Chocolate, Cigarettes and Compassion

Judy Graves, advocate for Vancouver’s homeless has announced she is retiring on May 29.

After converting to Christianity, Judy Graves attended a United church, then Unitarian, Baptist, Catholic, and now Anglican. From her perspective, threaded throughout the Bible is a message about looking after the stranger. Jennelle Schneider // Province


In 2007 while a pastoral intern at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. I had signed up to help out with the homeless count in North Vancouver.  I had the privilege of meeting Judy at the volunteer orientation session.  As our trainer, her goal was to equip our well-meaning but variously inexperienced group of recruits with enough “street smarts” to stay safe and practical wisdom to get the job done. I’ll never forget her “a candy and a cigarette” approach to help us establish trust and rapport with our clients. While some may think that offering a homeless person a cigarette in order to earn the right to interview them smacks of Machiavellian utility,  at the heart of  all that Judy taught us was a profound conviction of our common humanity and the right of each person–regardless of their circumstances–to be treated with respect and dignity. Peter Ladner captured both her practical approach and heart of compassion in the song he wrote,  Angel of Broken Wings

I wish Judy, recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal,  a well earned rest,  fun with a crochet hook,  and time to play with her grandchildren.

In the meantime it is up to us to run with the baton Judy has handed off to us.

Here are some ways you can help end homelessness:

  • Each of us can get to know the name of the homeless person that lives near them and say hi to them every day, which will change everything in their world.
  • If people say they’re hungry, take them out for a meal.  And instead of just buying the meal, maybe sit down with them for 10 minutes and just talk with them about what brought them there.
  • It is your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy to go to everyone who is running for office or has been elected into office and let them know that you hold them absolutely accountable for the suffering of every single person that is on the street.

For more ideas on how you can help, check out this End Homelessness Now activity page.


One thought on “Chocolate, Cigarettes and Compassion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s