Friday, December 6, 2013

A Different Kind of Race

It always seems impossible until its done.
- Nelson Mandela

I always thought it was impossible for me to be in the same room as Mayor Rob Ford (please note the loose and approximate use of the word Mayor). That is, until last night.

While attending a charity function to raise money for the typhoon victims in the Philippines at Toronto's notorious Virgin Mobile's Mod Club, in walked none other than Rob Ford.

Deadpan and straight-faced, the woman next to me said of the three quarters filled room, “Rob Ford is here? He'll fill out the room.”

Rob Ford is here? I'll try not to crack up.” came another voice along the bench.

I couldn't help myself, I found myself laughing.

I turned around to see the Toronto Mayor standing but 6 feet away from me, larger than life (as the expression goes) and surrounded by an entourage of equally space-requiring mammals.

Never in a million-and-one years could I have predicted this set of circumstances even in my wildest dreams. Quite frankly, I just don't run in his crowd.

If nothing else, this was definitely a triumphant Facebook status opportunity if I ever saw one. Thank goodness (and Karen H.) for the modern miracle of cell phones.

"I am in the same room as Rob Ford…not on purpose, mind you."

The responses came fast and furious:



“Where are you and what at you doing??”

“Are you dealing now??”

Wow, this was a stellar status update to elicit multiple punctuation markings at the end of every entry.

I took a picture of John next to the mayor. Expecting John to give a polite “Thank you,Your Worship” or a nod and a “Mayor Ford” or even, maybe, just maybe a casual “Thank you, Mr. Ford” I almost catapulted into hysterics when my ears rang with a broad Cockney accent, a slap on the back and a cheerful, “Thanks, Rob” with a first-name familiarity often only shared by the likes of college roommates or fishing buddies.

Then guilt overtook me. I had been objectifying this man. He was so surreal to me he was like a cartoon character in my mind. But, standing there right in front of me I realized that he and I were in the same race—the human race. He is human, albeit a drug-using, lying, often crass, poor decision-making, sufferer from the illness of addictions, maybe (as in for sure) delusional, best friend of criminals, runs with gang members, extortionists and possibly murderers--human. But human, just the same. He is someone's husband, father, brother and sadly, still someone's mayor. Maybe I was laughing at him to distance myself from what he represents--that humans, my race, our race, are capable of such behaviour. Because if he is capable of such things and I am made of the same stuff, what does that make me? My mind doesn't even want to go there. Is it possible that we could all be painted with the same brush strokes?

My cynical self thinks he was there for good PR but his brother did make a donation (not sure if he used the City of Toronto stationary) but I don't know his heart and should not stand in judgement of that act. I am sure regardless of motive the money will contribute to the good of the people of the Philippines. And, God bless him for that.

Something else happened yesterday. Nelson Mandela passed from this life. What an incredible icon who lived life within the context of the “whole picture.” He dedicated his life tackling racism, poverty and inequity. He spent 27 years of his life imprisoned. But, the greater the grief, the greater the triumph and when he was released he later became the first black President of South Africa. He served one term and did not run for office again, instead, seeing the greater good and worked fighting HIV and poverty through his Nelson Mandela Foundation. Some say, and arguably so, he is the most celebrated political figure ever.

Mandela's life is good news for me because he is also in the same race as I—the human race. There is hope. If I only affect positive change to a miniscule fraction of what he did, I would have lived my life well.

True, we are all in the same race, but how we run it is up to us. We have a choice. I remember the first time running the Ottawa Marathon and noticing people in wheel chairs, another with only one leg, large people, small people, fit people, struggling people. But they were all moving.


With purpose.

With the finish line in mind.

Different paces, different resolve, some fast, some slow, some doing a good job, some not so much. We are all struggling in our own way.

We only have one shot during any given race...and at being human.

With communication being unlike any other era, we have witnessed unbelievable human depravity and selfishness. Likewise, we have also seen incredible sacrifice, love and compassion.

The human race has it all—the good, the bad; the in between. But, as Mr. Mandela said himself, “Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

He also said, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

You certainly can rest in peace, Mr. Mandela. Yes you can.

The human race—our greatest gift is that we get to choose how we run it.

No comments:

Post a Comment