Canada is viewed internationally by many as a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism, and its system of healthcare is envied worldwide. Nearly half of the population of Toronto are immigrants or foreign-born, and the city itself is widely known for its ethnically diverse neighborhoods. It is into such an environment that “Ripples of Kindness: An Interfaith Community Meal” was born.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many large metropolis, there are too many citizens who face social & economic problems such as poverty, homelessness, stigmatism, marginalization, mental health, and addictions. In the midst of this, the Ripples of Kindness program offers a sense of hospitality by inviting the public each Saturday to share an Interfaith Community Meal in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie.
As an interfaith group we have asked ourselves, “What does hospitality look like? How can we practice it together? How we can live together in friendship?” From a faith-based perspective, hospitality not only refers to dignity, and respect, but also to delivering hot meals or clothing as an act of selfless love with no expectation of reward, or “Seva” as the Sikh community call it. This for us is a hospitality which encourages us to think globally and act locally, while providing a sense of living in peace with our neighbours. The Interfaith Community Meal can be described as a faith-filled movement for hospitality, and was initiated as our response to the call of the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
How has the Spirit Spoken to Us?
We have observed the importance of hospitality in coming together as an interfaith community, where we too often have little in common with a stranger; yet we can come together as neighbours and friends, each with our individual stories. Our Community Meal gives us an opportunity to listen to our guests. It is about listening and being open and allowing the Spirit to teach us through our guests and the strangers who drop by. As Pope Francis often reminds us, “We have to respect truth wherever it is found.” Hospitality therefore has a special meaning for our Interfaith Community Meal as it is a celebration of how we receive our guests, including those of other faiths and those of no faith. In our view, guests must be honoured by welcoming them.
Through our Ripples of Kindness Community Meal, I myself have found hope for the future when I see our group of dedicated volunteers welcoming a stranger, preparing and serving food, aiding the disabled and elderly, speaking to the homeless and listening to their stories. When we help each other in this way, I see opportunities for greater change in the future, and I believe that we can achieve great things through our individual and collective hospitality. Ripples of Kindness is about the human connection and the bonds that are formed through our ability to listen and learn from one another.
To enrich our community meal, we have added Arts and Crafts, and offered chess games designed to foster team work, fair play, and improved overall self-esteem. We want to create those moments where we can say, “We enjoy being with you.” Music is a form of prayer, and it is in this spirit that we offer the haunting sound of a native flute played throughout the meal by one of our indigenous volunteers.
Our Ripples of Kindness Community Meal allows us to reaffirm the idea that hospitality is an attitude, a part of everything that we do. It is an act of opening doors for people; it is in us, and we are a part of it as we live it and we continue to grow by living each day. Hospitality therefore moves through us and towards others. It promotes mutual understanding, cooperation and unity among our volunteers and guests. This notion of hospitality is about honoring the guest or stranger in our midst while sharing a hot meal on some of the coldest days of the year. We welcome everyone; rich and poor, young and old, and believe that through hospitality a more tolerant society can emerge.
Bishop Desmond Tutu once remarked, “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for togetherness. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
Our Community Meal is made possible by the dedication and commitment of an amazing core group of volunteers, people of various faiths and cultural backgrounds who believe in a sense of oneness that comes from the movement of the spirit in our hearts, and from our respect for mother earth.
Come by and join us!
… Saturdays @ 11:30 am – at 381 Sherbourne St. @ Carlton St. – Toronto
Contact: Prakash Lohale, OP- email@example.com
2 thoughts on “Ripples of Kindness: An Interfaith Community Meal”
“In the midst of this, the Ripples of Kindness program offers a sense of hospitality by inviting the public each Saturday to share an Interfaith Community Meal in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie.” So for almost two weeks, I have been reflecting on the many themes of hospitality, of selflessness, of fraternal charity through the prophetic voices. What I looked at over the past couple days were merely what people commonly call, “Words of Wisdom.” This is perhaps stuff you might hear at a conference or from a motivational speaker. However, Ripples of Kindness is an example of a group that is putting these prophetic voices into action. The interesting point is that Ripples of Kindness is an interfaith hospitality initiative.
Toronto is such diverse community and it is so beautiful that there are initiatives like Ripples of Kindness who are taking such action. We may sometimes undermine acts of kindness which may sometimes be exerted through the simplest of actions. We live in a North American society we are so used to busy lives where we are told to “go, go, go” or you “miss the bus.” You may have heard the saying, “you snooze, you lose!” With the priorities that people have in the typical North American life today, that is a reason why I do not think a lot of people think they can afford the time to dialogue with others because it is simply not on one’s bucket list.
However, “Ripples of Kindness Community Meal allows us to reaffirm the idea that hospitality is an attitude, a part of everything that we do.” Remember the conversation with Walter Brueggemann? He affirmed that relationships were more important than achievements. You can spend time chasing after achievements. However, to take time to serve and have a conversation with a stranger brings you to new horizons. I honestly am guilty of this – not spending enough time dialogue, to get to know those whom I do not yet know. Let the prophetic voices be a reminder for us to take action through initiatives like Ripples of Kindness.
During these times, I have found myself watching the news and following stories around the world concerning the many negative repercussions that COVID-19 has had on the less fortunate and marginalized in society. I have become increasingly aware of the many luxuries of life that I often take for granted, and have come to realize that I have in many ways failed to be the most giving and considerate version of myself to others.
Through reading about the Ripples of Kindness program, and their goal of delivering meals and hospitality to those living in poverty in Toronto, I feel strongly connected to the idea that giving back can be as simple as volunteering my time for the pursuit of another’s happiness.
In the Catholic Church, we are often reminded of our mission to bring Jesus Christ to others. It can sometimes seem like such a difficult and daunting task, as though we are expected to preach and evangelize our faith in a very public way. However, Jesus’ message to us was simple. He taught us to share love with others and be kind to those who have none. The mission of Ripples of Kindness is just that, and through doing so, those involved in the meal’s preparation and delivery are so much more than volunteers. They play an essential role in providing hope and comfort to everyone, regardless of one’s financial or social stance.
Through learning more about the program, I feel inspired to give back to my own community, and to not take things such as my family, food, and a home for granted. Christ taught us that our faith is about being there for the other, and practicing community in God’s name, and I believe that Ripples of Kindness is an exceptional way for anyone to get involved.