For months, I have been meaning to put together all the photos and the story of how our community came together to help out our crossing guard. Thought today was a good day to do this.
We have a super fantastic crossing guard at our school this year. His name is Ray and he is from Zimbabwe. This is his first winter in Canada. I had been warning Ray all fall about how cold it will be in the winter in Ottawa and had been giving him tips for staying warm. I had been telling him he will need snow pants to survive. The day before this first photo, on a surprisingly cold day in November, I asked him where his snow pants were. He said he didn’t have any yet. I asked him if he would like me to ask around the community to see if anyone had some they could give him and he said yes. He also asked if I could find some boots – it was then that I noticed he was wearing running shoes! It was below -10 Celsius at the time. I said I would for sure find him some better winter gear.
So I put a call out on my Facebook page to all my awesome friends in the community and my amazing friend Nicole dropped off a pair of boots the next morning! I took them over to Ray at the end of that school day and he changed right into them. They fit perfectly.
I then went home and put out a call for even more winter gear on my World-Changing Kids page. And our community responded!
A lovely woman named Kelly Ann reached out to me on Instagram. She moved to Canada from Australia and was so grateful to everyone who helped her prepare for the Ottawa winter that she was moved to help Ray. So she went out and bought some items for him – including a full length wool coat, a Canadian flag themed neck warmer, and a very large plaid scarf. It turned out that Kelly Ann is friends with one of the dads at my kids’ school, who also just lives a street over from us, so she took the items to him and he dropped them off at our house. These items are featured in the below photo. And I can tell you that Ray wears the Canadian flag themed neck warmer almost every day!
At the same time, another lovely woman named Adena, contacted me through Facebook and said that her friend had a great winter coat to give and that she was going to buy some brand new mitts from Costco for Ray. She said that she also organized a few people at her work to bring in things. We got right to work coordinating the best way to get these items to Ray … which took a village, as it does.
I ended up going to pick up the winter coat from Adena’s friend. This was a beautiful, down filled, North Face coat. When I picked it up, the woman explained that the coat had belonged to her friend who had died and she was so happy to see the coat going to someone who could really use it. I was so honoured to have been part of this beautiful connection. This coat is also featured in the second photo.
Then my awesome friend Cathy contacted me to say she had a pair of snow pants to give Ray. So we took those over to him the next day – which leads us to the third photo – where Ray is wearing the North Face jacket and Canadian flag themed neck warmer!
During all this, I was still coordinating with Adena to figure out how to get the items she had been collecting. We needed someone to meet her downtown to get these items and bring them back to my neighbourhood. So, again, I put a call up on my Facebook page and my awesome friend Nicole (who had given the boots to Ray) said she could meet up with Adena and bring these items back. This included a whole load of items – three of which are featured in the fourth photo – the brand new mitts that Adena bought, a pair of socks and another coat for less cold weather. The fifth photo shows us giving all of this to Ray – and has him showing off the awesome mitts.
Ray was overwhelmed by all this kindness and promised to share what he did not need with others. He also shared a story with me a while back about how one of the kids from our school gave him a $5 Tim Horton’s gift card out of the blue and it made him so happy.
I have thought about this whole experience a lot. It has shown me that we have enough within our communities to share with those who are in need. And then when those people are able to, they will share with others. We just need to get better at coordinating this. We need to reach out more to others. We need to set up systems that allow us to reach out to others more easily, because we have lost those connections.
This is especially important during this time of world-wide self-isolation. We need to check in on each other and share what we have. The current situation is really teaching us that we are all connected, that we are all part of one big human family – and we are only as safe and healthy as the person in our community who has the least ability to afford to take care of themselves. We need to make sure everyone is able to take care of themselves.
I also realized, through this experience, that I don’t know anything about how a person moves from Zimbabwe to Ottawa. I am sure that each person’s story is different, but if we knew their stories, then maybe we could figure out better ways to help. So, I asked Ray if he would want to be a guest on our Upstanders Unite! Podcast, where the kids would ask him questions about his journey to Ottawa. He said that it would be his honour. So stay tuned for that. When we are no longer self-isolating, I will get that set up!
Let’s take this time to think of ways in which we can become a better society when we get through this! I would love for you to share any ideas you have for creating better ways of being a community.