Last Saturday

Last Saturday

Along the Fraser: Start of responsible social action

'We believe in compassionate communities.'

A Grimm Brother’s fairy tale tells of a young man who was normal in every way, but one.

He couldn’t be shocked.

Nothing horrified the youth – not ghosts, rotting corpses, demon cats.

In a fairy tale, the metaphor is not being able to shudder.

“I must learn to shudder,” the youth declared, “or have no future as a man.”

“That’s crazy,” said his father. “Learn a practical skill; get a job.”

Storyteller Robert Bly uses the movie The Casualties of War to explain why being shaken up by the pain of others is key to being human; why shuddering is our “most adult aspect.”

In the film, four U.S. soldiers rape and kill a Vietnamese woman.

Michael Fox tries to prevent it.  The “brutal boys, unfinished men” nearly kill him. Fox’s character reports the atrocity.

He’d shuddered.

Less dramatic events in Maple Ridge show connecting emotionally with others is the start of responsible social action.

Community support for the Youth Wellness Centre, for example.

In short time, this innovative pilot project has successfully helped 150 kids with anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, connect with mentors, school and community services.

Last Saturday, the Ridge Meadows South Asian Cultural Society Gala raised  $13,000 for it.

Ed Gurm, spokesman, says: “We believe in compassionate communities.”

At MP Dan Ruimy’s urging, the Federal Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development, stopped by on Feb. 17 for our ideas for a Canada-wide poverty reduction plan.

“How can we empower you to pull more levers?” asked Ruimy.

“Kids with learning disabilities, ADHD, and anxiety in the school system are not being adequately connected with the services they need,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, who shared the history of Jeffrey Moore, a Grade 3 student in 1994 denied support when his school district closed its learning centre. The NDP government denied Jeff equal education for years.

The Liberals – also unable to shudder – neglected special needs kids until 2016 when courts ruled an end to this madness.

What to do?

John Harvey, from Covenant House in Vancouver, said: “Invest in human potential to keep at-risk kids from dropping out of high school.”

How close you stand to the pain of others determines its impact.

Teesha Sharma made MPs shudder with her personal story of abuse as a teenager, homelessness, social isolation.

After “multiple suicide attempts” she decided that “staying alive, I could help other at-risk kids to a better life.”

MPs praised Sharma’s courage. She councils 16 nomadic street kids victimized by pimps and drug dealers while campaigning for a local shelter to replace the Iron Horse Youth Centre, which the feds defunded two years ago.

Sadly, despite MLA, Marc Dalton’s misspoken announcement, the Iron Horse is not coming back. A safe house isn’t safe after its location is made public. Besides, notes Sharma, and Christian Cowley, of the CEED Centre, the building isn’t usable now.

There’s no funding for a safe house or youth shelter within 35 kilometres of Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, says Cowley.

“Imagine your daughter or son at the mercy of predatory adults on the street.”

Politicians who can do this – who can shudder – will enable new facilities.

Homelessness here – youth or adult – is an open sore.

“There’s too much politicking,” says Read.

She wants federal funds to bypass the province and flow directly to cities to fix the problem.

Might work.

If not, cities wouldn’t have anyone to blame but themselves.

After collecting our leader’s ideas for poverty reduction, MPs parked their bus behind the RainCity shelter.

Just inside the compound, they talked to staff about low-barrier shelters, but not to residents.

Staff discouraged that, says Ruimy.

Too bad. To know the whole story – to really shudder – you have to also hear the story from people who live it.


– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.


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