We welcome Dion Oxford today to share his perspective in a post that originally appeared on his personal blog dionoxford.com

With my wife being on holidays these past few weeks, we’ve been taking longer walks together. It’s been quite lovely to check out different parts of the city.

One thing I love to do is go through cemeteries. There’s something about them that grounds me I guess. And in the city, a cemetery is like an oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life. This time we went through St. James Cemetery. I assume it must be one of the oldest ones in Toronto.

Dion's feet, on his wheelchair foot rests, are visible in the foreground of the photo.  In the backgroung are tombstones and trees.

Being there really calms me and ironically gives me a real sense of life. I have no real way of explaining why that is, but that’s the case. Perhaps it’s because cemeteries even the playing field. It’s a reminder that this is all of our fate, no matter who we are.

With all of the politics going on around us these days, and millions and billions of dollars being wasted on elections while so many people are dying on the streets, it brings me a tiny bit of peace to know that even these rich white guys are going to end up dead like the rest of us at some point.

Grim but life-giving I guess.

That’s how I roll. :)

Then we went for a walk down at the beach. The water also brings a sense of calm to me. I really miss being on the water in Newfoundland every summer. There’s nothing quite like it and I hope somehow someway to be able to get back there someday.

Thankfully the lake here in Toronto is so big that you can’t see the other side, which makes it feel a bit like looking out across the ocean. It’s a part of creation that reminds me that I am just a speck in relation to the size of the universe. It’s good to be reminded as much as possible that the world doesn’t revolve around me…

Dion's feet, wearing converse sneakers, are visible in the foreground, resting on his wheelchair foot rests.  in the background is a rocky shore and then a wide expanse of lake.

We also took a walk through Taylor Creek Park. I love it down there. There’s a creek, wildlife, many different kinds of trees, trails, and lots of silence. But as usual lately, it was the willow trees that really captured most of my attention.

A willow tree stands tall in front of a blue sky with white clouds.

When I was temporarily living in an apartment on the west side of the city while the house was being renovated, there was a willow tree at the back of that place. I spent hours sitting out back just staring at this tree; but not knowing why.

Then it finally dawned on me. The tree is a metaphor for life. It is weighed down by its branches but yet keeps growing taller and taller towards the sky. Life is a lot like that.

We, or I guess I best speak for myself, I can be weighed down by the struggles of life. But yet I keep being drawn toward the sun; drawn towards the life that the light of the sun gives me.

From a Christian perspective, I feel as though I am being drawn towards the light and the life that the Son gives me. Even though life can be a struggle that is full of pain, I find that keeping my head up facing the sun/Son gives me joy and hope in the midst of it all.

One of my favourite authors, Henri Nouwen, said something to the effect of the fact that Jesus did not come to take away the pain of the world; but came to participate in it with us.

So Jesus knows what it’s like to be the willow tree.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be me.

I like that.

A black and white photo of Dion smiling into the camera.  He is a white man with a goatee, glasses, and no hair on his head.
Dion Oxford is a Jesus follower first and foremost. He was the Mission Strategist for The Salvation Army’s 5 homeless shelters in Toronto, called Housing and Homeless Supports. Dion, along with his wife Erinn and daughter Cate, live in Toronto and are committed to journeying alongside people in the margins of society. He has spent more than 25 years working among folks who are living on or close to the streets of Toronto. He was the founding director of the Salvation Army Gateway; a shelter for men experiencing homelessness.

Dion also lives with Multiple Sclerosis and uses a wheelchair to get around. He is an advocate on behalf of people in the margins of society, and is an accomplished public speaker on the topic of housing, homelessness and disabilities. He likes to read, rant, write, fly kites, watch TV, play and listen to music, and hang out with his friends. He and his wife see the solution to homelessness as taking seriously the 2 great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbour.