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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gill

A Reflection on Being Fortunate

It's hard to believe that the Easter season is now behind us. 2022 is certainly going by quickly and we dare not blink or we may miss something. My family and I typically celebrate Easter in a very traditional fashion, filled with family gatherings and attending many masses. But this year we did something different. My wife, who is a Naturopathic Doctor, has been trying to get her certification for Intravenous Therapy (IV), but because of the pandemic, courses were constantly being cancelled. Late last year she found out that one was opening in Vancouver, so she registered for it. At that time the plan was for her to travel by herself, and I would stay with the kids. However, we recognized that we could all travel together and reconnect with family that we have not seen for so long, due to our busy schedules as well as the pandemic. We decided to book an Airbnb and plan out a trip. We saw this as a great opportunity to not only be in person to support my wife, but also to build some memories for the kids as well as connect with family. For us Easter is a very spiritual and traditional time, but for the first time we had deviated from our typical path. I am one who believes things are always meant to be and this trip even though it took place over the Easter weekend was meant to be.

We left on the Wednesday before the weekend in a packed vehicle where we all brought too many things. The drive was beautiful, and we were able to take in the amazement of the Rocky Mountains. I can recall how many times my wife and I commented on how amazing this country is and how lucky we are to have all of this in our back yard. Prior to entering the weekend, we took the kids to the Vancouver Aquarium and wandered around Stanley Park. Again, amazed at how beautiful things are. We also connected with family, and it was emotional because of how long it has been. We reflected a lot on just how lucky we are to have family, health, and love in our hearts. Even though we were not partaking, as we normally would, in the Easter Masses back home we certainly experienced a different kind of spiritualism as we took in all the beauty and love around us. It was meant to be this way this year. We did attend the Sunday Mass and it really completed the weekend on a great note. We spent the remainder of the Sunday packing and preparing for our early Monday morning departure. My wife spent Sunday in her course and then writing her exam, which she aced. Congratulations, we are so proud of you.

On the Saturday my uncle and I drove around Vancouver reminiscing on all the different places that we used to hang out at and driving past my Grandparents old home. It was amazing seeing it all again and, in some cases, seeing it as it once was as if it was preserved and frozen in time. Whenever I am in Vancouver, I usually take a drive down East Hastings or better known as Downtown Eastside (DTES) by the locals. We drove down West Hastings and I noticed all the new buildings and businesses that have gone up; an attempt at gentrification I suppose. As we began to hit East Hastings I could drastically see the picture change. I have never in my live seen so many displaced people in my life. I saw drug use, poverty, homelessness, and signs of mental illness. In previous trips I would see 50 to 100 people on these streets either passed out or just sleeping on the streets, but this was now in upwards of thousands. Each block jam packed with people with hardly any room for another person to stand. They had dropped the speed limit along East Hasting to 30 kilometers an hour so that people crossing the street would have a lower chance of being killed or seriously injured. A lot of times there are situations where the individuals are high on heroin or fentanyl, and they wander into the streets getting struck by someone leaving or entering the downtown core. There were many police officers present as well as paramedics on hand as the situation could change in a heartbeat. Why have I digressed? Well, I think that this was meant to be a part of my total experience. My heart broke to see what is happening in a city with so much wealth and beauty. My heart breaks even more when I think about this happening in this wonderful country. It seems so removed from what Canada is and I was completely devastated that people are in this situation.

I needed to reflect on this as I went from experiences of loving family and partaking in faith, to complete shame. I got to see family I have not seen in a while, I was so appreciative of my close family and our love, and I was consumed with faith during this special time of year. But I couldn't help but put things into perspective and recognize just how lucky I am. Why have I been put into a different situation then those who have been displaced in DTES. For me it became a counting of blessings. I was caught in a moment where I was preoccupied by wonderful, beautiful experiences that I failed to be thankful for where I currently am in this very short life. There was a moment of taking things for granted; which I think is a very easy thing to do unless you are put into a situation of outside awareness; such as my trip through DTES. We get caught up in all the good and forget that there is bad occurring in the world and sometimes right next to us. The journey through DTES completed the cycle that was meant to be for me this Easter. I wanted to share this not to be depressing or down, but to help us all recognize the good and embrace it like we are never going to let it go. But also realize how fortunate we may be as we live each day in our warm homes, with family and with stable minds. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter no matter how you celebrated it.

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