Rest and Life in Third Spaces

The concept of a ‘third space’ was new to me, or so I thought, but when it was explained I could instantly picture many of the third spaces that I have had over the course of my life. The vintage and second hand shops that I would go to just to visit the owners and meet the interesting wave of characters that happened to pop in that day. The coffee shop that I spent hours and hours doing school work in, only to befriend the baristas and other neighbourhood folks. The front yard of my friends that live right beside my church, where we can play socially distanced games and catch up with friends that also live in the neighbourhood that are walking by.

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A third space is a place that is not your home (first place) or your work/ other main place that you might spend your days (second place), rather it is a third place that you feel like you belong, are known, and gather for some kind of shared hobby, interest, or geographic location.

This season that we are living in right now has required us to be stretched and maybe get creative about different ways to connect and engage with each other. The concept of a third space can give us an interesting framework for how we can make those connections in a time that feels so disjointed.

If you’ve ever spent time in the Downtown Eastside, especially on East Hastings Street, you have probably noticed the side walk sales. For about three to four blocks every day, people lay out blankets, set up lawn chairs, and sell, trade, or gift their finds. Music is often playing, people talking loudly, and things that you have not seen IRL since 1995. Like any neighbourhood, there are still disagreements, misunderstandings and conflicts, but more often than not, people are being greeted, stories are being shared and jokes told.

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This community has refined and created a culture of third space that is celebrated, to be taken notice of, and to learn to incorporate into our own lives. Often, they show up to the same place to see the same people and are simply present with one another, and that is rest, and that is life.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to sit still and not be productive. This season has taught me many things, and one of them is that my body was not meant to be working and doing all the livelong day. It seems to me that when God highlights rest both in the Creation story and in the Jesus story, it is not just a footnote that we can shove to the side. Rather, they are focal points that can teach us to be present with ourselves, with each other, and with the Creator.

In an article posted by TED earlier this year “The 7 types of rest that every person needs”, the author, Saundra Dalton-Smith, outlines many of the things that we would normally think of when it comes to rest—physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, and social. But in an interesting twist, the seventh type of rest is spiritual, and while this can be done in solitary through prayer or meditation, it can also be done in shared spaces through belonging and community involvement. Does that sound familiar? Kind of like the message behind the Creation and Jesus stories?

So how do we create these spaces? Well, sometimes it is as simple as showing up, and then showing up again, and then again. Cafes. Parks. Church basements. Condo roof tops. Or maybe we can create them. Does your front lawn have space for a picnic table with a welcome sign for neighbours to sit down? Does your church have a place for some benches or a life size chess board? It can be hard to slow down and just be present in a space where the only requirement is that you show up, and yet, it is the very thing that will give us life and rest. So be like our DTES neighbours, show up for each other, be present with one another, and create spaces where rest and life are lived out and celebrated.

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