Sunday, 14 October 2012

Light in Every Ghetto

My clever, kind doctor relocated her office recently. It used to be in a neighbourhood just like mine – a middle class, comfortable ghetto where people’s gardens are like mini-parks and we say hello to strangers when we pass on the street.

Because she is the perfect family doctor, I have followed her to her new office in a very different area, closer to downtown. Driving there takes nerves of steel to avoid jaywalkers, delivery trucks and street cars. I park in a crazy mess of an outdoor mall where it’s unclear exactly which part of the pavement belongs to cars and which to pedestrians. As I walk toward her office I’m stepping on polka-dots of old gum. How can people just spit the contents of their mouths onto the ground?! Ugh.
There isn’t a tree, flower or blade of grass in sight. Instead I notice a chewed chicken bone beside an overflowing garbage can. Yuck.

I dodge two older folk riding bikes toward me along the sidewalk, neither one meeting my eyes, careless of any bylaw that requires them to ride on the street. I suddenly sense someone closing in from behind. I turn in time to step aside for a scary-looking body-builder, swaggering past in his sleeveless t-shirt. I notice a building across the street whose facade holds three gigantic red boxing gloves - his training gym, I guess. 
The intersection is dominated by a large building painted in a repulsive black and yellow giraffe pattern. 
At the traffic lights I smile sympathetically at a swarm of scowling students glumly heading for the stairs of their Secondary School. To them I'm invisible.
After crossing I enter the medical centre’s lobby and say “Excuse me. Thanks.” as I squeeze by the huddle of drug addicts waiting for their methadone treatment. It’s true. I checked. I feel sad.

This neighbourhood is not my home. I wouldn’t want to live here. I don’t like coming here. I don’t feel safe and it’s so ugly. 
Romero house is nearby. It’s a home for immigrant refugees, led by one of my heroes, Mary Jo Leddy (see her book, Radical Gratitude).
I wish I had her guts to be part of a community like this. I wish everyone had my choice of neighbourhoods.

Back in the parking lot I glance up at the grey sky that seems to match my concrete surroundings. A flock of pigeons flap above me, their pale feathers pretty against the dark clouds. I’ve heard some people call them “rats with wings” but I gaze at their flying loveliness for a moment of relief. I give thanks for the birds and for my doctor and for Canada’s universal healthcare.
I pray again for the energy to add my meagre bits of light and love to this unjust world.