The past few weeks have felt as if I was inside an installation at the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology that I used to visit with the children. Their favourite part of the centre was called the "Krazy Kitchen". It was a practical lesson in optical illusion - cupboards only a few feet away seemed much further. The floor appeared flat, but walking on it revealed a steep tilt. In the Krazy Kitchen, nothing was as it seemed. Everyone reacted in a similar fashion - nervous laughter and clenched muscles.
The human body, mind and spirit do not like it if they can't predict next steps. Chaos frays nerves like nothing else.
So I take careful note of people who offer lessons in peaceful living, even amid chaotic surroundings. Someone I pay close attention to is a man called Glen. Glen packs groceries at my local supermarket. He's about my age and is often seen wearing a neon yellow vest, stooped a little as he pushes long lines of trolleys into their place. Glen has worked at my grocery store for many years and he has a learning disability. Most people know him and call him by name. I notice the effect that he has on people, including me. Last week, I was so worried about Nicholas - his pump medication, whether or not he could be happy living away from home, and if his new helpers understood his efforts to communicate. Anyway, on Friday I needed groceries and it was raining. "Damn, just my luck", I thought. I left my trolley on the sidewalk and walked to my car. When I pulled up beside my purchases, there was Glen waiting to help me transfer my bags into the back of the car. Glen said "I like the rain. It's good for the trees, the flowers, the bushes, the grass...." And I said, "Yes and the ducks and the rabbits". "The rain is good for everyone" smiled Glen. I had to admit as we both looked at the sky that it was true. "Glen, you are the sunshine in my day!" I said and we both laughed.
I know how many people appreciate the tonic of Glen's gentle ways - I see them smile and chat with him at the store. But I wonder about his life after working hours. Where does he live? Does he have family members at home who love him?
In the province of Ontario, there are 10,000 vulnerable people waiting for supportive residential placements. Maybe one of them is Glen. I believe that I am not alone in feeling a longing for the kind of companionship that someone like Glen offers....and there's a programme that we can build on this longing that might make a dent in that residential waiting list. In the UK, that programme is called NAAPS. It's a bit like foster parenting, but for adults. So perhaps it's a little like a dating agency too, because everyone has something to gain from living together happily. If we had NAAPS in Canada and Glen signed up, I would recommend him as someone who brings gentleness, contentment and optimism to any household where there are people who appreciate those rare elements of life.