Heaven and Hell in Vancouver

On Tuesday, I rode the number 25 bus, along 25th Avenue.

Just as we passed Sophia Street, I became aware of a fellow passenger.

He stood, though there were many empty seats. He stood right behind the little wall that protects the driver’s back. His tight, skinny jeans rode low on his hips, presenting the body of a teenage boy.

But he had no face – or at least, none he wanted to share. His red, white and blue windbreaker jacket was pulled over his head, and he had turned to the wall to stay hidden.

Occasionally he turned his whole body towards the window. Perhaps he was noting what bus stop we had reached, but I imagined he was anxiously protecting his own back.

What kept him from showing himself?

Was he very stoned and self-conscious about it?

Was he hung over from alcohol and sensitive to the light?

Was a gang or bully after him?

Was he avoiding getting caught by an adult relative?

Was he overwhelmed with a sadness or anxiety he did not wish to share?

The bus stopped at Main Street and 25th Avenue, near a recently demolished Shell gas station. On the sign redirecting loyal customers to a new location, someone had painted over the letter S, so that the sign reads VISIT HELL IN VANCOUVER.

***

On Wednesday, I walked on Sophia Street towards the intersection of Main and 25th.

The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the cherry trees finally in glorious pink blossom.

In front of the City View Baptist Church, I paused to view a tree. And noticed a white dove perched on the phone wire right in front of the church.

Most of our local doves are brown or grey. Of course, rock doves don’t care about color. Rock dove feather patterns vary so greatly that no two individual doves look alike.

The dove’s color might not have been unusual, but its location was. In their diverse glory, neighborhood doves flock on Main Street, avoiding the hazards of Sophia Street’s crow territory.

City View Church, however, is unafraid. Calling itself “a multicultural church,” it inhabits an unassuming stucco box of a building.

Every Sunday morning, we hear its bells ring out.

Every spring, we meet its youth, as they go door to door fundraising for a charity.

Every Thursday morning, at the corner where the church has put a bench and a planter, a group of people with disabilities gathers. They chat and smoke and nod at any passerby who is comfortable enough to look at them with a face of greeting.

Some Sunday evenings the building rocks with musical prayer – gospel, jazz, heavy metal. The crowd overflows out the door. Exhilarated musicians of all ages and all ethnicities linger after the service.

White dove chose this location.

***

Some things speak for themselves.

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