May 30, 2016.
On a warm, but beautiful sunny Monday, Barbara shared her story. With a smile on her face and a calm demeanor, we spoke about community, divorce, success, and the future. Although Barbara didn’t grow up in the Guelph community, she moved here to accommodate her ex-husband’s work. Guelph is where she eventually raised her two sons.
For Barbara, the Guelph community was more than welcoming: “Everyone’s just so friendly when you walk down the street. Like today, I was on the bus and there was a lady beside me, and you know, we get into a conversation and everything. You don’t do that in Montreal!”
So because HOPE House stands by the belief that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but community, I wanted to know what community meant to Barbara. She struggled to put it into words but she explained that community is more than people and things, it’s a feeling. Community means “friends helping” and “being there to help your community, and to make it a better place”. She believes that everyone needs to contribute to creating a better community.
So how has HOPE House fulfilled Barbara’s sense of community?
“I was introduced because last November I had a stroke, and it was a minor stroke but I was in the hospital for a little while. Then in January, I had a total meltdown. I went through severe depression and I went through some counselling through my doctor. I was talking to somebody and she recommended that I go to HOPE House because I’d meet some great people, great community. She said that they’re here to help if you need help. So I did, and I come every day!”
I asked, “as a child, what did you imagine your life would look like when you grew up?”. Her aspirations weren’t like most children – she didn’t want to be an astronaut or a popstar. Instead, Barbara loved to cook and bake just like her mother. After having her first son, she decided to ditch the office job and pursue her passion. She worked as a professional pastry chef for four years. She then worked as the lead baker at Tim Horton’s (did you know they used to serve cakes and donuts baked from scratch?). She was also promoted as the Bakery Manager at Bingeman’s Convention Centre in Kitchener. Both the physical and time demands of working in the kitchen were draining, and it eventually took a toll on her marriage.
When asked about one of the key barriers she had faced in her life, she paused: “The biggest was my divorce. It still haunts me from time to time… When I was living through this depression, I did not leave the house for a couple of months. But now, I’m getting out every day.”
Barbara has a kind and gentle soul and this shone throughout her storytelling. She described herself as being a friendly people person. Anyone who speaks with her would agree.
“It doesn’t matter what nationality, or what they look like, I mean, I will talk to them. If I see someone in trouble, I’ll try and help as much as I can.” She continues, “I can be very anal about certain things. Like, ‘that doesn’t belong there! It belongs here’. I’m very particular with my stuff”.
She attributes these personality traits to her loving mother, who she described as being incredibly outgoing, involved in the community, and hyper clean: “Literally, you could eat off of my mother’s floor, they were spotless”.
So what’s in store for Barbara? She hopes to get back to work, because she misses being in the kitchen, even if it’s just part time. Perhaps you’ll see her smiling face and caring demeanor in the HOPE House kitchen, serving up some delicious Wednesday morning breakfast.