February 20th 2015
I am reflecting on the tragic loss of Elijah Marsh, age 3, who, yesterday at 4 am, wandered out of his apartment building, fifteen minutes north of where I live, dressed in a T-shit, diaper and boots, into weather with a wind chill of -32C. He was out there for six hours. When they found him he was dead. He must have been so scared. Did his tears freeze to his face? Oh god.
The weather has been that cold. I can barely walk a block, in full winter attire, without my body warning me that I am in danger. Which brings me to the beggars. How do you ignore a beggar in this weather? How do you ‘pass by on the other side’.
I was standing, Wednesday night, just north of Queen street, parking my car to see The Sound of Cracking Bones by the amazing Quebec playwright Suzanne Lebeau, when I was cornered by a rail thin young woman. She had no hat, hands in pockets: “Could you spare some money for food? I’m pregnant and hungry.” Oh god. Is she lying? Is she a drug addict? Am I enabling her addiction? Am I rationalizing? Drug addicts get hungry too. It’s thirty below. She says she needs help. I gave her ten bucks. I feel manipulated and guilty for not giving her twenty, forty, sixty. “Thanks”, she said, “God bless.”
Then I walk to the theatre. A story of child soldiers. A ten year old African girl who watched the rebels snap her brother’s neck, watched them rape her mother and then decapitate her father before being forced to become a rebel herself. Three years later she escapes which forms the narrative of the play. Two years after that she dies of AIDS. The story is important but leaves me feeling subdued, helpless.
I am a doer. I want to respond. But what can I do for child soldiers in Africa? Is my awareness of the tragedy doing anything? If the play is telling me that life can be brutal, violent and unbearably cruel, it is telling me something I already know. ISIS has been telling us that more months.
I am throwing my support behind “Keep The Promise” (www.keepthepromise.ca) which is lobbying the government to reduce child poverty. I have a play on the subject, Danny, King of the Basement , that I have donated for their use. I would like to organize readings of the play to entertain, enlighten and encourage change. I am also going to keep a roll of toonies in my parka pocket and I am going to shell out to anyone who asks.
I have not yet heard from any students at DAL in response to last weeks post. The printed copy of Tough Case is now available and Frenchys – The Thrift Musical is coming along nicely. I love writing lyrics. It is the perfect activity for someone who is mildly obsessive compulsive!
Have a good weekend.