“A contagious smile; one that lights up the room”

The day “Ryan” came to the Shelter I could tell that he was special. Ryan was very distant, made no eye contact, and insisted on eating by himself, despite several invitations to join us at the table for his meals.  For days, Ryan would approach me to ask me for different things, but he never ever made eye contact with me. 

At first, I admit it sort of irritated me and I had to decide how I could approach this young man and find out why he wouldn’t look at me, even during our daily contact meetings. So when I asked, what he told me was both humbling and enlightening for me. Ryan explained that in his Cree culture, to look into a person’s eyes could be interpreted as a challenging gesture. Because I asked, Ryan could see that I was interested in his culture and from that point on, we had an understanding and a respect started to grow between us. I was interested in learning about his spirituality and culture and he was willing to share his beliefs, his background and his culture with me. Over a period of time we have built a relationship of trust and respect.

Today, Ryan shared his poems with me, ones that spoke of integrity, loss, pride and wisdom. Ryan told me that he wants to present his poetry as well as his music for a scholarship at a renowned school here in Vancouver. During our initial discussions, when Ryan first arrived, he very seldom smiled. Today, when I came into work, Ryan greeted me with a huge smile as I walked in the door. I encouraged him to smile more often and told him that he has “a contagious smile; one that lights up the room”. He is doing really well these days and I know Ryan will shine on whatever path he chooses during his journey through life.  

picture of a journal