I live in a wonderfully walkable neighbourhood in Toronto, the largest metropolis in Canada, so I tend to shop close to home. But a dry cleaning emergency this month led me to another pedestrian destination, Roncesvalles Village, during my lunch hour today. I was thrilled to find an adjacent eatery with healthy, vegetarian options. As I left with several meals to save time for writing and photography, I put my change in my pocket.
“How are you today?” I asked the man selling papers outside the restaurant. His face was barely visible from his tightly-closed parka hood, but he smiled warmly in response.
“Pretty good,” he answered, “how are you?”
“Very good, thank you,” I replied.
“It’s getting colder,” he said, balancing on one foot then the other to keep warm. I’ve been struggling with the sudden drop from 15oC to -5oC myself. I can hardly imagine how difficult it must be for someone who spends hours, maybe even nights, outdoors.
“Do you have a place to keep warm?” I asked, concerned. I was glad he said yes. “Stay warm,” I added as I bought a paper with my change.
The next stop was the post office. I’ve been talking with a dear friend lately who is suffering from deep depression. I’ll see her Friday, but I can’t wait for her to receive this card. It’ll arrive before me, and be more special as a surprise in the mail. The card is perfect — a profusion of daisies from one of my favourite Toronto haunts, High Park. It aptly illustrates the verses from Luke 12 that I paraphrased in my note — how the flowers of the field neither toil nor spin, but God takes care of them faithfully, even adorning them with beauty that no kingly raiment can rival. I tucked a few more verses inside, with blank index cards for her to record her own favourites on. I love the fact that the card will also support a local photographer, as I aspire to be one day.
Continuing north, I discovered a new cheese shop and chose a delicious French cheese for another friend. Upon leaving the store, I knelt down to speak to a woman sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. A sign beside her said she had a place to stay but needed help with the rent. “What a beautiful coat,” she said. “I noticed it as you walked into the shop. I’m a very tactile person,” she continued, reaching out to touch my faux fur. “Thank you," I replied. "I need it to keep warm these days,” and asked how she was managing in the cold. “I’m tactile too,” I shared. "You would love Allan Gardens. It’s a delight for the touch, the scent, and the sight of flowers, especially in the winter.” I made a mental note to make sure I visited it this winter to elevate my spirits. As I rose to leave, I left a few dollars to help with her rent.
Finally arriving at the dry cleaners, I counted the unexpected blessings I’d picked up today. I discovered The Whole Plate, and bought a gluten free banana bread for a church potluck tomorrow. I enjoyed the sunshine and heartshine of mailing a greeting card to one friend, and discovered a wonderful new cheese to enjoy with another friend. I received more than I gave from the seller of the local newspaper. I remembered an oasis of springtime while sharing the tip with a stranger, who reciprocated with an art exhibit I'd love to see.
I knew I’d enjoy shopping Roncesvalles at lunch today, but when I picked up my dry cleaning, I brought much more home than I anticipated. My heart is full of the human kindness that keeps us warm over the long Canadian winter.
Photos © 2016 Carole St. Laurent: Window shopping, Roncesvalles. Helebores in Allan Gardens. High Park Reflections.