Reviewing the past 2 weeks, beginning September 16

30 Sep


The week or 10 days that was September 16 to September 26, 2013 in 2 parts, this being part 1

I’ve had an intense couple of weeks. I’ve been in Vancouver, and not on Bowen Island, for a whole week due to the generosity of my good friend Sonya allowing me and my girls the benefit of an apartment sit while she is away. Here goes, going back 2 weeks.

Monday, September 16– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered an older man having a grand mal seizure on the sidewalk. I was waiting for a walk light and heard his bike crash to the ground. I ran across the street and he was lying on his side, seizing with his bicycle helmet still on. Kind of perfect as far as first aid protocols go- already lying on his side and no risk of head injury. I have taken on the habit of leaving work with a few pairs of those blue disposable gloves you see used by emergency services personnel in my pocket. Nothing says you know what you’re doing more than being in civilian wear and whipping out the disposable blue gloves. Works better than lights and a siren. Two other men were there, one phoning 911, and additionally one of my esteemed work colleagues Duncan saw me as he was driving by and stopped to lend some much valued support as well. Everything went well, the ambulance attended and took him to the hospital. I took his bike to my workplace to keep it safe until he returned from the hospital and the younger of the 2 men, kind of adrenalized by the rush of being a saviour (as opposed to me, I’m so well adapted to it), wrote him a note with my workplace address and some brief well-wishing. After leaving his bike safe at the back of my workplace I still had enough time to grab a coffee before my shift started. While doing so the same man, quickly back from his hospital visit, retrieved his bike, being helped by one of my day co-workers who was well up to speed as to what had happened. His gratitude was obvious but what was also obvious was his confusion- he still had no idea what had happened. So let’s review- a man has a medical crisis on the street, is helped by no less than 4 strangers at the scene, then by ambulance and hospital, then by another man at an unfamiliar medical facility who helps him retrieve his belongings, walking through it all in a confusing miasma, and understands nothing except that he’s been well cared for. A beautiful metaphor.

Tuesday, September 17– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered a man, known to me, beating the shit out of a garbage can. In his pronounced psychosis, the garbage can eventually got tossed into the busy rush hour intersection, him chasing after it. Garbage can and contents continue being abused, garbage strewn the length of the crosswalk. Cars, of course, didn’t stop and barely slowed, swerving to avoid being late or inconvenienced or making an insurance claim. I called out to him by name from the sidewalk and asked him to let me help him (blue gloves to the rescue) and he waved me over. I went into the intersection, grabbed the garbage can as he began to collect the garbage he had just liberated, putting it back into the can and stating that we should just say that we found it like this. Traffic still not in our favour I returned by stating that he’s either going to get hurt or in trouble if he doesn’t get out of the intersection and guided him to the sidewalk. I turned away, leaving him in order to continue on my way to work, and noticed no less than 3 people on various corners of the intersection recording the events on their phones. So let’s review- a medical crisis of a physical nature, people rush to help using their phones to gather help. A medical crisis of a mental health nature people use their phones to… shield themselves? protect themselves? entertain themselves? Mental health, admittedly a huge frightening mystery, could use a substantial effort at demystification. I can’t help but connect this kind of fear and passivity to a teenager getting shot to death by police on a streetcar, among other current tragedies.

Wednesday, September 18– Prior to my evening shift at Insite I was walking through the Downtown Eastside and encountered (I’m not making this stuff up) a police incident. I could hear the escalating voice of a man who was around a corner in a lane. I looked around the corner and saw a young man overly well known to me, handcuffed, sitting on the ground, starting to pontificate about injustice, bleeding from a large gash in his forehead. This one requires some background so this is where I’ll defer to part 2.


2 Responses to “Reviewing the past 2 weeks, beginning September 16”

  1. Tim (the bro) October 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Ron: I love the insight from your experience. The assumption that what happens physically is real, but what happens in mind is not “real”, or can be controlled/overcome by choice etc is, I think, a prevalent one. I slip into it all the time, so this is a very poignant reminder. Each week this summer I watched 5 young people spend their time as a primary care giver (24hrsx5) to kids with a variety of physical and emotional/mental challenges. With all the fun, exciting, awesome activities and relationships that happen with 200+ kids at camp, this was by far the most difficult, beautiful, challenging, life transforming activities of the summer. The transformation from mild shock, to God help me I can’t do this, to how much more deeply can I love this person whose range of expression exists in barely interpretable cries of some kind of emotion was a wonder to behold. The love and compassion coursing through you is an acted out parable of Jesus’ love for the fallen. May he keep filling you.

    • ironnieg October 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback. This isn’t straightforward territory. Undeniably incidences of violence and trauma have occurred because of this same distorted climate of the mind so there is reason to tend cautiously. I have found for myself that relationship is helpful, knowing what truth you can appeal to in an individual. Sometimes though, relationship can breed distortions of betrayal or harm that aren’t truly there so it’s not beneficial to set up black and white delineations in the land of grey. Relationship with self is probably more critical, referring to the inner wisdom where holding limits and boundaries becomes essential. For example, I will introduce my daughters to the variety of people I know from my street work and my life in general and encourage my daughters to be kind and respectful, make eye contact, extend the love that is possible with a smile or a moment. But I also don’t allow my daughters to look to whatever adult that comes along for guardianship or guidance. I hope it’s obvious that this isn’t just about mental health; I carry this same caution to church and school environments. Adults are worthy of their trust through relationship, not just because they are adults. But that’s a sidebar, just an example.

      Ultimately loving needs to be the objective, not “cleaning up the streets” or “transforming lives” or other grandiose claims. I love the observance of the young people in the summer camp environment, where loving the other becomes paramount because the other exists and is beside you. Not loving to stake a claim on a successful program or method of belief. Amongst my co-workers, I regularly witness the most challenging participants become the most loved. We have this ethic where we know we’re the end of the line in health and social services and if crazy people can’t be crazy with us, then where can they be crazy? It’s amazing to see the expectation of a punitive approach transformed by bringing the person closer, essentially saying we need to care for you more when you’re manifesting these behaviours or you’re at risk of worse, police intervention, being exploited by street issues, or injury/ harm. Learning to love in that manner is a pretty powerful process, and it is a process. Again thanks for the feedback.

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