On August 9, 2017, I had the chance to sit down with Jadah Wild, a wonderful and powerful woman who was a part of our First United community, was a solid and heart-full supporter of the work we do, and whose own spirit-oriented work touched many lives. Two weeks after our interview, dear Jadah passed away, and the impacts of her passing have been felt deeply. I would like to share the interview transcription of the conversation we had since, I’m sure, those who love her and miss her would appreciate remembering with me the wonderful ways in which she spoke. I hope you will feel the love, inspiration, and gratitude that have filled my heart since sharing this time with Jadah.
— Kristine Lawson, Communications Coordinator
It’s a hot Wednesday afternoon and we’re sitting in my second-floor office at First United. I learn that Jadah is a street preacher and has been coming to First for about three years, at a friend’s referral.
KL: Why did you come to First United?
JW: A friend recommended the women’s shelter program. It was pretty fast. I came with a broken ankle. (Laughing, she describes a meme she recently encountered on a t-shirt and explains how it sums up her life: a bit of a mess, what you see is what you get…) I woke up like this – this is half my life story.
KL: What keeps you coming back?
JW: I know the staff so well now that I really love sticking close by them. It matters to me that they know I’m in the background and I support them and they know that they can count on me to be there for them. I have a massive calling and a huge heart for their safety and their support. It really matters to me that our staff have good reception in the community.
KL: What are you up to in your life right now?
JW: I’m on vacation right now. Usually, I work with the Holy Bible. I’m writing in my fifth or sixth journal. I also study music and volunteer in the dish pit here. I do some of the programs – healing touch, women’s groups, and beauty night. I also do meditation here – anywhere from twenty minutes to thirteen hours.
KL: How has First United helped you?
JW: I did not expect to grow as a volunteer here –I was just not into doing that kind of thing with my time. But after watching for a while, there’s a huge need for volunteers. Long self-exam brought me around to realizing that yes I could and I would do it in such a way to make it as a Sunday observant: every day until relief was imminent. It really radically redefined me altogether.
KL: What does First United do that other places don’t?
JW: There’s only one First. If you want to, you could look at their long record and be amazed and awestruck to think of how many meals they serve – 200 in the morning, 200 in the afternoon, their long history of service. Not to mention all the people that come through reception – they must serve 1,000 a day – what agency in their right mind does that and gets away with it? To be quite blunt about it, it’s the insane project that they have kept up for years.
KL: What is the best thing about your life right now?
JW: Right now I have a lot of things on the go – there are many things in my life that have impact and meaning, but the better part is the ability to share with others and gain some foothold in their realm, alongside them, to really appreciate how we are here together, in this moment, and what it means for us to behold one another.
KL: What was the hardest thing about being homeless?
JW: The worst thing about being homeless is the sense of isolation and abandonment. You have to pull up your piece of pavement and remind yourself that home is not always a 4-cornered building with the lights on. Sometimes it’s a place on the sidewalk beside this guy or that guy. Homelessness, I think, is a way of society saying that you’re not worth it. It’s like everybody has stopped believing in you.
KL: What gifts have you received this year?
JW: One of the best gifts was from Father Jim who gave me a photocopy of the photo from 1935 where we served 1200 for lunch. Given the fact that I volunteer in the kitchen, this is one of the best gifts I’ve received here because it reminds me of why we care so much and care to invest our lives toward giving back to others. I feel like I’ve been given a gift every day that I get to go down there and volunteer.
KL: What makes a place feel like home?
JW: Around here that’s a complicated question! It should feel like you’re on the path towards being housed again. Home is something like living within oneself, and you could say that just about anywhere, including a manger, occupied by animals, and not human beings! So, the idea about the church providing housing is really fantastic considering their background of 2000 years of worshipping an infant who was born in a manger and had no home and had a rock for a pillow. In the life and times of Jesus Christ, they had no central heating, no blankets. Today, if we run out of blankets, it’s ten times better than snuggling up to a sheep! Everything they do here (at First United) is designed to make you feel like you have a place to come to, everything they do to make you understand you do have a roof over your head and they do care. No matter how late it is, there’s always someone who’ll go to the kitchen and fix you a meal! That’s what home is.
To read the story we wrote about Jadah in our fall newsletter, visit https://firstunited.ca/newsletterfall-2017/.