This weekend our main street hosted a festival of art, music, and food. It is called Kaleido which is Greek for beautiful form, and that is a perfect description for the festival, for the individual works of art, and for the neighbourhood. As I walked along the street I heard Vietnamese music on one block, hip hop on the next, and an a capella male chorus on the one after that. There were food trucks offering everything from fish and chips to jerk chicken; gyros to goat stew.
And, of course, there were the arts; visual arts, performing arts, street art, gallery art. All sorts of feasts for the eyes. There were sand sculptures and photographs, paintings and acrobatics, clowning and dancing. Wandering through all of this were hundreds of people from the neighbourhood and beyond. Single people and families, children and seniors, teenagers and young adults. Good fun for everyone.
My neighbourhood has some residents who have been here for decades, some newcomers, and some transients. We are a blend of first nations’ people, immigrants, refugees, born-and-bred Canadians, and naturalized citizens. We come from Canada, the Sudan, England, the Caribbean, Vietnam, Somalia, Spain, Ethiopia and many other places around the world. Some of us came here to be near family, some to escape oppression, some to find work, and some to save their lives.
On Monday, as I was backing out of my driveway, I saw a handbag tucked inside our garbage can shed. I got out of my car and pulled out the bag. My first thought was that it had been stolen from someone attending the festival and I wondered if there was any ID in it. When I opened it up I pulled out a pink sweater. Underneath I saw some miscellaneous handbag junk and some syringes. Four or five, I thought. Suddenly the bag had taken on a more sinister appearance.
I didn’t know what to do with the bag or its contents, so I put it back in the shed and called my son for advice. He suggested calling the city’s information number, and they recommended contacting my nearest pharmacy or recycling station to see if they would take the syringes. When I called the pharmacy, they invited me to pick up a “sharps” box and latex gloves and to bring the needles to them in the box. They also emphasized being very careful, and we were. My son picked up the needles wearing the gloves and, in the absence of any tongs, he used pliers to put six syringes in the box. I have just taken a walk in the rain to take them back to the pharmacy.
So, after a sunny, joyful, entertaining weekend, I had a cold wet reality check. My wonderful neighbourhood with the friendly people who share great food, art, and music includes people with addictions, homeless people, and people with mental illnesses. It’s a mixed bag.
There are no easy answers to the problems that some people have, but I hope I can always keep the issues in perspective. I want to remember that we are all people first no matter where we come from, and we all need help sometimes. Mostly, though, we are just good neighbours.