“Good morning, young lady. Today is a beautiful day”. I was greeted by these same words every morning as I entered the arts and crafts room of St. Margaret’s Centre, and every time I couldn’t help but look up and smile. The man who repeated these words daily was a regular attendee, and he never failed to remind me and everyone else around him that every day was beautiful.
I didn’t know his full story, but he would show me fragments of his past, such as an old newspaper clipping detailing his nearly fatal accident. I couldn’t always understand everything he said and I sometimes struggled with finding the right words to say. Throughout my time at St. Margaret’s Centre, I often found myself in these moments of helplessness and vulnerability, where I struggled to understand what the attendees were trying to say and struggled to offer words of consolation or help in return. But maybe the most important thing to them was an open ear and an open heart. Maybe the best thing that I, or anyone for that matter, could do was give them time and attention.
St. Margaret’s is a support center for individuals with mental health problems. It provides a safe therapeutic space for attendees to gain confidence, skills, and support so that they can progress towards their goals and lead more fulfilling lives. From woodworks training and therapeutic horticulture to art classes and self-help courses, St. Margaret’s provides so much flexibility and so many opportunities for attendees to participate in activities at their own pace and on a level suitable to their ability. What I love most about St. Margaret’s, though, is its relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, the sound of laughter and chatter that’s always present in the background. Seeing attendees tell each other stories over cups of tea and work together on crossword puzzles makes me realize just how valuable St. Margaret’s truly is.
The supportive nature of St. Margaret’s is largely due to the work and love of its staff. While the team itself might be small, their care and dedication is truly immeasurable. When I first met Rob, I was touched by his easygoing, funny, and kind personality which made me almost forget that he was the boss. From Olwyn, Nicola, Tony, and Carol, to Jackie, Lisa, and Andrea, every single person on the team made me feel comfortable and welcomed. They were affable, patient, understanding, humorous, and loving. All my gratitude goes to this team for making St. Margaret’s such a great place to be and my DukeEngage experience so memorable and fulfilling. I owe it to St. Margaret’s Centre for the memories and experiences that it has provided me. It has taught me to be introspective, grateful, patient, and kind.
What I will remember the most are the people that I would’ve never met and the stories I would never have heard had it not been for this journey. I’ll remember the man who used inspirational quotes to draw pictures so that when he felt sick and down, he could look at his drawings and feel better; I’ll remember the woman who beamed with joy when she saw my drawing of her and her son; I’ll remember the man who painted a fox which he named Ramona but never remembered its name; and of course, I’ll remember the man who never failed to remind me that every day was a beautiful day.