes to deliver several bags full of sandwiches and hear a dozen stories of loss, homelessness, wishes and dreams. In the same way we came, we left. We walked back across the Langevin Bridge and past the stranded Audi A4 that had been in the accident when we first left. The owner of the car was red in the face and still furious about his misfortune. As we walked passed him, he exclaimed, “Can you believe my luck!?!”
After experiencing what I had experienced for the prior half hour, I could.