It’s a Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood

As I headed out on my morning run the words of the iconic Mr Rogers echoed in my head. It was a beautiful day in my neighborhood. The sun was shining and it was cool. Perfect day for a run. It wasn’t just that though. As I ran on the streets and trails I passed people out enjoying the good weather. Without fail I was greeted with a smile and/or a good morning. The older gentlemen engrossed in their own conversation, the mom chasing her toddler on his run bike, the couple with their dog and the elderly lady with her walker coming home from the market. Everyone friendly, warm and inclusive. So how is it that this friendly and open neighborhood is embroiled in controversy over the proposal of a recovery house for addicts being built in the area?

The reason most of us chose this area to live in is because it has such a community feeling to it. Great schools, rec centers, soccer fields, skating rinks, pools, beaches, a ski hill and locally owned businesses all within a half hour from downtown. Residents take pride in the homes and gardens and are often heard bragging about the lifestyle we enjoy. Sure, it rains a great deal out this way, but you do get used to it. Oh, did I mention the two golf courses where you can often see bears, deer and coyotes sharing space with the golfers. Deep Coves charm is a huge draw for not only locals but day trippers too. Ever had a Honeys Donut after a hike to Quarry Rock? There is no denying that it is a great place to live and raise a family but really it’s the people who live here that make it a community.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Tragedy has struck our area many times in the past few years. Young and old have lost loved ones and struggled with unimaginable events and without question the people who live around them have rallied and supported them. Last year a young boy died tragically in the park close to my house. The school that he had attended and the neighbors did everything needed to support the single mother. Raising money, arranging meals and helping out with the sibling left behind. Nobody thought twice about helping her out. Less tragic events have also brought out the best in our community. A friend of mine got separated from her dog while biking on the trails of Mt Seymour. Within hours word had spread on social media and anybody heading onto the mountain was looking for Skya. Doing what they could to help out somebody they didn’t even know. Fortunately the smart puppy had already headed home to Lynn Valley.

I like to think it’s pretty safe to say that we embrace a widely diverse group of people in the Mt Seymour area. Young and old. I can’t go a mile without seeing a new mom out with her baby. Probably heading to the drop in baby check at Parkgate Rec Centre. A few years ago a new Seniors housing apartment was built and that has brought a whole new population segment to the area. The residence of the Tsleil-Waututh nation comprise a good portion of this community and their traditions and influences are everywhere. My daughter goes to school with kids from Japan, China, Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, England and Scotland. Our kids never question where somebody is from or why they speak a different language. They are all just fellow students. I love the outdoors and take full advantage of all this area has to offer. Bikers, hikers and runners share the trails. But if you don’t like mud and steep hills we won’t judge you.

I personally know alcoholics and recovering drug addicts that live in our area. You probably do to. You’ve probably met them. They live in your neighborhood. Your kids go to school with their kids. You just don’t know that because these people are trying to heal and publicizing their struggles isn’t something they find helpful. Most of them have used a facility like the one proposed for our area at some time in their journey. So why is that we can’t open our hearts for these people who only want to improve their lives? Why can’t we be inclusive of them the way we are inclusive of so many others?

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Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.