All Saints is a place where people can be themselves. At All Saints, we meet people where they are, not where we want them to be. Virtually all our community members have survived multiple traumas, and many relive those traumas daily. Experts say trauma isn’t so much events themselves as the absence of empathic witnesses to those events. By meeting people where they are, All Saints staff and volunteers can be empathic witnesses. We provide a safe space, a refuge, in a world that can often seem frightening. When people finally feel safe, they can, in turn, become empathic witnesses for others. They become part of the All Saints circle of care. And I see this circle of care on a daily basis.
The All Saints circle of care encompasses drop-in participants, volunteers, and staff. When a volunteer lost his brother, some peer volunteers picked out and signed a special sympathy card. When a drop-in participant had an episode of acute distress, both staff and another drop-in participant created a compassionate and safe space for him, helping him calm down. And when one community member died in a tragic accident last November, another member of the All Saints community tracked down vital information about her when other neighbourhood agencies couldn’t.
An empathic witness is also a comforter, a counsellor, and an advocate. These words are all Biblical descriptions of God, the ultimate empathic witness. All Saints provides space for people to encounter the comfort, counsel, and advocacy of the Divine. These encounters may include sharing a meal, building a relationship, or coming together to rally for safer streets. Whatever it is, every encounter is shaped by the needs of each person in a particular moment. Wherever a person is on their journey, someone from All Saints will meet them there.