Friday, June 13, 2014

On Being Human

I spent the better part of an afternoon yesterday sitting with my neighbour, Deb, on her deck in the gorgeous sunshine. Just to be clear, this is Saskatoon and so as much as I moan about the length and depth of our winters, I will try to paint an equal and accurate picture of the absolute beauty of our summers. Though all too fleeting, there are days when the weather just dictates you work as fast as you can and escape early to get out and enjoy it.

So, yesterday, Deb and I were catching up after a few weeks of her working all too much for my liking. I mean, seriously, she should consult my social schedule before booking on for so much work but I guess, she is in the business of saving lives so sometimes, I suppose that takes priority.

Regardless, in the course of just an afternoon on the deck, we discuss all manner of things and pretty much try to squeak as much life out of summer as we possibly can plan. Paddle boarding and roller blading remain at the top of our to do lists with regular deck sitting and backyard campfires thrown in for good measure. Impromptu bbq's and dinners take place with amazing regularity and there can be any number of friends and family and coworkers invited in with just a text message.

We were talking about how lucky we are, and we know it, that we live with neighbours who've become family around us.  It's something that Jason and I don't take for granted, having moved many times, and it's probably the number one reason we stay where we are. So, mid winter when it turns from credit to blame, the reasons remain the same. Good neighbours. Good friends. Knowing that these are hard to replicate...though we've been lucky over the years, we aren't going to chance it for the sake of moving.

The other night, Deb had been working out of town, our across the street neighbour, Bobby, just pulled in from his work out of town and suddenly, the driveway became an impromptu party. Deb described it as being "the exact place she needed to be, regardless of not having a formal invitation, and she knew that if we moved the party inside or to the backyard, that too, was where she needed to be."

I can't think of a better picture of community. Knowing that we have all become this little haven of family in the midst of suburbia. We live well amongst each other and we have each others' backs. A few weeks ago, Bobby went all stealth on a truck that was parked in front of our house for an unusual amount of time with two guys sort of just staring at the place. Seriously, neighbourhood watch should have this guy as their poster boy. He not only was just about to go out and confront them, he took note of the vehicle and told us right away when we got home that night.  Our yard is often filled with kids other than our own who come and jump on the trampoline, bring their dogs to play with ours, and just generally run in and out of the yards in our neighbourhood as if they were all their own. Some people would hate that, and I can probably include our back fence neighbour in that, for he has to put up with all the noise and chaos, but I love being the house on the street that kids can hang out at and feel at home.

So, this week, as I read the news of a horrific attack on Marlene Bird in Prince Albert this week, I feel sick. And guilty. And some hopelessness. For all the beauty of community, if it only stays in the suburbs or includes our closest friends and neighbours, it's not enough. We start with that and move it into the reach of all we share our city with. We take what we learn about loving one another and sharing with each other and standing up for each other and we need to spread it into our respective circles and cities.  As much as our amazing little community fills a space in each of our lives, we also go into our city and are able to give to others out of what we've been given.  I'm not saying we've perfected it or that we are always intentional, sometimes it just grows out of having a safe and secure place to land. Marlene Bird needed that place of safety and security in its simplest forms and she wasn't afforded it. Please notice I didn't say she couldn't afford it...the onus is on us to be community to those around us.

Marlene's community has let her down. Not just the homeless community or social agencies in watching out for her, as some would like to blame, but the greater community of humanity - those that recognize her on the street, those that know of her from her long presence in the city, those who give her help occasionally, and those that drive by her and try to ignore her and those she represents. Marlene is a woman, a fellow human, someone who hasn't hurt or invited this sort of pain into her life. She is now fighting an incredibly painful fight for her life. As part of her community, we need to support her and others in vulnerable positions, as though our very lives depend on it. For in reality, our lives may not, but our humanity certainly does.

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