Last night, I went leafing through an old journal, one that I kept while I travelled across Canada with ten other young people. While we were in New Brunswick (in the town that would eventually become my home for four years), we made up a treasure hunting game that involved a van, a blindfold and a lot of sugar-induced hyperactivity. The blindfolded person would make decisions about which direction to turn at intersections, taking us in circles and down sidestreets until they shouted STOP! – at which point the driver would park, we would all jump out and begin running desperately around trying to find treasure – any treasure. An incredible leaf. A swingset. An ice cream shop. It didn’t matter what the treasure was, so long as it was considered treasure by the beholder. It was all inspired by the Calvin and Hobbes books and Calvin’s claim that there is treasure everywhere. And really, there is, if you go looking for it.
As I drove home through downtown Hamilton today, this idea of treasure everywhere wandered through my mind. I looked at the people walking along the sidewalks, waiting for buses, coming out of stores. I looked at the drivers who were passing me. I looked at the shops and thought about who their owners might be, who might work in them. I thought about the people I’ve met downtown. Agnus, who came to Canada from Vienna fifty years ago; Dave, who runs an art/book shop; Jenny, the artist I wrote about a few months ago. And so many others. Downtown Hamilton is a busy place. There are people everywhere. Treasured people.
But these people are so fragile. Some of them have been very obviously broken by poverty or addictions, abuse or mental health issues or unemployment. Some have very obviously fallen through gaps in the system – be it the mental health system, or the education system, or the justice system. And there are others who you would never know are broken. Who walk around in nice clothes, with jobs and kids and smiles on their face, while society hands them every kind of mask they could possible need to hide what exists on the inside. Because people are so fragile. So easily broken.
And yet, these same people are so resilient. Some of the most caring people I have met have stories of abuse and cruelty in their past. People who have been treated like garbage by family or society who choose still to love and trust and reach across the space between us. To try again and again and again to get on their feet, despite others knocking them back down. To believe for something better. Or even to just keep going in the absence of that belief.
I am astounded by this paradox. The fragility and resiliency of humankind. I see it everywhere. On their faces. In my own reflection. I see it in you.