Intolerant of the belief once categorized as “tolerance”

Where is the line between one being “tolerant” or “intolerant” of another human being? I suggest it is a dangerously fine line indeed. – Stuart Lewis

In beginning this piece and searching for an opening – hopefully a thought-provoking quote complementary with my thoughts here, what I found were numerous idioms fawning over the virtue of tolerance from luminaries such as; John Kennedy, Helen Keller, The Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi to name but a few. None I found were on the mark of where I was heading so as you can see, I came up with my own. That could very well mean I am again an enigma unto myself or perhaps it is time to rethink this model of comportment we label as “tolerance”.

Like many fellow members of the Jewish faith, I was last week sitting in synagogue observing Rosh Hashanah hoping to be inspired or just passing the time with tribal compatriots. The featured speaker of the day was a prominent Canadian parliamentarian. It should not be surprising that a Canadian parliamentarian is not likely to be the source of a spiritual uplift – in particular during a religious service but I was intrigued to listen to the “wisdom” of such a dignitary. I quickly became uninspired and thoroughly displeased with the message and messenger – as did numerous others.

I think I heard the word “tolerance” uttered half a dozen times by this presenter when speaking of immigrants and new Canadians. Each time the tone of the utterance became increasingly disapproving of the generalized differences they represented and grudgingly tolerant of the welcome to Canada they received from this parliamentarian. In my opinion it was a distasteful series of statements from such a representative. But this of course is not an isolated circumstance whether here in Canada, the USA or Europe but we are observing a torrent of rising populism across these lands.

A few days later I was fortunate to be invited by a friend to attend a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) of “The Hate U Give”. This provocative and gut-wrenching film depicts the precarious social structure of a fictitious African-American city neighbourhood existing under the double-edged fear of actualized police brutality and the code of silence exacted by a local drug lord.

Further, in the case of this film as a Caucasian man, I feel culpable how we objectify the condition in these neighbourhoods as either blaming the local populace for staying there or for somehow perpetuating the circumstance under which they live. “Well we don’t live there, not our problem” is the common refrain from many Caucasians. By reinforcing the archaic concept of tolerance, the definition of community is persistently being narrowed and diminished as we proclaim our tolerance (or intolerance) of others not like us. We don’t see them even when in our midst.

We have witnessed opponents of #blacklivesmatter demand that #whitelivesmatter too without even attempting to understand the deeper meaning of the #blacklivesmatter movement or #takingaknee for that matter. Is this tolerance?

I recently spent time watching our “contact” with the homeless in the downtown core of Toronto. We have become so tolerant of the homeless on our city streets that today we figuratively walk right over them. It is not that we should necessarily give money to every or any homeless person we see – it is up to us individually to make that decision for any donation of charity, but to walk by and not even look upon their face, to withhold a response and turn away when asked for money or when they wish us “good day”, to not see their pain, their loneliness or their despair and to not even acknowledge their existence as human beings was chilling to observe. That is when we have lost compassion and empathy.

This is how is I see tolerance in our society today. How is being tolerant not a destructive force in our communities? We need to go beyond what we once thought tolerance to be. That too is something we all must figure out for ourselves.

Life is shorter

Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist

While I agree with the esteemed author Paulo Coelho of life being either too short or too long, this half-statement of his is a mere generality. I prefer to look at the world, my world, not through generalities but with objective reflections. At my age, the life to come is empirically now shorter, I can’t say that it will definitively conclude by being “too short” or “too long” it will simply be shorter than the past life I have thus far lived. And like some of you depending on your age, being circumspect about what lies ahead, I am drawn to another contemplation, this one by the highly respected commentator on life’s meaning and purpose – Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This past weekend, a long holiday weekend in many parts, was a remarkably emotional and soulful time for me. It was a more intense “time-off” than is my norm; perchance I was endeavouring to pack as much into these days as is humanly possible. I am not sure if it was subconsciously a result of my first bicycle accident the weekend prior after seven years of adopting this activity as my primary warm weather vocation. It was however just a T-bone crash with another cyclist and I’m delighted to report both riders – save for a few bruises were relatively unscathed. It was our bicycles however that took the brunt of the damage.

I spent the weekend connecting to events and people that were immensely meaningful to me. From special friends and family to a bridge and just my own private thoughts, I was deeply engaged in trying to define my purpose and figure it all out with the short or long life I have remaining.

Making soulful and personal connections in whatever manner they are can be spellbinding and were. Who would have thought that a bridge could ensnare me in such a manner causing me to be lost in multiple simultaneous sensory vibrations? A bridge is just a thing of course, but behind the “thing” are people and memories.

Family is also a treasure that we try to hold on to or in many cases (mine) reclaim as our lives become shorter. I know however that family reunification is not legitimately possible or desirable for everyone – but I hope you might give it some extra consideration while you still can. I spent a lot of time with my precious family too this weekend and I have to highlight the time spent with my 82, she’ll say almost 83 year-old mother. She’s been saying that just a few months after her 82nd!   I did something special with her and she was overwhelmed by it. My first reaction was one of shame and guilt for not doing more of it. But my attitude quickly changed. I can choose my attitude as Viktor Frankl wrote and I look forward to my next special outing with my dear mother.

Connections, real ones are essential now to me in ways dissimilar than ever before. My search for Frankl’s meaning is taking centre stage as I contemplate that next milestone. It’s not about being frivolous or not with the time that we have. For me it’s about being in the moment and thinking and feeling and not just doing whatever you want with no meaning or purpose. For the record, “playing” is purposeful if that is what one desires in that moment.

As I travel along, I can’t help but see our greatest potential for positive change lay in modifying our own attitude concerning how we see and react to the stimuli swirling around us on a daily basis. Frankl nailed this. Choosing our attitude “is” our greatest freedom. One who is rich or poor, healthy or ill can acquire such freedom. It is not subject to supply and demand economics for it is in limitless supply.

Whether or not life is shorter for us individually is inconsequential for who truly knows anyway? It is however never too soon to check-in with ourselves and taste true freedom.

@lettersandwalls

 

I Know You Are Hurting

There is loneliness when we are hurting. That can be both a physical and or an emotional hurt. At those difficult moments we are trapped inside ourselves and in many cases have spiralled further and deeper in our despair. The enormity of the sensation can be overwhelming and the loneliness which wasn’t necessarily present without the physical or emotional pain is now nonetheless and integral part of it. We don’t feel right. We own a consciousness of isolation from all that is “normal” or “carefree” and we intensely desire a return to what was – before this fell upon us.

For some, it is the loneliness that is the prominent condition. I see it in the elderly on a daily basis but also with many much younger – even with Millennial’s. Loneliness is becoming more prevalent in today’s society as we become massively digitally connected yet physically more distant. Is there any possibility this is an improvement in connectedness amongst human beings?

I was searching recently for one of those great dictums to post on social media and found one so appropriate for what I sought at that point in time:

Saying you can’t be sad because others have it worse, is like saying you can’t be happy because others have it better. – Go Fun Yourself by 9GAG.COM

That is not to say that empathy and compassion are absent from our awareness but our shit IS OUR SHIT.   You know what I mean.

Today – was a difficult day for you. I know. I sensed your pain.

Many are hurting and you are one of them – I assume that is why you are still reading this. For some, you can’t see the end of the tunnel from the incessant pain. A few of you fear an upcoming surgery. You can’t afford the life saving surgery. Something you saw you shouldn’t have and triggers abound everywhere. Others are fighting serious disease. You lost your job. Bankruptcy is imminent. You are separated from loved ones and it is killing you. A million things are bringing you down.

HOPE.

What is hope? Is it real and tangible? Is it a belief system? What good is it to you?

I am reminded of a brilliant English teacher I had in grade eight, or was it nine? Mr. Sevigny. He was a linguist. He professed to know roughly eight languages. The class was soon to learn he was profoundly religious as well. Just moments after a fellow student, under his breath, but loud enough to be heard by our teacher – uttered God’s name in vain, Mr. Sevigny took a yard stick in his hand, raised it high above his head and smashed it down as hard as he possibly could upon a desk in the front row of our classroom. I will never forget the sound and shock of that unsuspecting implosion inside my body created by that yard stick and Mr. Sevigny’s fury.

What we didn’t realize at the time, this was the immediate impetus for Mr. Sevigny to lurch into a lesson of Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century physicist, philosopher, and mathematician. He argued that a rational person should live under the possible belief that there is a God. We got quite the lesson that day in Pascal’s Wager. If you are interested to learn more about Pascal’s Wager then click here.

I see in part, that a belief in God or a god or a higher source is of possessing hope. Hope for a better outcome. Hope for change. Hope for a cure. Hope for peace. Hope for normalcy. Hope to end our pain. Hope for love. Hope for companionship. With the concept of Pascal’s Wager in our consciousness, hope is then a logical direction or focus of our energy.

I hope that you wake up tomorrow with the hope you most desire.

 

Threatened by Yourself

“Not being afraid to be wrong – I had to learn how to do that.”

– Michelle Obama

What does it mean, “not being afraid to be wrong”? Is it our ego talking? Is it some kind of intellectual weakness to confess when we are wrong? Does it demonstrate a characteristic of inferiority to admit we are wrong? And conversely, does that necessarily imply the “other”, if there is an “other”, is superior to us?

I spent a wonderful afternoon in Peoria Heights, Illinois this past weekend, participating in a book-signing event for WHEN WALLS BECOME BRIDGES. I had several in-depth and delightfully heartfelt discussions with buyers of my book.

It is moderately imaginable that some people have already been turned off by this blogpost since I initiated it with a quote from Michelle Obama. Well, before you tune me out completely, I had a similar reaction with one individual in the bookstore I Know You Like A Book in Peoria Heights.

Before I delve into that, it is important for me to clarify for the purpose here, the concept of “being wrong”. What I am not referring to is the proverbial heated exchange with one’s own spouse or partner and finally digging deep, often swallowing one’s pride and owning up to the error – sometimes for the sake of the relationship one party may even falsely admit to wrongdoing.

No, I am referring to being wrong just to ourselves and within ourselves where only we know if we are adhering to our own truth – or if we are not.

Back to Peoria Heights – He challenged me. Not by my words, not by any past action as I just met this gentleman. I was challenged by my thoughts prompted by him. How did this make me feel you might ask? Of course any respectable psychotherapist would pose the same question to their client.

I will reveal how I felt.

I felt offended. I felt attacked. I felt small. I felt I needed to be defensive. I stopped listening and was searching for counter arguments. And inside of me a controlled rage was simmering. And he kept taking jabs at me. Finally I shot back with what I knew was an anaemic “fact”. And dammit – he called me out on it. I found a few good counter punches left in my repertoire, which momentarily stunned my opponent, but he was undaunted in his pursuit.

I am not sure of the precise moment, but at some point during the verbal exchange I channelled the anger I was feeling towards him and redirected not anger, but questions – questions I posed privately towards and inside myself. Why am I angry? Actually I knew the “why” – but I didn’t immediately understand the “what” I was angry about.

It was about the same time I slowly calmed myself down and began listening again. Not to him, but to me – to my thoughts – to what he was triggering inside of me by his words. I didn’t have to hear him again – I already heard him loud and clear. But for some unknown reason I was surreptitiously answering my own questions in real time. I think he saw it and sensed it.

I began to contemplate, not change, some previously and fastidiously held beliefs. I transcended the internal anger and transformed that into critical thinking – in a way never before possible. I removed the emotional knee-jerk response and replaced it with a desire to benignly understand why I was reacting and feeling as I was.

I acknowledge this is difficult. When I very recently posited this concept with a friend she wasn’t able to go where I had begun to journey. Perhaps, she was not yet ready …

While the exchange with my book purchaser ensued, I recalled the time when a particular woman and now sadly former friend was incensed at me for a blogpost I had written several years ago about a visit to Dresden Germany. Even during my despair at receiving her vitriol, I realized she was unsettled more within herself than for what I had written. I remembered this exact altercation whilst in that bookstore. I wanted to be better than that. I can only try.

“When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.”  -Anonymous

I am scared.

Surrender your fear. Something will come that is greater than what the fear is trying to protect. Mooji

I am scared.

What does it mean to be scared or to be fearful? To not know what is behind that unopened door begging us to enter through it? Mooji nails it. I know for me – my fear is trying to protect me, but protect me from what?

Perhaps it is my age and I am feeling more mortal now than I did as that twenty-year old who went parachuting with several other university residence friends. Could it be I evaluate the number of good years remaining in a way I didn’t when I was that carefree student and my whole life appeared ahead of me while backpacking in Europe equipped with a pre-paid Eurail pass and American Express Travelers Cheques safely tucked away in my money belt? When the cheques ran out however, I wasn’t so carefree!

That twenty-year old didn’t concern himself with weighty philosophical thoughts of; “Will I be loved or remembered” when I am gone. Nor did I ponder how it would all end. Although, it is somewhat amusing that I write this now at 30,000 feet and undergoing significant turbulence over Thunder Bay – but I digress …

Like you I feel that I have much remaining to accomplish and wonder if time will permit me to do so. No, I am not expecting to build empires, create any wonders of the world or even pen an international best seller but the latter objective would be nice to see to fruition. Nevertheless, I feel there is unfinished business.

Thankfully, I successfully closed off a once painful chapter in my life. I ended a bitter forty-two year estrangement from my father a mere five months prior to his passing – see #whenwallsbecomebridges. Still, as I reflect now, that was too short a time in a feeble attempt to compress forty-two years into five months. But I am deeply grateful for those final five months.

How many other ill feelings exist amongst our fellow travellers – friends or family alike? What other animosities percolate within our very being eating away at our internal peace and serenity? Don’t discount psychological and physiological damage caused by our own self-inflicted: bitterness, smugness, stubbornness or even envy. We have a choice to make the first and numerous additional attempts at reconciliation before that choice is taken away. My ensuing fear however was not that MY choice may be gone, but that the other party’s choice would be – and that is what THEY have to live with forever.

But what if one can surrender that fear as Mooji states? This new belief I try to have in myself has the capability to cast a smile upon my face and warmth through to my soul.

One of the greatest lessons taught to me is of letting go of things not mine to own.

It is drawn from mindfulness and that my responsibilities are not yours or vice versa. Your walls are not my obligation to deconstruct into bridges. They are for you to rectify if you so desire.

Fear is just another wall we erect in our life. Our job is to thwart them and when we successfully do, well, it is joyful and emancipating.

What “will come that is greater than fear” as Mooji’s states? I think it is internal peace. And looking at the following affirmation, who is responsible for our peace? Not a single part of that is dependent upon anyone but oneself.

In the end only three things matter: How much you loved, how much you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. Buddha

So I do try not to be scared and fearful. I don’t always succeed but the truth of this intention guides me to constantly progress.

We are awesome

Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness — Anne Frank

 

I often found myself standing in admiration, respect and simply in awe of my fellow searchers and other volunteers doing all they could to bring Kaden home. I would speak in loud praises of their leadership, accomplishment and unswerving dedication to the sacred cause and task at hand. Yet when they bestowed similar compliments upon me I would shyly play down my limited role. And so too did mostly everyone else upon hearing their accolades spoken and proclaimed.

On Saturday May 5th, the best possible result of that “sacred cause and task at hand” was completed – a community memorial service took place in Orangeville Ontario for Kaden – the forevermore 3-year old. A private funeral was held several days earlier. Out there in the rugged and dense woods where over two months ago these were violently flooded lands from the overflowing Grand River that claimed Kaden’s young life, we often talked and hoped that this precious soul could be found and returned home to his family – and we could then attend such a gathering. We finally did. We finally did.

A soulful minister took the podium, and she asked all the searchers present in that church of hundreds to rise and stand up. I proudly and slowly rose up from my seat and stood with the others and looked around at them all. Before the minister was done extolling all those present who did their part big or small, the entire sanctuary was on their feet. It was an exquisite site to behold.

The family shared for us at the service a video montage of Kaden. For most present in that church, we never previously knew Kaden or his family and this video presentation was our sole opportunity to see this beautiful young boy in action. And he was full of action. I especially loved seeing him play in the water park – just like any 3-year old would. The video hit us hard. That stark realization was so painfully evident for all to see, that in an instant, a life can be gone – any life. We are all susceptible to that. Who didn’t go home from church that morning and hug their loved ones a bit tighter and tell people we loved them when normally we mightn’t have?

Later that evening, during a get-together for the volunteers, I was outside speaking to one of the young women who I met on the search. She was admiring all those who had assembled. She said, “They are awesome”. Finally, it hit me – WE ARE AWESOME – I said to her.

Over the past few days I have come to learn more about the reasons why some people came out in the search for Kaden. They shared some deeply personal and touching stories that moved me to tears each time. Know that you are awesome.

But why at times do we allow the good things we do to be overshadowed by our human failings? I know that we don’t always do “good things” all the time – me included for sure. We can often be so bloody self-critical and we beat ourselves up – and I am not sure why. Everyone is awesome but we are not perfect, we make mistakes.

My wish is that we face our daily life with the knowledge and acknowledgement that we are awesome though we might still encounter moments of self-doubt. Nonetheless we are awesome and we strive to be awesome even during those difficult moments. I think we proved that to ourselves in the search for Kaden.

Recognize your own greatness in your life. Be proud of your accomplishments – especially what you did in searching for Kaden. It is okay to do so, and it is a great step towards self-love – something we could all use a bit more of from time to time.

YOU are awesome – WE are awesome.

Oh, and I had a reason or two as well … We all did!

It is time for light

People came from near and far

One goal in mind, we got in the car

Many were skilled, some were green

But for most of us, we’ve never seen,

 

We battled through and fought the weather

Mother Nature was tough as leather

Downed trees covered in ice

Muscles ached we paid the price,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

The next day arrives we begin anew

Hope is high amongst the crew

With vigour as strong as a UFC champ

Assembled together to embark from base camp,

 

Breakfast is served, coffee is hot

Some Gatorade and later soup in a pot

Even provided each hand with a warm glove

Driven by one simple thought – that is love,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

We confronted fear, and felt your pain

As hard as it was, we’d do it all again

Parents in distress, we want to help end it

Tough to watch but did not break our spirit

 

Boots on the ground, boots on the ground

The call went out and more came around

We dug, used hoses, together we responded

And then something happened, people bonded

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

Two months is too long too painful and unfair

We could never give up, please God answer our prayer

This day was hard, many swinging an axe

Much clearing to be done, no time to relax,

 

We were dirty, wounded and energy spent

A day like that day was no laid-back event

It is getting late, where do we go now

Any negative feelings we must disavow,

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

And despite our search, still not in sight,

 

Back to base camp, you know this sound

The word went out, Kaden was found,

 

We gathered together, first time post search

On Belwood Bridge next time will be church

We hugged and hugged, cried but relieved

Finally, Kaden could be properly grieved

 

Yet something changed, the mood had shifted

It appeared dear friends a great weight lifted

The common experience that we shared

Is our binding ingredient, nothing spared

 

After we awake when things fall

With pain severe beyond anything at all

The day is dark as broadly as the night

But with our search now ended, it is time for light.

Finally – the funeral awaits.

Driving back to base (Kaden’s home) from the search on Saturday with the teacher from Mississauga, we talked about our day and the frustration that all the searchers felt at the end of these days – Kaden was still not found.  That poor little boy was still out there somewhere, his parents, family and dear friends of the family, grief-stricken, heartbroken and have to endure yet another night alone with their private thoughts of which few can even possibly imagine.

We spoke of a funeral we could not wait to finally take place. We yearn for it and all that it would represent.  Our faces lit up at the thought. Yes, at this stage and this day, two months to the day that Kaden went missing – that would be a wonderful and blessed outcome indeed.

The teacher pulled up to the side of the road. We slowly exited the car to walk the 30 metres up to the house to gather with the rest of the group.  Another day of searching completed.

We could see Jim (a superb team lead) coming towards us along the road with a surprising look of joy, a fast paced gait and “high fiving”, not the norm after a difficult day of intense physicality not to mention the emotional strain of it all.  At first I thought he was thanking us for another day of hard, exhaustive work, something great leaders do.

“WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM”, Jim ecstatically proclaimed over and over again.

WHAT? It didn’t register at first. What did he mean, “we got him”?

Overflowing tears and hugs exploded amongst all present. I don’t even know half the people whose arms I collapsed into and they into mine.  From family members and family friends to chiseled and hardened outdoorsmen – we were all a sobbing, hugging mess. Later I turned to the British woman standing alone and off to the side and asked how she was. “I am numb. Just numb”.

As the news sunk in, while many were constantly hugging and needing to be close to the others, I could see a few people who chose to be alone, who either sat on the porch, on a rock in the garden, or like the British woman, standing and numb.

Unexpectedly, to me, Kaden’s mother came out to speak to us. I can’t write about that.

I do feel sorry for the hundreds of other searchers who could not be there yesterday.  I was out only five times, yet why did I merit to be there on this magical fifth day? You could not all be there, but trust me – you were in soul. Every one of you, whether you came out but one time like Lindsay who I met yesterday, to the almost daily searchers, your presence was there with us on Saturday April 21st. What you all did will stay with you and Kaden’s family for a lifetime.

I met many special people over these past number of weeks, the names I can recall are; Brian, Paula, Cara, Paul, Kim, Wawa, Jim, Cindy and our awesome leader Richard. It was Richard’s radio interview I heard that brought me out the first time. There are many more of you to be sure like that strapping and soulful 32 year old man breaking ice beside me on Saturday. He truly helped me dig as thoroughly as I could.

I was waiting for Wawa and Shawn to return, these two dynamic, dedicated and resolute leaders were coming back to the house together – I could not leave until I could spend a few private moments with Shawn who I became very close with.  I think many of you reading this know what Shawn and Wawa meant to all of us.

Shawn was my last goodbye on Saturday before heading to the car and back home.

I can’t wait to see many of you again very soon, at the funeral.

 

What brought you out?

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the slaying of one of the most impactful human beings of the twentieth century. As I began to write this piece and searched for the most apropos quote to begin it with, it was no coincidence that I stumbled upon this quote by #MLK.   I don’t believe in coincidences. While I have no intention to mention Dr. King again here, yet in our sacred search for Kaden Young, #bringKadenhome, I have met so many great and inspirational human beings. People who are serving. People with a heart full of grace. Souls complete with compassion and love. And an imbued resolve by so many that in my experience – is unsurpassed.

Last Sunday was a tough day. They are all tough days when they end and Kaden isn’t found. The countless volunteers are heartbroken at the day’s conclusion, but also endure many heart stopping moments throughout the search.

I had several on Sunday.

There was extensive dense brush, fallen trees, broken branches, vines and bark all strewn about among the once flooded land of last February. If one is not dodging the ricochet of live branches in your face while trudging between trees you are tripping on the multitude of loose and not so loose vegetation upon the uneven ground. There are potential hiding places everywhere. Maybe Kaden is beneath one of them. And on a couple of occasions last Sunday, just as I had feared the week prior, I had an eerie feeling that I was going to find Kaden perhaps between those two fallen trees that had formed a little wooden tunnel or amongst the pile of an extraordinarily dense thicket of deadwood. Many of those with whom I spoke on my first couple of trips there proclaimed their preference to NOT BE the one to find Kaden – my sentiment as well. I should say, that WAS my sentiment. As the days pass and Kaden is yet to be found, more of us want to be the one to find him. And we are ready to find him and deal with it.

But in that thicket, I was working alongside a young man. And in those contemplative moments between the volunteers, the vast majority who have never before met one another, we often ask the other one, “What brought you out?”

He told me, that several years earlier, a friend of his died in a river accident. When he heard of Kaden, he just had to come out and help. But he wasn’t finished. He became choked up, turned towards me and said, “My brother was supposed to join him.”

One man, around my age has a knee that isn’t what it used to be. No kidding! A visit to my Chiropractor today proved that my body is not what it used to be either! He has to stop after so many steps to give his knee just that little bit of rest to allow him to keep carrying one. And he does – admirably and as fixated as anyone on finding Kaden. He is one of the many past and current firefighters I have met who just need to add their expertise to the search. I love all First Responders and have the utmost respect for them.

The mothers of young children … oh there are so many of them out there searching.   I needn’t tell you what brought them out.

The volunteers talk about many things out there and not all of it is about our sacred task. But I personally value the opportunity to get to know you and to learn of what drives you. It is an honour to be working along side you. And you don’t have to tell me why you are there if you choose not to. You simply are and that is what makes you great.

#bringKadenhome

Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is not finished and the book has been closed.

Unattributed.

 

They hurt even more when the book has not been closed.

Such was the heart-rending radio interview I heard driving to work last Friday morning. A plea for volunteers to assist in the search for 3-year old Kaden Young of Waldemar Ontario, swept out of his mothers arms by raging floodwaters of the Grand River on February 21st. As of this writing, he (his body) has not been found; leaving behind a family in excruciating pain. Kaden was a life that did not have the chance to live out fully and a book that cannot yet be closed. Never before had I ever contemplated inserting myself into such an undertaking, but I was drawn in this time and Saturday morning I drove to Waldemar not knowing what was in store.

I was afraid.

I am a “city guy” in my late 50’s, fit but with a wonky back, never a fan of camping, have a poor sense of direction and my idea of being outdoors is riding my road bike along a street, path or trail in Toronto, Southern Ontario or the Canadian Rockies. What do I know about being around a partially frozen river, the brush and a forest in below zero temperatures searching for a deceased child? Those are the physical fears I had. The emotional ones – well – you can only imagine. More on that later.

But I made the choice to be in Waldemar by 9am on Saturday morning – about a 70-minute drive northwest from my home in central Toronto.

In my backpack I had; protein bars, a clementine, a banana, a peanut butter sandwich on gluten-free bread, water, a change of socks, a roll of toilet paper, Band-Aids, a Swiss army knife and most importantly, a battery back up for my iPhone. I was wearing my relatively new hiking boots I purchased on a recent business trip to Calgary. Long underwear was a must, several layers of upper body clothing, a toque embossed with the mystic symbol Ohm and earmuffs as well. In addition, I brought two pairs of gloves to wear one over the other. Oh, and one Manchester United scarf. Yep, quite the city boy in the woods!

I was ready … a recurring theme in my life.

So there I was standing amongst dozens of people at the base camp of the search, Kaden’s home, listening to Richard the group leader, review instructions for the day. First and foremost, the safety of each and every one of us was paramount despite what we were there to do. And he told us what to do and what not to do, when we find Kaden.

I can’t begin to describe the people who were there, many who had been searching for Kaden since Day 1. Remarkable souls. Dedicated to the task. They were from the surrounding area of Waldemar / Orangeville, Guelph, Cambridge, Peterborough, Tillsonburg and many other locales as well. A vast majority, who like me were not related to the family and had no connection to them whatsoever. But unlike me, most were true outdoors women and men. They could read a terrain as Galileo could read the stars in the sky, track the path of where the floodwaters had washed through, and decipher sounds in the cold air, as could an always-alert deer.

I had stayed a bit behind the others with our team leader Shawn while he was checking some things out (safety first) and Brian stayed back of the others to wait for the two of us to catch up. With the three now together, Brian alerted us to what he was hearing in the distance. It was the distinct noise of ravens or crows making repeated and excited croak / shrill sounds. Shawn went forward to investigate. Brian and I nervously remained where we were waiting for Shawn to return. Those were anxious and fearful moments – about fifteen minutes actually to think about what or who might be out there.

We often talked in two’s or amongst the group about our mission. We were there to bring Kaden home. None of us that I heard from however, wanted to be the one to find him. In my mind, I was there so another would be in a different place in the field or forest where Kaden was. That was my role. At least that is how I motivated myself to be doing what I was doing. There were times on my first day in particular where I felt the trepidation of pulling back some debris or searching under a fallen tree and not knowing if that impending action would uncover Kaden or a part of him as was graphically yet tenderly explained to the volunteers.

It was a deer bed surrounded with coyote tracks and birds feeding on a deer carcass.

I could go on but some of it is too emotional to delve into.

Why did I go?

All I had to do was to make a choice.

Alternatively I could have gone to the gym, watched golf, taken a nap or written a blogpost – but certainly not this one!! Still, all I could think about was how dare I not go out? I was already contemplating this in my mind and I had sent an email to the group telling them I would be there. If I didn’t go, it would be a betrayal – to me. That is just how I felt about it.

So what are you afraid of? What is holding you back in life? And I am not implying you should be going to find Kaden, but if you are so inclined, I promise you, there will be no regrets.

Are you afraid of the unknown as I was? How it will turn out? Should you be doing something else? These are questions we face every day in many aspects of our life.

So, we prepare the best as possible. We absorb all the information we can get our hands on and make a decision with the optimal information we have at the time.

Everything for a reason. Everything for a purpose. We just don’t fully understand.

P.S. You can follow #bringKadenhome and learn about search information on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/208839769860904/