Four years ago I met Cindy on the edge of Hastings Street as she walked in and out of traffic, angry at the world. Her thoughts were scattered and addiction had full control on her life. I had no idea that we would develop a lasting friendship, or that I would have the chance to see her experience peace.
Since finding her daughter in 2014, Cindy has curbed her addition and found peace in her life. Her physical changes are indicative of her new lifestyle. No longer controlled by drugs, Cindy spends time reading, walking her friend’s dog and appreciating those around her.
This morning I decided to surprise Cindy by visiting her in her newest SRO housing. I’ll be honest – I was a little nervous as I entered her hotel as it was my first time visiting this shelter. As the door closed behind me and I started to climb the narrow staircase, I didn’t know what I’d find. I’ve seen and heard stories of what SRO housing can be like – often more dangerous than the streets.
My own stereotype of the DTES prepared me for chaos, but instead I found peace. Cindy’s door was ajar and she was busy mopping her floor. Her clothes and shoes are neatly displayed in tubs, books are stacked beside her bed, the main wall is covered in a collage of meaningful images and a humidifier cleanses the air. Cindy’s surroundings mirrored her content demeanour. With joy she squealed in excitement and decided we should go for a visit. She grabbed her coat and shoes and together we headed out for milkshakes and fries.
As we walked down Hastings reminiscing about when we first met, Cindy apologized for ‘feeling her age’. She turns 50 this February. I assured her that she looks fantastic and that clean looks good on her. We headed to our usual location – Save on Meats – and Cindy eagerly used my phone to call Ontario – first to speak to her sister and next to speak with her daughter. Her family was happy to have her new address and plans to write letters and send a package in time for Christmas.
Cindy and I made plans to connect again next weekend where we hope to drive through Stanley Park together and enjoy the serenity of a Sunday morning. Four years ago, Cindy was not able to last an hour without frantically pleading for money to get her next hit. Today, the only thing she hopes for is a few new pairs of socks and underwear. Cindy calls me her angel – but truth be told, she means just as much to me (or more). It’s Cindy that teaches me what hope, resilience and gratitude is really about. She is at peace, she has family, and her life is clean for the holidays. She is my Christmas miracle.