The 5 Things Left On My Summer Bucket List

If you spent any time on the internet the past summer, you may have come across the story of an Urban Outfitter’s employee who found a Pittsburgh teenager’s summer bucket list. I have distinct memories of writing similar lists when I was in high school with goals like “wear a dress on a random day!” or “swim across the lake and back.” I’m sure if anyone had found one of my lists, I would have been mortified. Regardless of how this mystery teen feels about it, when her list went viral, a lot of people were inspired. Summer bucket lists seem to have universal appeal, although not everyone literally writes theirs down. How many times have you heard someone say “This summer I’m going to…”

At the cusp of summer, around May, summer has finally arrived and it stretches out into the future. Countless sunny days and warm nights provide us with endless possibilities. This is the year that you won’t let it pass you by.  In short, summer is oddly motivating.  Not aggressively so, in the self-improvement way of January that pushes you to become an overachieving, physically fit, clean-eating, productivity machine. Summer is a gentle taskmaster where goals like ice cream dates or sitting outside under the stars are perfectly ambitious.  July and August are ultimately about the pursuit of happiness and creating lasting memories.

These goals are so attainable at the start of summer. How hard is it to get yourself to the Zoo for an afternoon to nail a selfie with Blizzard and Storm. Too hard, it turns out. I’m not sure how your summer has been, but ours has zoomed by. I’m pretty sure it went super sonic.  I haven’t been able to keep up. It’s August (and has been for a couple of weeks), but I keep jotting July as the date. While it seems like I haven’t done anything as planned, I did manage to check off a few items on my bucket list:

  • cheered on the Bombers at a game (they lost)
  • Enjoyed the Perseid meteor shower (which set off some anxiety about aliens)
  • walked around the Exchange District for a free art display (shoutout to Craig Winslow, thanks for loving us more than we love ourselves)
  • attended a beautiful wedding for a lovely couple (congrats Priya and Rob!)
  • Made s’mores (the Italian way, with Nutella)
  • did some serious car karaoke (with the accompaniment of Spotify’s Happy Hits playlist)

And yet there are a few Winnipeg-specific items which remain undone. Luckily there is still technically 36 days of summer left.

  • have a drink on the Bar I patio (while silently passing judgment on everyone and everything that passes by)
  • actually show up to a yoga class in Millennium Park (it’s free and literally around the corner. Why haven’t I gone?)
  • eat the pumpkin soft serve ice cream from Sargent Sundae (the summer-pumpkin overlap is a small, but delicious window of time)
  • buy the ridiculously delicious potato doughnuts from the Hutterites at the Downtown Winnipeg Farmers’ Market
  • get a little tipsy while drinking the traditional alcohol at a Folklorama pavilion (hey, it’s cultural)

How about you? What successes did you have? Is anything left on your 2017 summer bucket list?

 

 

 

Our A/C Addiction

One summer, a long time ago, I couldn’t sleep. I was maybe ten years old. That one summer gave me some insight into how terrifying insomnia is. It is singularly frustrating because drifting off should happen naturally, and the more you try to force it, the more unattainable sleep becomes.  I would go to bed (when you’re ten, your parents don’t give you much choice in the matter) and lie awake for h o u r s. I would get hot. Or my back would be itchy. I would listen to the drone of a small mosquito that would instantly stop when I turned the light on.  I don’t think my parents got much sleep that summer either because at about 3:00 a.m every night, I would helpfully let them know that I couldn’t sleep. They tried to help me, installing a big fan at the end of my bed, sitting with me so I wasn’t awake and alone, and encouraging me to mentally focus on images that might bring me some peace of mind. I don’t recall whether any of it really helped, but as the summer wound down, sleep returned. And since then I haven’t had any issues with it, which I’m extremely grateful for.

That was the last summer before we got central air conditioning installed. As anyone knows, trying to sleep in extreme heat presents all kinds of challenges. When flipping your pillow to the ‘cool’ side doesn’t work and the single, thin sheet becomes oppressively hot, it can be enough to make you rip out your own (sweaty) hair in frustration.  A coworker’s unit gave out on her in the middle of the heat wave in late July and it was a Code Red situation. She worried about how to sleep, to cook, and if her dog would make it through the day. Air conditioning has become so central (heh) that we can’t live without it. Sometimes though, I think we overdo it. When I went to see Spider-man: Homecoming in July, I brought along a sweater and socks because the theatre is always frigid. Same thing with the office, no matter how cute my summer clothes are, I always end up wearing the same over-sized sweater at my desk. And I never shop as quickly as I do when I’m standing in shorts in the freezer section of Superstore. And yet, when the metal part of the seatbelt is hot enough to use as a brand, it’s hard not to let the Max A/C do it’s work. In our house, we set the thermostat to about 24 º Celsius. That way it’s cool enough to still be comfortable, but not so cold that in the middle of August I have to wear a hoodie and wool socks.

I know we’re all more comfortable being cold, or at least temperate, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we remind ourselves how to live with the heat. Provided that heatstroke isn’t imminent, being hot can be a good thing. Acclimatizing is preferable to trying to air condition the weather away. The environment would appreciate it, and so would our wallets. Why not use the weather as an excuse to slow down? Summer goes fast as it is, we should stop and take it all in. For one day, turn off the A/C. Enjoy an icy cold treat while spending the day lazing in the heat. Soon enough we’ll be missing the dog days of summer and the heat that we wait for all year. Let’s try not to let it get away.

 

 

Inclusiveness Through Infrastructure

Acknowledgement. Recognition. Affirmation. Different words to essentially describe being seen. It can be easy to forget the importance of being seen if you don’t get overlooked often. But all it takes is one driver not to give a thank you wave after you’ve let them in for it the importance of acknowledgement to sink in. In 3 seconds you transition from feeling beneficial and selfless to annoyed and resentful. As we are all aware, construction season is in full swing (are there any roads not currently under construction?)

After generously leaving 10 metres of room for the doofus in the construction lane, it takes what feels like eternity (probably 5 seconds) until he gets the hint. Finally he pulls into the lane, in the spot you graciously provided for him, and after a few expectant seconds, you realize, no, this person isn’t even going to recognize the favour that I just did. If it weren’t for you, this guy would still be sitting in the other lane because the black pickup tailgating you sure as hell wasn’t going to let him in. So you stew in your own annoyance for a while until eventually you forget about it. But still, a wave would have been nice.

I was thinking about that while I was out for a walk. My neighbourhood is an older one so we have sidewalks. That was one of my ‘must haves’ when we were looking for our house. As I walked along, I realized that I have never been able to articulate why this matters. All I know is that in sidewalk-less neighbourhoods, I feel acutely aware of traffic and it feels like at any point I could be in someone’s way by walking along the road. When cars do come along, I tend to step onto the nearest lawn and wait until I have the road to myself again. It takes away most of my enjoyment of walking. With my neighbourhood, I can listen to music without constantly checking behind me. I also get a chance to be a little closer to all the neighbours’ yards where I can surreptitiously look at their landscaping (yes, I’m that person). Overall it makes it a safer, and more enjoyable activity.

This is why I’ve never understood why new developments often exclude sidewalks. I know it adds additional costs, but I like that it serves the people themselves, rather than just their vehicles. It’s so important that we build a city that supports all of its inhabitants, not only drivers. For a long time Winnipeg has allowed itself to develop in a way that actively excludes a lot of people. A city-wide bike system is long overdue. The cycling paths that have been developed has created a substantial increase in cyclists.  The city should also look at freezing any additional developments because they’re a drain on resources and the additional taxes aren’t enough to cover all the massive new infrastructure that they require. We need to recognize that our infrastructure deficit doesn’t allow us to keep expanding indefinitely. Sidewalks should be included in all neighbourhoods, if only for safety reasons. They should also be kept in decent shape without massive chips in the concrete and rebar sticking out. In the winter, the snow should be cleared from the sidewalks immediately following the roads being cleared. It’s unacceptable for pedestrians to choose between wading through a foot of snow, or taking their chances walking along the much narrower roads while dodging oncoming traffic.

It’s hard to get past the “but we’re a driving city” mentality because it’s true. For a long time now we have based everything around cars and driving, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue in that direction. A city built for only one demographic is doing a disservice to the rest of its citizens. There are a ton of reasons why driving may not be an option for someone. Whether it’s financial, medical or even environmental, there are a ton of reasons why someone may not want or be able to drive. It’s time to include everyone in our infrastructure, not just the drivers.

Supporting Local Business

Two Christmases ago, my mom gave me a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. At the time I didn’t realize it was a pop culture phenomenon. I thought it was a gag gift or maybe a last ditch effort on my mom’s part to help me finally overcome my messy tendencies.  Being tidy has been a personal struggle of mine for a long time. Not for lack of trying. I’ve tried every strategy that is recommended for people like me. The 1 minute rule. The 15 minute rule. Making lists. Weekly routines. Not even Loonette on the Big Comfy Couch could solve my messy problem. A few months after Christmas, I decided to give kondo-ing a try, partly because I was to move out shortly thereafter. I was hesitant because the first step is to gather all your belongings and dump them into a pile. I was envisioning myself becoming fatigued by the gathering and not actually moving onto the next step: sorting. Memories of previous moves that had ended in me sobbing late at night, overwhelmed by a small sea of unpacked belongings pushed me to start the process. In the end I did get rid of a lot of items that I had no use for anymore. And once they were out of the house, I didn’t miss them.

Since then I’ve still struggled to stay tidy, but cleaning up doesn’t take nearly as long because there is so much less to put away. As a direct result of this, my shopping habits have changed substantially. I’ve always loved shopping and spending money, but lately I am much more interested in quality v.s. quantity. Instead of impulse shopping, I think about what I really want and what I really need in my life. I haven’t been taken in by things just because they’re a good deal. In fact, I’m finding that I would prefer to not spend my money until I find something that is worth spending the money on. And beyond that I’ve also been thinking about the impact that my money has when I spend it which is why I continue to become more invested in supporting independent shops.

I’ve always been in favour of spending money at local businesses and it seems like I’m not alone because there has been a renaissance of locally-made high quality goods.  I don’t remember Winnipeg ever being so full of entrepreneurs. Local brew pubs and coffee shops are scattered throughout the city. Gourmet doughnut shops and local clothing designers with their own boutiques are highlights in the downtown area. An even broader variety of artisans are on Instagram and although they don’t have their own brick and mortar stores, they can be found at wildly popular pop up markets. Even the food truck variety is staggering when compared with what was available a few years ago. Often the products being sold isn’t the cheapest option. However, for a few more dollars, there are tangible rewards like meeting the creator of your goods, detailed information about how and your product is made and pride in the service provided. At the same time, when our money is kept in our own community, we boost our local economy. Even if you buy less and spend more, consider the overall benefits of supporting local. It’s worth it.

 

 

Scenic Routes in Winnipeg

Winnipeg, like all other cities, is made up of smaller parts. Originally incorporated in 1873, Winnipeg was bounded in the north by Burrows Avenue west of Main Street, and Aberdeen Avenue east of Main Street; on the south by Assiniboine River; on the east by Red River; and on the west by Maryland Street, Notre Dame Avenue and McPhillips Street. If you look at this drawing of the original boundaries, you realize how small Winnipeg started off compared to how many neighbourhoods are included in the current perimeter.1873 City of Winnipeg

It wasn’t until 1972 that Charleswood, Fort Garry, North Kildonan, Old Kildonan, Tuxedo, East Kildonan, West Kildonan, St. Vital, Transcona, St. Boniface, and St. James-Assiniboia  amalgamated with the City of Winnipeg and the  Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg to form Winnipeg as we know it today. Which helps to exaplin the baffling lack of consistency in urban planning and the lack of continuity in street names.

All this to say that this was the journey our city took to develop into the unique neighbourhoods we have today. It’s pretty cool to live in one place that offers such a variety of vibes depending on which part of the city you’re in. Some of our most well-loved neighbourhoods are the areas where the population density is the greatest. These are the parts of the city that feel alive and vibrant with people where you can people-watch or have impromptu reunions with old classmates or co-workers. For a long time I always felt wished that Winnipeg’s densely populated areas were more closely linked. Since Winnipeg is pretty sprawling compared to its overall population density, it feels like there are areas of the city where people will congregate, but because they feel unattached, it’s easy to think of them as being separate clumps. My parents live on the other side of the city from myself, so sometimes when I’m driving back and forth, I like to mix up my routes. Especially when it’s summer and driving around with the windows down. Unfortunately, if I take some of my normal routes, all I see are cars and more cars. Until I took a different route. Since then, I make it a habit to drive down routes that shows off the more active, pedestrian-friendly version of Winnipeg even if they aren’t as direct.

One of my favourite summer routes is between Waterfront Drive and Corydon Avenue. The best part is that this route can be enjoyed in any way, whether it’s driving, biking, or walking. Along Waterfront there are beautiful condominiums with a river view as well as Stephen Juba park and the Goldeyes Stadium. Across Provencher, Waterfront turns into Israel Asper Way, which winds towards the heart of the Forks. No matter what the season, there is always something going on. From the Forks, I like to make my way to Assiniboine Avenue, passing the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park. Assiniboine Avenue is such a lovely little street with some really interesting buildings going up. It feels exactly how a downtown neighbourhood should feel; it’s tucked away from all the busy streets, but still homey with lots of greenery. My route winds down with a quick tour through Osborne Village and finishes up in the Corydon area for a coffee or a cocktail on one of the patios. It’s a perfect way to spend a warm Winnipeg evening.

Here is a map of the route:

I couldn’t include all the neighbourhoods I love to tour through, so if anyone is interested in more scenic routes, I can make similar posts in the future.

Do you have any favorite routes?

The Importance of Neighbours

Last year I found out that once you move into a house, a question a lot of people will ask is “How are your neighbours?” Which makes sense because there is the close proximity within which you will both be living your lives. Neighbours are important. If you’re away for a few days, there is comfort with knowing that the good people next door will be keeping an eye out. Even if you have family or a friend checking on your house, it’s the neighbours who will recognize behaviour or events that might be out of the ordinary.

These are the folks who will warn you about events happening on your street, like car break-ins, vandalism, or suspicious ‘furnace inspectors’ knocking on doors. It’s only your neighbours who are equally concerned about local services, like schools, libraries, or community centres. Only the residents on your street or in your area face the same daily gripes that you do.

Like most communities, it is the unfortunate case that it’s usually difficult circumstances that unite us. All it takes is a drive down Henderson Highway these days to see how the impending loss of the urgent care facility at Concordia is uniting the 27km stretch of road. Back to our neighbourhood, River Heights is regularly united by car break-ins, and a deeply held belief in NIMBY-ism. Google ‘River Heights Residents Angry’ and you can see a lengthy and varied search return. The majority of residents obviously value the status quo. If you zoom out a bit, there is a clear difference in the level of community between neighbourhoods with different demographics.  As anyone that has lived in the North End will tell you, the sense of community is palpable. Everyone places a much higher value on community and make a huge effort to be friendly with each other. In contrast, talk to anyone who lives in Tuxedo. Many of them don’t even know what their neighbours look like, let alone their names. It might be the money that makes the difference. After all, how many of us end up chatting with the neighbour over the fence while mowing the lawn or gardening. If that work is done by a contractor, that opportunity is gone. Home and neighbourhood design have changed as well over the years. With big attached garages, you can avoid contact with people altogether by driving in and out. When my parents moved to the city, I could match each SUV to the corresponding house, but I don’t think I could have placed a single driver in a police lineup.

Currently, we have great neighbours. They’re friendly, and although slightly eccentric, none of them appear to sell drugs, belong to gangs, or live a pesticide-free lifestyle (hippies: everyone’s least favorite suburban neighbour). We are familiar enough to know the names of their pets and their general lifestyle. Even better, is that we have neighbour-friends that we alternate hosting dinners with and they’re a really wonderful couple. It didn’t happen by accident though. They put in conscious effort to welcome us to the area when we moved in. They extended an invitation to get together and gave us their phone number. If it weren’t for those gestures, we would likely have lived for years next to a great couple without getting to know them. Transcona has a great festival called the Hi Neighbourfestival which I first thought was kind of a cheesy idea. And maybe it is a little bit, but I think it really underscores the value of getting to know the people around you. Social media fascinates us because it shows the exotic, the exciting, the everything else. Meanwhile we’ve stopped valuing our own reality because it seems less interesting in comparison. Until that difficult circumstance comes along, we don’t need the people who live nearby. Instead of waiting for that day to come, we should make the effort now. Being a neighbour is more than just living next to each other, it’s also finding value in the sense of community that that closeness provides. And in order to do that, we have to cultivate those relationships, like our neighbour friends did, by making the effort.

Thinking about this made me revisit Mr. Rogers and his timeless invitation:

“Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbour?”

 

Prairie Gardener Part I: The Garden Centre and Starting From Seed

Hello again, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m sorry. I struggle with self-discipline as you can tell by the erratic nature of this blog. Between the short attention span, lack of discipline and notoriously bad time management skills, I often struggle to follow through on projects.

Oh well, none of us are perfect right? Or I hope not anyway. I am happy to report that although the blogging is behind schedule, I volunteered for several different charitable opportunities. And because nothing happens until it is documented on the internet, I will blog about them in future. And also because they are excellent causes of course.

In my time away, I have been tackling a very different type of project – gardening. I dabbled a little bit with it last year, but since it was our first summer in the house, I was pretty unprepared. This year I ordered seeds online and grew them in Jiffy peat pellets. Mainly the seeds are for perennial flowers that are beneficial to butterflies and bees, but I also planted the seeds from a pepper I bought at the store and those are growing quite nicely. I have been doing a lot of reading and research for this. I did not realize how complicated it gets. The flower species are called half a dozen different names and there often seems to be multiple variations of the same flower. When, where, and how you plant seeds is dependent upon each plant’s preference as well. It’s pretty overwhelming. At this point, my seedlings have been hanging out in my house for over a month with me bringing them inside and outside to both the front and backyard depending on the time of day.

In the latest installment of homeownership adventures, I hadn’t realized there is a period of time in the fall where plants are supposed to be trimmed back and cleaned up so when the snow melted, it became clear there was a large clean up job. This ended up turning out for the best because as I was clearing away the debris from last winter, I uncovered so many lady bugs! It’s amazing how nature hunkers down for the winter. Before this year, I used to kind of scoff at the idea that gardening counted towards your daily exercise targets. Watering and moving some soil around looks pretty underwhelming. Instead it’s basically p90x outdoor addition. I lost count of the number of squats and lunges I did while using a rake or spade. Not to mention how heavy af the paper yard waste bags get. It’s possible (ok, it’s likely) that I’m wildly out of shape, but at this rate I might be able to fit last year’s shorts after all.

Since we made it through May long, I have started to transplant them which also has to be done correctly and appropriately for each seedling. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these seedlings will survive, so we purchased some plants from Shelmerdine’s as well. I have never been to such a large garden centre in my life and Mike patiently waited while I ran up and down the rows of plants trying to ferret out individual types of plants that I was looking for. Two hours later, list abandoned somewhere between the delphiniums and bee balms, we walked out with 11 plants that I had never heard of.  They are currently sitting in their pots, patiently waiting for their forever home. And on that note it is time to channel my inner Poison Ivy.

Image result for poison ivy batman cartoon

 

 

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

As of this week, we are back into more normal February weather. Was anyone else weirded out by the amount of warm weather we’ve had this winter? It’s strange to see people at the bus stop in February with bare hands reading the paper or scrolling on their phones. Granted, every time that Festival du Voyageur starts up, we always have at least a couple of days that the weather warms up just enough to slightly melt the lovely ice sculptures around the city so they become an abstract version of the original. If you squint your eyes and turn your head just so, you can almost see what the artist’s vision was. I’m not complaining about the unseasonable warmth(because you can’t complain when the weather is nice in winter), but when it’s rained in both January and February, it feels odd. Like maybe we’re in Vancouver, but without the scenery and expensive housing.

In the midst of all this weird weather, I’ve been doing some really cool stuff around the city lately, like seeing the MTC play Black Coffee (a whodunit Agatha Christie mystery) and enjoying poutine at the Festival while wearing a classic 80’s one-piece snowsuit. That last part was owing to a friend who has a ton of 80’s snowsuit stock. Let me tell you, 15 people wearing matching 80’s ski suits do not go unnoticed. I had a blast and Festival always makes you appreciate both our local French community as well as winter. It says something about Winnipeg that Festival takes place in the middle of winter, when we’ve grown tired of shoveling, and the magic of snowflakes wears a little thin.  Nevertheless, every year Festival brings out large crowds of people and often fills the grounds to capacity for late night. To me, the event is almost a perfect roundup of Winnipeg – laid-back, friendly, and full of good eating. Like if someone wanted to see the best of Winnipeg in the winter, Festival would be where I would direct them to go. Where else would you find hordes of people enjoying maple syrup on a stick or such a striking number of folks wearing lumberjack plaid. It may not be cosmopolitan, but it’s us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Up

One of my favorite things in recent years has been watching the changing Winnipeg skyline. For so long it seemed like it was the same as it ever was. But in the last ten years, it’s been steadily evolving. My two favorite ways to see it are approaching downtown from the Disraeli Bridge and driving along Tache across the river. CMHR, The MB Hydro Building, 300 Assiniboine Avenue and The Glasshouse have all gone up in  a short period of time. The Artis REIT Building is getting a makeover. I read a while ago that Richardson International has a new building in the works. When our economy is more of a tortoise than a hare, it’s nice to see tangible progress to remind ourselves that we aren’t stagnant. This slow change is interesting because it seems like that part of our economy is reflected in our culture. Or maybe vice versa.

As a whole, in Winnipeg and Manitoba, the reign of the status quo can be almost suffocating. Aggressively suspicious of change, we refused to entertain the idea of renaming our hockey team. Had Mark Chipman defiantly stuck with the Manitoba Polar Bears, you can be sure that merchandise sales would have suffered and a strongly-worded petition would have circulated. While we happily complain about how things are (terrible! Thanks for asking), when we are presented with an alternative, 9 times out of 10 we still pick the devil we know. In a municipal election, given the choice between a property tax raise and a ethically-challenged mayor, we confidently supported a broad range of conflicts of interest. Three separate times. An incumbent can literally kick a child in the face (albeit unintentionally) and be re-elected. Provincially, we waited until our previous government wore out their welcome, only to reelect a familiar face from about twenty years ago. The devil you know, right?

The underlying thought is if we stick to the same course, we can reasonably anticipate what will come next. This mentality makes it so easy to take what we have for granted. Generally speaking, we assume there is some stability to how things are in the current era unless a major event happens. Individually, if your life has any sort of routine to it, the days start to blur together. Occasionally there is a break in the monotony, whether it’s planned (like a trip) or something unexpected, like getting a promotion at work. Or on a sadder note, like losing someone you care about. These events remind you that you have no idea what is going to happen on any given day. In the middle of a routine, we stop remembering that things tomorrow won’t always be like yesterday. For each minute, day, month, year, there is a before and an after. These changes are so small, we don’t acknowledge them. Instead we spend our time thinking about the future or reacting to events, that we are perpetually surprised by time passing. And as time slips by like a renegade ninja, change happens always.

Accepting change as a part of life is often the best way to cope with it. It’s difficult to move on, if we can’t move forward. Usually, I’m a big advocate for change and progress because I want to get better. I want us to improve. Maybe though, our reluctance to move forward could be a positive thing. Growing up in Canada, at this time in human history, has reasonably assured me of my safety and my right for existence. I acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone in Canada, and Indigenous peoples especially, are faced with issues that need to be addressed. In a general sense though, the daily security that we take for granted is not the status quo. And this current reality, that we accept as the norm, is a gift that many people paid dearly for. Lately though, it seems that globally, a change is happening, but it’s a return to earlier attitudes. We are sliding back into our human tendencies to be prejudiced and fearful of anyone who isn’t like ourselves. The mosque shooting in Quebec was perpetrated by a university-educated white Canadian man who should feel at ease and secure in Canada. Instead he killed 6 men who were peacefully practicing their religion. He’s ruined countless lives, including his own, and all out of misplaced fear.

Locally, antisemitism has been making itself known. A family in Wolseley had a rock full of anti-semitic messages placed on their doorstep. Someone sketched a swastika in St. Vital Park. Reading about these incidents in the news, has me realizing how much hatred our fellow Canadians have been harbouring. Now it seems, they feel emboldened to express their hatefulness. As a community, we have a responsibility to actively condemn these acts. After the mosque shooting,  Last Saturday, I went to the Forks and took part in the Walk for Human Rights. It was the first time I have taken part in a public march. I wanted to experience an affirmation that Canada is a multicultural country and we aren’t going to be tricked into being afraid all the time. There are so many more things that as human beings, we have in common than not. The average person wants a right to safety and prosperity for themselves and their families. In the spirit of this, I would like to feature another local charity that does a lot of good work in our community: The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.

If you worry about refugees settling into Canada and adjusting to Canadian practices, this is an excellent organization to support. The charity takes a comprehensive approach to assisting refugees with their move to Canada, including setting them up with a temporary residence, reaching out to them in their own language, helping them make a refugee claim, explaining how to manage finances, and to help them learn skills that will enable them to thrive in Canada. These services are essential to helping people who might otherwise feel alienated or alone. If  this is an issue that concerns you, I encourage you to donate to The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. Please help us maintain our tradition of being a welcoming multicultural society.

One last thing, if you feel uncertain about Islam and associate the religion with negative news stories, please take a moment to explore some local resources where you can learn a little more about our local Muslim community:

Winnipeg Central Mosque

Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute

Responsibility

One of the reasons people like to live in small towns is because they like the idea of a community. You get that feeling of connection.  If you’re living in a small town, the waiter that serves you at the Chicken Chef is your buddy’s older brother and the cook is your neighbour. You never forget that they are a person. In a small town, there’s a higher chance that you’ll feel personally invested in community initiatives. If the pool can’t open for the summer, then your children’s swimming lessons are cancelled. When the local event hall burns down, there’s nowhere to have a social.

Living in a city is different. We see so many people every day that they become background noise. The person slowly counting out their change while you wait impatiently is an idiot. Except if you were in a small town, you would know that he isn’t an idiot. After a bad car accident, he now struggles to count out the right amount of change. When the woman speaking broken English is asking the bus driver for instructions while you’re standing in -25 weather, you angrily think “Figure it out, it’s not that hard.” But if your small town had welcomed a refugee family, you would know that she has PTSD and you would help her find her way home. If you were in a small town and saw a woman lying on the sidewalk in -30 weather, you wouldn’t drive by without stopping to help. Since we aren’t in a small town, a woman died on our streets. Her name was Tina.She was found in front of Portage Place. Carl Seier, of The Stranger Connection Winnipeg wrote a post about Tina here  and I’ve been carrying his words with me ever since.

How, as a community, could we let this happen?

Last year was a year long celebration of Winnipeg identity. What parts of living in this city make us who we are. This year, I’m not satisfied with that. We need to contribute. Every single resident in this city has something to contribute. Whether it’s money, time, awareness, blood, or small gestures of empathy. You can make this city better. You have a responsibility and a duty to make this place better. I don’t care how. Last year I started donating on a monthly basis to two charities that I strongly believe in. The people who run those charities put in so much time and effort that I feel ashamed because what I give is not enough. What these charities need is a dependable income. The number of people in our growing city can support community initiatives. We choose not to.

Recently a local man donated his car to a Syrian refugee family. And he received backlash for it. This isn’t public funds. This wasn’t taking other peoples’ money and being underhanded about it. He donated his own car. And people around the city skewered him for it. It baffled me when I heard about it. And then I thought that perhaps these people were lashing out because this gesture gave them no excuses. You have no excuses. Neither do I. What you are doing is not enough. 2017 should be the year we do more. We should all be doing more. The need for help can be overwhelming sometimes. It’s easier to drive to work, drive home, watch t.v and not think about. Or we see the people visibly active in the community and appreciate their efforts without offering any form of support. Those people are not operating in a vacuum. They operate in the real world like you and me. The gas doesn’t pay for itself. The bills don’t pay themselves. Unexpected expenses inevitably happen.

The Main Street Project operated a homeless outreach van up until 6 years ago. The service allows workers to travel around the city in order to provide clothing, food and and transportation for homeless people to shelters.The van stopped going out because the funding dried up and we failed to support the initiative. There’s the very real possibility that Tina could still be alive had the van been funded throughout. For the time being the van is on the road, but there is a limited amount of funding from the Downtown BIZ . And what will happen then?

I’m not trying to demoralize or guilt-trip you. What I hope to do is to inspire you. We have the power to affect change. Every time you choose action over apathy, you make our community better. Unfortunately it can be paralyzing to know where to begin. This year, each month I will feature a local organization that is taking steps to make our city better.  I hope that this year you will take a step with me to doing better. We must do better. This month please take a minute and visit The Main Street Project  to see the good work that they do.  Let’s do this together.