On when I used to cycle to work past SUVs, crack houses, churches, and friends

So I once rode the 7km from my home to my workplace every day. One day it really dawned on me how diverse this journey really was.

I started in my quiet little neighbourhood on the Danforth. I would slowly ride past houses of friends on my street and say hi to folks as I rode past. Before I knew it, I’d be on the Danforth aware that at any given time I might get shmucked by someone who drives like a maniac and truly couldn’t care less about a guy on a bike if it meant getting to wherever they were heading a few seconds later.

Then I quickly got off the Danforth and headed south using streets from there on in that have bike lanes.
The first street is downhill and I would find myself at speeds around 45km/hr enjoying the hill but still hoping that a bus doesn’t come out of that blind street up ahead and not see me…

Then I’d hit Dundas and start heading west to downtown. This was often pretty uneventful.

I’d turn south on River Street. It’s here I’d recognize that while I’ve only cycled 5km to this point, that I am in a different world. I’d ride through Regent Park and see girls at 7am working the sex trade; they seemed so lost and broken. As I rode past them they looked at me often hoping I might be their next customer. I guess guys stop there while cycling and driving to work to get their sex fix to start the day. I could feel the depths of the brokenness of the girls standing there willing to do anything for very little money in hopes of scoring their next fix. Maybe some of them are hoping to make enough to put some food on the table for their kids. What horrible things must have happened to them along the way?

Old Regent Park
Old Regent Park
And where do these men come from who pay the girls for blow jobs and/or whatever other kind of sex they’re into in the mornings? Are they married with kids and co-existing with their wives? Are they pastors of churches that have no idea how to express their sexual cravings? Are they Bay Street CEOs, bankers, teachers, lawyers, brick layers…? Whoever they are, I often found myself both angry with and sad for them. How could they be in such a place where they become so willing to abuse girls who so desperately need to be loved?
The world is fucked up…

I rode on, feeling helpless. I would ride past active crack houses, run down homes, closed churches, drug dealers, and despite all that, community. I then turned down Sherbourne and rode past the Max Meighen Centre with its close to 300 beds for men who are homeless. Many would be hanging out in front of the building and some would recognize me and say hi. I’d say hi back.
“Have a nice day”, I’d sometimes say.
It felt so trite.

I’d keep riding. I’d ride past the church that just opened in that neighbourhood and would pray that they could be a caring community of people for the folks who are so broken all around them. But I’m not sure they knew how…

Then I’d arrive at my place of work, Gateway, then a 108-bed shelter for more men who found themselves homeless. My day began with me hauling my bike up the stairs to my office and thanking God for the gift of surviving cycling through Toronto one more time. I’d then ask God for the strength to do all I could do that day to bring hope to someone that has been left behind by our culture.
And I’d hope that I could see hope in the faces of the many men and women I would see that day.

And every now and then despite my many failures, my hope would pay off.

1 thought on “On when I used to cycle to work past SUVs, crack houses, churches, and friends”

  1. Thank you Dion. All I could think at the end of your story is…a day in the life. It brought me back to being in Amsterdam with YWAM. One night our combined groups went to the red light district…teams from YWAM Scotland and Norway to share about Jesus to whoever wanted to listen. We really ptayed about this one! I wondered if the prostitutes waiting in the red-lit front windows and the sex shows advertised would would be a little too much. Actually I felt very sad about everything that was going on…sad for the women in the windows…sad for the “clients” buying sex….put off by the pimps making money off of someone elses body…the prostitutes that were hooked on heavy drugs…the heavy “bouncers” at the doors of the sex shows…the families doing the night-time tour of the “red light district” with their teenaged kids. It was surreal but these are peoples’ real lives being lived out there night after night. No joy, no love, no peace. There was nothing there that was a turn on at all…it was just so sad.

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