OUT OF LEFT FIELD: On why I slept in my jersey last night because I knew it would mean sweet dreams

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
April 13th, 2018

I’m sure there are writers out there who could witness what happened in our community last night and respond with a coherent, linear narrative of the true significance of same. Sadly, I am not one of them.

Linear, by definition, means ‘in a straight line’.

All of what I saw last night overwhelmed me with the inherent ripple effect (by definition, circular) which, in my opinion, is the true mark of a genuinely powerful community.

I think it’s important I preface this with telling you I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of documentary-watching, a lot of soul searching lately over how fundamentally lacking our current Western (read: Northern, but that’s an argument for another day) society is when it comes to health.

We have so many systems in place, from first responders to sick leave to drugs to insurance, to address physical health issues … but very, very little in place which acknowledges the import of mental health issues, both in their own right and as a dramatically impactful facet of the aforementioned physical well-being.

We are inundated, I would argue even brutalized, with horrifying information every day (think: obviously, Humboldt, but also news coverage of MVIs, rapes, murders, terrorism, parents killing their children, children killing their parents, all manner of cruelty and oppression and pain and just plain wrongness), information that would cause all but a true sociopath to feel empathic pain.

But we are given, to the best of my knowledge, only the most rudimentary of the tools we need to process and cope with all that trauma, much less the more immediate personal agonies which comprise the day-to-day reality of wakefulness, of living, of being human.

You can call in sick, but you can’t call in traumatized, ya know? Self-harm is on you, and who cares if the rest of us created the impetus for your drinking, drugging, suicidal depression, etc.? We’ll help you deal with the new tax laws, but we care very little about how you deal with death, cruelty and horror, right?

In some ways I feel it’s the equivalent of being sent into the desert with Lipitor, Tylenol, and Viagra … but no water.

And this is where the true beauty of community shows up. Seeing a dangerous, desperate lack, a powerful community steps in and fills the void.

Obviously, part of what I’m referring to here is the Humboldt vigil that saw roughly 600 people (few of whom knew any of the victims of said tragedy) show up to share their there-but-for-the-grace-of-God horror, pain, loss, fear … and most of all empathy. But more than that, offered to the very best of their ability to acknowledge the intense burden of grief being carried by our fellow Canadians, and to share that burden, carry as much of it as they could, and hope with all their hearts that in so doing, they might in even the tiniest way lighten the load of the people – OUR people – who are currently being crushed under the weight of it.

Before I even entered the building, just driving up and seeing a cop car, Ootischenia and Passmore fire trucks with hockey sticks lined up on their grills, the flags at half mast – I didn’t make it in the door without my eyes prickling and tearing.

I wasn’t surprised to see Sue Heaton there (she is a little, tiny powerhouse steam-roller with perfect make-up, and very much the driving force behind the event, she did it almost single-handedly) and her daughter Jordan (who has taken up the family mantle of public service with such elegance and warmth).

Also on hand were city councillors (I would have been shocked if I hadn’t seen Dan Rye there, as, of course, he was), city staff, police officers, at least 13 members of our Castlegar fire department (two wearing their paramedic uniforms – many of them serve in several different ways), Search and Rescue volunteers, hockey coaches, realtors, business owners/managers, entertainers, volunteer leaders and volunteers, moms and dads, and (to my great delight) a massive contingent of young people.

One of the first things that popped into my mind was, “Where are Deb and Joan?”

(That would be Deb McIntosh and Joan Alexander, both champions of mental health in the community).

Experienced reporter that I am, I plumbed my sources (meaning I asked the person standing next to me) and discovered they were in the same building, just a couple of offices down, engaged in a conference discussing the opioid crisis, addictions, mental health, and how to protect our community. As were a bunch of police officers, health workers, engaged community members, etc.

I’ll be writing separate articles on what happened during both the vigil and the conference.

But for the purposes of this column, I want to say this:

I was feeling kind of beaten down by the very news I cover, of late.

Feeling, as it were, sent into the desert without water.

Last night was like stumbling upon an oasis, jumping into a pool of crisp, clean, life-giving refreshment.

I’ll walk into a desert without water any day … as long as I can take my community with me.

Categories: Op/Ed