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Stephen Rathjen

2008 - 2012 - Volunteer

October 20, 2021

I'm grateful for all the ways he called me on my bull$#!t and helped me be honest with myself, God and others.

I thought I'd share a couple photos. First, I wanted to share this photo of Mario and I! 

Mario used to live in the 4 Sisters Co-op (around the corner from the original Well location) and many of those who were active with Jacob's Well in its first 10 years would know him well.  He was a regular on our list of weekly visits.  For those who didn't have the pleasure of meeting him, he was a firecracker, full of quick one-liners, and a laundry list of tasks he needed us to help with (that was 10 miles long!!).  We definitely bonded over our shared history of a conseravtive religion, queerness and a love for baking.  In this picture above we both made trifles (a duel?!? / competition?!?  lol) and shared them with the crew at coffee time.   I was grateful for the years together and all the laughter and tears we shared.

The second photo is of Barry.  Another firecracker but more the kind you set off to cause mischief!  For reasons to this day I still don't quite understand, he decided that I was his best friend (and a lot of other peoples’ enemy?).  He was a very determined best friend who would track me down no matter where I went.  Working at the bank? Check!   Working out at the gym? Check!   Chilling at home with the lights off? Check!   Barry's story was one that broke your heart and so you couldn't help but love him. Raised from birth to 20 across 12 separate foster families in Alberta, none of them indigenous some of them abusive, in prison through the prime of his life for 25 years between the ages of 20 and 55. He was out long enough at one point to have a girlfriend and 3 boys who he talked about often, but by the time I met him they were a distant memory that he tried to numb the pain of through drugs and alcohol.  

Despite all this Barry was resilient, a prolific binner, a musician (, and just fun to be around (if you didn't try to tell him what to do).  At one point Tim McLeod (another Jacob's Well alumni), recorded one of Barry's original songs  Follow the link here to listen.  In the end, the pain of the past was too much and Barry and he passed on when he OD (overdose)in his SRO (single room occupancy), but not before making a huge impact on those he befriended.  I'm grateful for all the ways he called me on my bull$#!t and helped me be honest with myself, God and others.  Miss you Barry!

I still live in the DTES and currently work as a Nonprofit tech consultant.

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