I was 6 years old, and on some Saturdays my father and I would travel to Chatham, Ontario to do a bit of shopping and visiting. He would meet with a group of other men, a real estate broker, a clothier and others. I would often play on the floor of the clothing shop with a truck or car while the men would sip coffee from very small cups and talk business.
After stopping for a small bag of chocolates, we would then walk back to the car for the trip home. The first time it happened, a man approached my father smiling asking how his day was going, and quickly my father pulled out a quarter and handed it over to him. The man would thank us and then we’d make it back to the car.
My father told me that the man often slept in the park where my dad worked as a gardener, tending the flowers in the summer and shoveling the snow in the winter on the side-walks. My dad knew his first name and his story. He had lost his family through alcoholism, and was a good man who was having trouble getting back on his feet. My father told me that often when he started his day, if the man was in the park, he’d share part of his lunch or coffee or some food with him and they would talk. There were a number of people who experienced this kindness from my father over the years, most I don’t know about nor ever met. I knew this because on many of those later trips, different men would say hi and my father would give them some money. He knew them by name and they knew him. He gave them hope and a human connection.
Hope is something we need to survive.
In British Columbia and other large cities today, many are dying each day of Fentanyl use on the streets. Politicians are screaming for more money to hire police, build housing, treatment and rehabilitation programs.
What we really need to help is for more of us to give the gift of hope to those in Vancouver and where ever you may live. Hope in the form of respect, encouragement and time to listen to each and every one of those unique stories that led that person to despair.
So here’s what you can do today:
If on your way to work you pass the same person on the street or in the subway, stop once a week and give a coffee, a sandwich and take the time to listen. Get to know their name, their story and share yours with them. With this connection, with this gesture you will again bring them hope, and with that you may have just saved their life.
Be well this holiday season and I will see you on the other side of the year.