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silent hospitals

silence

the hum of the hospital elevator still buzzes in my brain. one of those sounds that puts you at ease and into a comfortable, deep sleep. i remember the furnace in our basement gave off a sound just like the hospital elevator’s hum. i was 7, maybe 8, and i wouldn’t fall asleep until i heard the click of the furnace, then the hum that followed after.

mental thumb-sucking, probably.

dave is sitting up in his bed when i arrive, attempting to eat his dinner. pork chops and mashes potatoes. looks decent for hospital food. small cartons of milk and ensure line the right side edge of his hospital table. he really likes milk.

“is it snowing again?” he asks.

i shake my head. “not today.”

he reaches over and removes a couple of books from the visitor’s chair.

“here, sit down,” he tells me.

i thank him and sit. a trio of nurses looks over our way and talk amongst themselves, about which i can’t be sure. i’ve met a couple of them since i’ve been visiting dave. they seem friendly and caring. dave tells me some of the older nurses don’t even acknowledge him, even while administering to his medical needs.

i wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that he’s a homeless man.

dave tells me he received good news from the doctor. one of three infections surrounding his heart is successfully being treated by the cocktail of antibiotics he takes everyday. still two more infections to fight off, though but he seems up to the challenge. i don’t get the impression he wants to lie down and die.

not yet.

somehow, him and i begin talking about ancient historical leaders and the times in which they lived. dave has a few things to tell me about alexander the great. the brief history lesson draws in one of the younger nurses and soon there’s three of us discussing and debating and laughing.

dave has a good hearty laugh at one point, but it’s interrupted by a cough that echoes deep in his lungs. it puts a halt to the conversation. he puts his head back against the upright bed and closes his eyes.

“i could really do without those,” he says.

everything is quiet for a while. the nurse goes back to her station, i listen to the hum from the elevator still trapped in my head and dave rests his eyes.

i lean back to check the clock on the wall.

“you got somewhere to go?” dave asks me.

“actually, i do, but not for a while.”

he slowly nods and smiles, his eyes fixed on the ceiling tile above his hospital bed.

“i stare at the tiles on the ceiling for hours,” he explains to me. “i try to count the black marks on each one, then try to estimate how many ceiling tiles there must be in the entire hospital. i’ll figure out how many black marks this hospital has by the time they discharge me.”

i’m almost certain he will.

i notice a new necklace he is wearing. it’s made of fabric and has something written on the back of the square-shaped wool pendant. it says something to the effect that ‘anyone who is wearing this when they die will not go to hell’. it’s an old roman catholic superstition from what dave tells me.

“a priest brought it by for me. i figured ‘why not?’ it couldn’t hurt, right?”

“you scared of dying?” i ask him.

“not yet,” he says, eyes fixed on mine. “but i’m sure i will be if or when things get worse.”

“ya?”

“ya..”

silence.

i’m hit anew with the gravity of dave’s situation. this is happening right now. this isn’t a movie i can turn off and return to watch later if i want.

“if i grab that necklace from around your neck, yank it off and run out the door, would you feel any different about your present condition?” i ask him.

he laughs at the idea and tells me, “no. this necklace isn’t going to save me. God restored my soul many years ago. i may have been running from him these past years, but he’s not going to undo what’s been already spiritually done in me. it was grace that changed me and it’ll be grace that keeps me until my final hour.”

his back seems to have gotten a bit stronger after saying that because he’s sitting up straight now in bed, not slumping like he was. his face looks resolute as he turns towards me, courage seems to beam from his eyes. i’m not sure what to say or if any words are even necessary.

more silence.

when i was in grade school we had to read john steinbeck’s book ‘of men and mice’. my teacher’s love for the book inspired my classmates and i as we read through the novel together. it was the first book i remember having such an emotional impact on me. during a particularly important moment in the book, steinbeck writes:

“as happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. and sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

and, so it was for dave and i as we sat there together in his hospital room, letting the silence do all the talking for us.

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if excuses were only enough

i had all the reasons and excuses i could think of not to go and still, there i am covered head to toe in snow, walking down my street in the middle of a blizzard. excuses begin to poke and jab my mind, trying to convince it to turn around and head back to my warm apartment. each snowflake that scrapes at my eyes gives the excuses more confidence to continue their harassment.

i almost buckle.

the walk isn’t long. at the end of my short street sits the queen elizabeth hospital. it, too, is covered head to toe in snow.  i avoid the sidewalk snowplow and then a sliding car on my way to the entrance.

my years of athletics pays off again.

knock on wood.

the wide glass doors open as i’m approaching the entrance. another set of doors open as well and welcome me into the hospital lobby. i see a few people busy hurrying to separate places in the hospital.  a quick pause to de-snow myself a bit.

i don’t like hospitals.

i push the big white elevator button with an arrow pointing towards my feet. automatically the door to my right slides open. a large coffee spill accompanied by a bright cone indicating ‘slippery surface’ are my ride mates to the next floor.

i start thinking about what i’ll say..

the elevator door opens to a large corridor that makes me instantly recall  creepy movies i’ve watched in the past.

hospital-corridor-bwweb

more excuses come rushing in, though these of the more irrational variety.  as gripping as the picture in front of me looks, these excuses are much easier to shrug off and i make my way down the hallway.

IMCU.

i flick on my phone to see if this is the place.  it is.

i have no idea what the ‘m’ stand for but i’m fairly certain that the other letters spell out ‘intensive ____ care unit’. i’m not really sure what to expect when i enter. i take a deep breath and open the door.

‘hi, may i help you?’ asks the short, kind-eyed rn.

i ask her where i can find my friend.

she points down another corridor, though much shorter than the last. i thank her and make my way towards bed 7.  i see him before he sees me.  he doesn’t recognize me at first. he wasn’t expecting company.

who visits homeless guys in hospitals?

‘hi, dave. how are you?’ i ask.

‘hey, lucas! i’ve been better but i’m alive,” he replies.

we talk and catch up on the past couple months. i know dave from the streets of halifax. i wrote about his incredible survival about 5 months ago, when he was jumped by a couple of punks and left for dead, and his fight with a garbage truck when it scooped up the bin he was sleeping in.

after updating me on all the injuries he received from those incidents, he brings me back in time a bit.

‘i was born almost 10 weeks premature. they didn’t think i’d make it. well, i’m here now!’

it appears dave has the nine lives of a cat, because, by all rights, he should be dead by now.

i put it off question longer than my mind can take until it can’t take any more.

‘why are you here?’ i blurt out.

his eyes drop and he explains how a head cold he got while staying at the men’s shelter turned into an infection surrounding his heart. and if one infection wasn’t enough, two more have since jumped on board.  he now has 3 separate infections surrounding an organ than we can’t live without.

dave is rather casual while describing it. he doesn’t seem depressed by the diagnosis nor overly thrilled about it. he says it hurts when he coughs. like thousands of needles poking out his lungs and esophagus.

right then he coughs, and i can almost feel the pain he feels by the look on his face.

his optimism makes me feel optimistic, too, even if i know it’s only make-believe. the vicious kicks to the head from the robbery and the crushing steel walls from the garbage truck couldn’t kill dave, but these infections probably will.

this is what i was afraid of.

i was afraid i’d have to say goodbye to another friend from the street.

and it looks like i was right..

i track down the nurse who was attending to dave earlier in our visit and ask her his chances. she shakes her head,’i’m technically not allowed to tell you anything without his consent, since you aren’t family.’

‘is he going to die?’

i ask but i don’t really want to hear the answer i fear is coming.

her eyes drop.  people’s eyes always drop when they give bad news.

‘it doesn’t look good..’

i head back to dave’s bed to say goodbye for the night. i pray with him and say i’ll see him tomorrow.  i tell him to get healthy so we can move him into the new apartment he just got before he became sick.

‘..you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  what is life?  for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.’ james 3:14

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wisdom from an elder

‘According to the UN Environment Programme, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life.’

this wasn’t written in a sensationalist newspaper or on a controversial website.  while certainly left of center, the guardian is not your usual doomsday predictor.  nevertheless, yesterday’s jarring headline reads more apocalyptic than utopian.

a whole lot of nothing is being done to protect the earth from our destructive behaviors.  there has been a lot of big talk and plenty of official public meetings where politicians and figure heads posture and peacock for the masses, but very little has and is actually being done to save us from future ruin.

make no mistake about it, our planet is reeling under our over-inflated superiority complexes.  our forests are clear-cut or diseased from climate change.  our waters are intoxicated with plastic that destroys marine life or radiation from the fukushima disaster.  150-200 species of wildlife are dying each day.  extinct.  never to come back again.

read that again and let it simmer for a moment or two.

200 species!!

an estimated 1 billion people are reliant on fish for their well-being and survival.  as we pollute our waters that destroy ecosystems or over-fish, disrupting other species in the food chain (which has negative consequences that stretch far beyond what our nearsightedness allows), we threaten the lives of 1/7th of the planet, not to mention all the other creatures that we share this planet with.

please notice that i emphasized the word ‘share’.  novel concept for humanity, i know.

yes, i’ve painted a very one-sided picture of climate change.  of course there is much more at play, but for the sake of brevity, sleep and a hankering to rant, i won’t be presenting the other side.

i’m not really sure how to process this latest report.  i do believe it’s serious but how much emotional and mentally energy can i give to something that i feel i can’t really do anything about?

and there’s the rub – most people don’t care (at least not enough to do anything) because they don’t feel empowered to be able to do anything.  it’s too far out of their reach.

thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  we don’t feel we are able to change anything so we do nothing and no change is done.

i know this might sound a bit sensationalist but i can’t help asking:

is this how it’s all going to end?

are we really going to sit on our hands and allow our grand children and great-grandchildren deal with this awful mess?   are we going to continue on this trajectory because we couldn’t or simply wouldn‘t  take seriously the signs and statistics staring us in the face?

i desperately want to be optimistic about this and believe that at the eleventh hour a group of people will rise up and take control of the wheel and steady our path, but i’m increasingly becoming more pessimistic that it will happen.

i used to sit and talk with an older coast salish man back when i lived in the downtown eastside of vancouver.  he must have been close to eighty, with a steady dose of stories and elderly wisdom at his disposal.  spending time and talking with him calmed me.

he told me about the conquering of his people by the europeans but never blamed the white man, like many do, unfortunately.  ‘it wasn’t the white man who was responsible’, he would tell me.  ‘it was the lies they had been told were truth.  they had been taught the lie that they were more important than anything else – animals, earth, water, air and other people.’

my old coast salish friend often told this with a very pained expression on his face, like it hurt him physically to tell.

‘not until this lie has been exposed and corrected will my people, or any of the peoples of our great earth, live in a healthy, properly functioning world.  we must learn that the collective – past, present and future – is more important than the individual.

we must learn what true community is.’

if my old friend could stay optimistic until the day he died, i guess i can as well.  maybe there’s some fighting spirit still left in a few of us to make a dent in the armor.

it better be soon, though..

‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ – margaret mead

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/un-environment-programme-_n_684562.html

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death, where is your sting?

the past few days have been difficult. africa dying hit closer to home than i ever expected. his passing has me thinking about death more. no, not in the morbid sense. im not completely off my rocker yet. its got me thinking about life and the death of life. big picture stuff.

death isnt really the end. its a new beginning to the rest of your life. well, thats what i believe. i think we live forever and ever, somewhere. heaven, paradise, city of gold, kingdom of God, home.

i know atheists will probably scold me for saying such a thing, but i feel bad for atheists. i really do. genuine pity. if i understand atheism, and i think do, the logical conclusion of its philosophy is that there is no meaning, no purpose, no life after death. not only does nothing really matter nor any truth really exist, but when we die thats it.

what an awful thing to believe.

worm food. lights go out and they dont come back on.

i realize that this isnt an argument against atheism, because something being unfortunately terrible doesnt make it wrong, but it does make it terrible and something that offers very little hope for this life. no thanks, atheism.

id rather see and embrace the hope we have in the gospel. thanks, Jesus.

im going to leave it at that. for now.

i miss the dtes a lot right now. i havent missed it there this much since i first left. i wonder how so many people are doing. i wonder how aj is doing and if he has kicked his addiction. i wonder how elizabeth is doing and if she beat cancer. i wonder how daryl has been and if he has gone home to nunavut like he told me he needed to.

i wonder about many others and wonder when ill go back, if ever.

i hope to.

today i worked the door at hope cottage. eddie had taken the night off and andrew asked if i wanted the gig. no apron, greet everyone that entered the building and carry a clicker to count guests. its even better than it sounds.

cheque day was on wednesday so business is slow. the regulars are all there though and a few new faces. kenny comes in with rap blasting from his cell phone. a few heads in the room turn in his direction and he graciously turns it off as he grabs a tray. considerate member of the community.

skylar comes in for dinner late. he grabs some bread and dinner and comes to talk with me. he finally got an apartment! i congratulate him and we high five.

high fiving is a great celebratory gesture on the streets. i quite enjoy it.

skylar was a youth that was living at the shelter when i worked there. i got to know him there and when he came out to play street soccer for a while. smart cree kid, very athletic, advocate for others, but with a bit of a temper.

he has had housing for just over a month. he moved in just before christmas. good gift from santa, id say. already its helping him. he is taking his addictions more seriously and doing what he needs to do to be healthy. hes staying out of trouble which means the police arent harassing him.. as much.

i couldnt be happier for him!

we talk school and where things are at with that. school is next on his list of things to do but he feels lost. hes not sure where to go from here. i agree to help him figure that out. hes too smart and gifted not to get his high school diploma and give himself a better chance at life. he agrees. he promises to come out for street soccer this sunday and bring his sudanese roommate who loves playing soccer with him.

i hear they start playing soccer in the womb over there. i expect this guy to be good.

skylars big success has me hopeful. even in the midst of death, grief and sadness, theres a lot to be hopeful for. hope for at-risk youth getting housed and educated. hope for my other friends on the street rising up out of poverty. hope for me seeing my friend, africa again (and all the others) on the other side.

bye, grief. hello, hope.

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deeper grief

they always come out of left field.

blindsided..

i lost another one of my friends today to addiciton.  he wasnt much older than myself.  losing africa hurts a lot.  much more than i ever thought it would, but then again, i never pictured losing africa.  for whatever reason i thought he would make it out alive.

i hate being wrong.

i met africa my first day on the job at first united.  i was standing in the lobby talking with a new coworker when in walked a very tall, skinny african man wearing a giant hat with large sunglasses.  he didnt walk so much as he stumbled into the building.  as soon as he saw me, he stumbled over to shake my hand.

‘hi, im africa.’

his african accent and intoxication level made it difficult to understand him but i got the gist.  this problem stayed the same for as long as i knew africa.  the more he drank the thicker his accent got and the harder it was to understand him.  sometimes he would lecture me for minutes on end, all the while i couldnt understand a single word he said.

africa’s name wasnt actually africa, but a nickname given to him by his friends in the downtown eastside.  not very imaginative but pragmatism wins out in a world when remembering where you woke up isnt easy.  the tall black man would forever be known as africa and he didnt seem to mind it one bit.

a nickname usually means acceptance and when you are thousands of miles from home, acceptance is just what you need.

africa’s friends got him drinking rubbing alcohol one day and he became hooked.  addiction to rubby (as they called it) was not a pretty addiction.  for me, its quite possibly the worse one to watch someone struggle with.

africa had an apartment somewhere in the dtes but he spent most days and nights hanging out or around first united.  thats where his friends lived and hung out.  this was the case for a few of the guys i knew in the dtes.  they would get a worker in housing to help them get an apartment in hopes of getting away from their addiction and the people they consumed their poison with.  some lasted longer than others but, one by one, they all made their way back.

since i left vancouver ive lost 4 guys from just one group.  since i joined the dtes community ive lost over 15 people.  those are just the ones i can remember..

i hate losing my friends to addiction.

this doesnt seem get any easier..

when i decided to start giving my life to the poor years ago, i didnt think that id see this many people die.  people who i had relationship with, a connection, a friendship.

i didnt sign up for this.

i invited africa to a small church in east van with me one summer sunday.  the church was having a community party in the local park with live music, games for the kids and bbq.  as soon as i told africa there would be food there he was coming come hell or high water.  he marched there like a man on a mission.  for as rail-thin skinny he was, the man could pack down the food.  we could never explain where the food went.

a couple other guys came along as well.  edson, one of my favorite guys to talk with at the shelter, came along with us as did aj (edson is now married and living in northern bc and doing great!).  as soon as the music starts up africa is dancing.  by himself.  in a dance only he knew the steps to.

it was something else to see.

we laughed until our sides split. aj fell off his chair he was laughing so hard.

i like that memory.

just as quickly as i remember that memory, the reality that hes gone comes crashing back.  my heart is grieved deeply..

in fyodor dostoevsky’s ‘crime and punishment ‘, he says something that gives me great comfort in times like this:

“the darker the night, the brighter the stars,
the deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

thankfully, this truth is more real to me than anything else i know.

ill miss you, africa.

africa

harry and africa

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remembering nate

the last 13 years have come and gone so fast.  it seems time slips by faster and faster the older i get.  it seems like just yesterday i was an 17-year-old teenager, living at home with my parents and trying to finish up my senior year of high school.

where does the time go?

i remember older family members and friends telling me that time went by faster as you got older.  i thought that was just something old people told young people like me so we would appreciate our youth more.

i guess not.

i met nate when i was 12 years old.  instead of attending the junior high my elementary school classmates went to, i was forced to go to another junior high since my mother and i had moved districts.  i had to make friends all over again.  nate was one of those friends.

i cant remember the first time i met nate but id wager it was during a game of pick-up basketball we often played at lunch time.  i wasnt much of a basketball player at the time, having spent much of my childhood playing baseball and soccer.  basketball was nate’s sport.  he would dribble circles around all of us and score whenever he felt like it.  the rest of us were pylons.

by the time we were in grade 9 nate had really come into his own.  40, 50, 60-point games.  he single-handedly won us basketball games and even tournaments.  i remember watching from the bench in awe of the things he could do with a basketball.  after seeing him dismantle other teams, we didnt feel so bad that he did the same to us during practice.

we knew nate was special, but he acted as if nothing he did was out of the ordinary.  there was no arrogance or ego to him.  sure, he carried himself with confidence but he had a humility about him that kids at 15 arent supposed to have.  at a time in life when most kids are forming clichés and singling other kids out, nate wouldnt have anything to do with it.  he was mature past his years.

nate was also the first authentic christian i ever met.  i remember when we would travel to play tournaments, either on the bus or in the hotel room, guys would ask nate all kind of questions about his faith, church and God.  regardless of the question, he always took the time to give an answer. by the way he talked and walked, nate gave us all a compelling reason to believe him.

like i said, nate was special.

after grade 9, i moved to comox and went to a different high school than my other junior high classmates.  once again, i had to make new friends.  if that wasnt hard enough, when basketball season started i didnt have the luxury of having nate on my team.

i now had to play against him!

id have to lie through my teeth to say i won any battles him and i had during our grade 10 and 11 years.  i didnt.  nate had my number.  to be fair to myself, he had everyones number.  as improved as the rest of us got, nate got even better.  it frustrated me like nothing else in my life at the time.

so i decided to dedicate my life to basketball.  i ate, slept, breathed and dreamed basketball.  evenings after school and my entire weekends were spent at the gym, often by myself, running, shooting, dribbling and passing to myself off the walls.  i would dribble my ball the 5 or 6 kilometers to the gym and home.  my fingertips would crack and bleed from overuse so i would  have to tape them up so i could keep playing.

i was determined to get better.

more than that, i was determined to beat nate.  every time i went to practice by myself i pictured him practicing at his gym getting better.  when i got tired and wanted to go home and eat, i would tell myself that nate was still practicing.  that mental image forced me to stay longer and keep playing.
come hell or high water, i was going to beat nate.

over the summer between grades 11 and 12 i had a breakthrough.  my skinny body put on some well-needed muscle and my skills really came together.  all my hard work was finally paying off and just in time for my senior year.  i knew that this was my year.

i felt ready.

nate came to my church for the christmas play that we put on that year.  i was chosen to be joseph and had to perform a large monologue that i was nervous for.  i nailed it on opening night and felt pretty good about it.  as i stood in the church lounge accepting congratulations from people in my church, nate surprised me with a handshake and a hug.  we caught up on each others lives and talked basketball.  our schools were playing each other in a few weeks at his schools annual tournament.  my first chance to go head-to-head with him.

i still remember what i was doing when i heard the news.  i had just come up the stairs from my room and was going to the fridge to make a sandwich.  the phone had rung and my mom answered it.  she hung up the phone and told me the news: nate had died in a car accident on the way to his basketball game.  he had fallen asleep at the wheel and his small car had crossed the center line and collided with a large truck.

everything in my life came to a standstill.

i remember looking out the window at the tree in my backyard as my mom told me the bad news, wishing that this was somehow an awful dream that any moment i would awake from.  as the tears rolled down my face, much like they do right now, i couldnt believe what i heard.  this couldnt have happened to nate.  of all the people in the world..

i cried everyday for the next several months.

in my anger i wanted to give up playing basketball.  i had worked so hard to get better and finally beat nate and now he was gone.  i wanted to kick all the basketballs i owned into the forest behind my house and never play again.

but i didnt.

i found that basketball, unlike anything else in my life, brought me the peace my hurting and angry heart needed. i found comfort and joy in playing the sport nate and i both loved.  it became my place of escape.

it still is today.

more than an escape, basketball became a way for me to build life-long friendships, receive university scholarships and teach young kids life skills through sport.  for all the injuries it has incurred on my body, it has paid me back many times over in blessings; blessings i would have never experienced had i not met nate dasilva.

13 years later as i sit here at my computer, my left ankle still slightly swollen from a sprain i received the last time i played, writing about the friend that changed my life in more ways than he ever knew, i remember that mid-january day as if it were just yesterday.

thanks for everything, nate.

natesarticle

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tragedy in kansas

for some of us its just another sunday.  for those in kansas city, this sunday will be much different than last sunday and all the preceding sunday’s leading up to today.  tragedy has a way of doing that.

a couple of days ago, a young professional football player who plays for the kansas city chiefs took a gun and shot his girlfriend, the mother of his newborn baby, multiple times dead.  he then went to the practice facility where he works to thank his coach and general manager for all that they had done for him.  then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

we hear about these situations in the news often enough that we become numb to them.  people murder other people.  its a sad reality that we a forced to deal with.  people also take their own lives, leaving behind people who cared for and loved them.

i came across this story because im a sports fan and because im a sports fan i tend to visit sports websites to get my ‘fix’.  what was first reported as a suicide by a football player soon became a story about a football player who committed murder-suicide.

what happened inside that young man’s head?

i read a few of the comments tagged along at the end of one of the articles.  most people were very sympathetic towards the situation, offering their rip’s and condolences.  some people werent as kind and offered their distaste and judgment towards the young man.  i read some very harsh and hurtful things that i hope his family or friends didnt come across.

it amazes me the senselessness that comes out of some peoples mouths and, in this case, fingers at times.

was this simply a case of domestic violence taken to the extreme?  maybe, but maybe not.

football is a violent sport that involves men crashing into each other with tremendous impact, often times injuring players.  many times those injuries cant be seen on an x-ray or be helped with some physiotherapy.  head injuries are very common in a game where men bash their helmets against another man’s.  with enough force, a person’s brain can shake inside their skull and cause damage.  we call this a concussion.  concussions have been shown to contribute to depression, anxiety, mood swings, lack of ability to control stress, loss of social judgment and aggression.
could this young man have been dealing with some mental illness due to head trauma that had flown under the radar?

in a society that stigmatizes people who deal with mental illness, its more common for people to live with unaddressed and undiagnosed mental health issues/illnesses then seek help.  people who wouldnt think of saying a racial or ethnic slur glibly talk about nut cakes, lunatics and crazies.  its no wonder more people dont seek help.

or maybe the young football player just snapped.

in professional football, as in most professional sports, players are more commodities than human beings.  weight, strength, height, 40 time, jersey number, etc.  im just as guilty of it at times, getting frustrated when one of my favorite players has an off-shooting night.  they arent simply numbers on a roster or spreadsheet.  they are people with emotions, sensitivities, dreams, families and lives away from the sports field.  when we dehumanize human beings, should we be shocked when they dont always act human?

whether it was mental illness, a sudden aggressive, irrational mood or something else we are unaware of, it saddens me more than i can articulate in words.  but why?  i didnt know know him, his victim or anyone related or close to them.  i cant explain the why, i simply am.

im learning as i get older i cant nor do i feel the need to explain everything.  some things just are.

rip jb and kp

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we teach life, sir

after 65 years living in purgatory, the people of Palestine await their bid for statement to be voted on by the UN.  today could be an historic day and alter the politics of the middle east forever.  time will tell.

in light of this, i wanted to share a video i found.  i havent posted many videoes on my blog but this one was too powerful not to share.

click on the title to watch.

 

We teach life, sir.

 

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits filled enough with statistics to counter measured response.

And I perfected my English and I learned my UN resolutions.

But still, he asked me, Ms. Ziadah, don’t you think that everything would be resolved if you would just stop teaching so much hatred to your children?

Pause.

I look inside of me for strength to be patient but patience is not at the tip of my tongue as the bombs drop over Gaza.

Patience has just escaped me.

Pause. Smile.

We teach life, sir.

Rafeef, remember to smile.

Pause.

We teach life, sir.

We Palestinians teach life after they have occupied the last sky.

We teach life after they have built their settlements and apartheid walls, after the last skies.

We teach life, sir.

But today, my body was a TV’d massacre made to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

And just give us a story, a human story.

You see, this is not political.

We just want to tell people about you and your people so give us a human story.

Don’t mention that word “apartheid” and “occupation”.

This is not political.

You have to help me as a journalist to help you tell your story which is not a political story.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

How about you give us a story of a woman in Gaza who needs medication?

How about you?

Do you have enough bone-broken limbs to cover the sun?

Hand me over your dead and give me the list of their names in one thousand two hundred word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those that are desensitized to terrorist blood.

But they felt sorry.

They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.

So, I give them UN resolutions and statistics and we condemn and we deplore and we reject.

And these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied.

And a hundred dead, two hundred dead, and a thousand dead.

And between that, war crime and massacre, I vent out words and smile “not exotic”, “not terrorist”.

And I recount, I recount a hundred dead, a thousand dead.

Is anyone out there?

Will anyone listen?

I wish I could wail over their bodies.

I wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp and hold every child, cover their ears so they wouldn’t have to hear the sound of bombing for the rest of their life the way I do.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre

And let me just tell you, there’s nothing your UN resolutions have ever done about this.

And no sound-bite, no sound-bite I come up with, no matter how good my English gets, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite will bring them back to life.

No sound-bite will fix this.

We teach life, sir.

We teach life, sir.

We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir.

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mona’s gone..

i chose not to believe it when i heard it. my mind decided to override reason in order to spare me emotionally. at least for the moment..

that moment has left and gone.

when i first started working at the shelter, there was this little round native lady who kept demanding hugs and grabbing my butt inbetween stealthly stealing my name tag several times a day. no, my name tag isnt a pin-on, its a clip on. how much more amazing would her stealth ability have been had my tag been fastened on by a pin? anyways..

i knew this little troublemaker by the name of mona.

mona lived in surrey with her boyfriend but, when things got bad, she would escape her life out there to come and stay with her friends down at first united church.

at the shelter mona was usually found in one of two states – really or kinda drunk. her and i would sit and talk for bits and pieces here and there. shed tell me about her familiy and where she was from. as i got to know mona more i began asking her about her drinking problem. she confided in me that her boyfriend physically abused her. she told me she drank to escape the pain of her reality. my heart sank within me.

we collaborated about getting her into a treatment program and she agreed that that would be the best idea. she wanted so badly to be free of the abuse and free of her addiction. but soon after that, she just left.

lots of people just get up and leave, not to be seen around the shelter again. sometimes its because they found housing, other times treatment programs. i believed that this was the case with mona. i figured she had arranged everything without telling me. but tragically for me and her friends and family, neither was the case.

mona was found dead last week in her apartment.

she had been murdered..

ive never had a friends life stolen from them before. im unsure how to process the pain. my mind doesnt want to accept the truth, choosing to live in a state of disbelief.

its a numb feeling.

im not sure if its numb because this is new to me or because i believe she was so close to getting the help she needed. she was so close to getting alternative housing. she was so close to a better life.

but now nothing.

ill miss that troublemaker more than any other troublemaker before her.

may you finally rest in peace, mona.

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bertrand and i

have you ever read someone elses writing and felt oddly (or rightly) at home? as if someone had read your very thoughts, organized them better than you could have and written them out for all to read? this happened to me just the other night. having decided to be a bit of a nerd and refresh myself on some of plato’s philosophy (1. dont ak me why and 2. yes, im THAT big of a nerd) i linked across to a certain bertrand russell. philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, socialist, pacifist, and social critic – a thinker/writer with most of the bases covered.

at the age of 84, russell published What I have lived for, a short prologue to his growing autobiography. summarizing his work and life.

it reads as follows:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

-br

while ol’ bertrand and i may disagree on other areas of philosophy (he was a self-proclaimed agnostic who was rather critical of christianity) the words he wrote here i believe we share quite closely. hopefully, after ive become a tired, old man i can look back on my life and utter the same words bertrand did: “This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

hopefully.

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