Rev. Tom Oshiro is a visionary. He retired this year, at 86, after serving 23 years at the Mustard Seed, a non-profit organization fighting to break the cycle of poverty and restore lives in Greater Victoria. He is described by others as caring and compassionate toward everyone. He is famous for treating everyone like family, keeping tabs on the most destitute and carrying around a roll of five dollar bills to ‘lend’ to anyone in need.
During his tenure as Executive Director he expanded Mustard Seed beyond its traditional food bank role. When he discovered that clients had groceries sitting in their cupboards because they didn’t know how to cook it, he launched the Family Centre. There they tackle issues like budgeting, literacy, parenting and cooking through educational workshops, courses and seminars. Their objective is to end the inheritance of extreme poverty by equipping families with necessary skills and empowering future generations.
In addition to being the Island’s largest food bank, Mustard Seed now includes a clothing bank, the aforementioned family centre, counseling services and an addiction recovery centre called Hope Farm Healing Centre. The active farm is a sanctuary where the residents contribute to the work of caring for the land and the animals on it. Their programs focus on recovery for the whole person, including physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social healing. Being ‘healed’ instead of being ‘treated’ has made the difference for many of those who have stayed there.
My neighbour spends every Monday at Mustard Seed, volunteering his time, energy and skills. And during the holiday season, they were particularly busy. The media and businesses held extra drives for food in support of Mustard Seed. The objective was to allow everyone who came to the centre to leave with enough groceries to sustain them over the holidays.
His dedication to Mustard Seed prompted me to do some research on the organization and that’s where I read about Tom Oshiro. This man’s accomplishments at Mustard Seeds were inspiring. For me, both men exemplify the spirit of giving with compassion, kindness and care.
Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch December 16th Flash Fiction Challenge: in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “spreading the light”. Here is my contribution.
Jerry’s eyes light up when he recognizes the weather-worn man with a toothless grin walk into the centre.
“Don’t you look all spiffy in that new jacket Pete.”
“Got it from the clothing bank. Had to spruce up a bit for the holidays, ya know.”
“And I’ve got your food hamper all ready to go. I even threw in an extra box of cookies for you.”
“Thanks,” says Pete handing Jerry a package wrapped in tissue.
“Just something I made.”
Jerry tears away the paper, revealing a small wooden candle ornament.
“Always remember, you’re someone’s light Jer.”