I didn’t cry for Code Red

I didn’t cry when I read the Code Red series in the Hamilton Spectator. I live here, I see the people.

I didn’t cry when I saw the comparisons; Sub-Saharan Africa is in crisis with 15% of babies being born underweight with few prospects for improvement over their lifetime; in some of our Hamilton neighbourhoods it’s 47%.

I didn’t cry when you belittled me at the table, even though you invited me to this meeting of the Hamilton Collaboratives. Invited me to represent the people in question.

I didn’t cry when you mocked my efforts to help as self-serving, said that I was there to get connected so that I could “get out”, meanwhile you kept telling the room all about what you had done in the past, what you would do in the future. Grandstanding while small children go hungry.

I didn’t cry when you ignored me, left the table while I was talking.

I didn’t cry when I realized that all this rudeness wasn’t about me, it was about you.

But when I realized that this whole day, this whole effort, the energy of all these people was also about you and your self-interest, that there never is going to be a plan to save the lives of the people in my neighbourhood, that in all likelihood this is just a platform for your campaign, then I cried. Cause who else will all these smart, capable people turn to in directing their resources? Who else will take the lead to get us working together if not you? You’re like a tin man, good at your job but missing a heart.

I cried then and I can’t seem to stop cause I realize I was expecting too much from you. And you’re just a person. And there isn’t anybody else. And that was news to me. News I didn’t want to know.

I wanted to believe that smart people everywhere really were trying to help.



It’s been a year now since I started writing the blog: At work, at home, at play; learning things the hard way!

I write this blog for a couple of reasons; because I’m a writer; because I want to share what I am learning about community-building; because I think community-building will become increasingly important in the future, sort of the way second-languages became important over my lifetime; and because I feel like others may have had crazy experiences like mine and may not have the words or opportunity to express them.

Last year at this time I became remarkable. I’d been at CSI for about a year and was feeling a little bit nutty. Unglued. And then one day someone pointed out two things; 1) that I am remarkable and 2) that I don’t seem to see it. “What am I not seeing?” I wondered. After that, my eyes were open. Wide open.

It’s a bit like seeing mushrooms. I’d been thinking for years that I would like to grow mushrooms. I loved the idea of just walking out to pick a few mushrooms when you feel the need for an omelet. I imagined some day being a mushroom farmer. We had books about mushrooms and had heard all about the Mushroom Men in places like Germany, whose job it is to identify your mushrooms for you after you go off picking wild ones.

When we bought the Pink Palace in Montreal, it had a really big lawn in the back (think croquet, AND badminton AND garden that never produced food AND flowers AND shed AND dining/bbq patio) and at the very end were a hundred feet or so of woods, mostly poplar and birch trees. Mike would disappear into the woods in the afternoons and eventually there was a path all the way through to the big fields and beyond that the cemetery.

Kitty Cat would follow me when I went for a walk, but she always stopped at the end of the path, never ventured into the fields. Returning one day I noticed something remarkable in the woods; a tall white mushroom with delicate shingles down its cap. I rushed to get my mushroom book, amateur mushroom man that I am, and saw at once that it was a Shaggy Ink Cap and that the look-alike poison partner is one of the few that is distinctly different. And lo! The woods were full of Shaggy Ink Caps! How had I never noticed them before? As I picked them I began to see more and more mushrooms that seemed to have been there all the time and yet, it’s as if I couldn’t see them until I was introduced to them, got to know them. Then I saw them everywhere; at bus stops, other people’s lawns, you name it. We settled on two edibles; the Shaggy Ink Caps and the Morels. I’ll tell you, we didn’t just eat omelets! I was at last, a mushroom farmer.

And I think this is how it happened at CSI. Somebody told somebody that I was remarkable. And then they could see it too. And word spread, and pretty soon even I could see it. It was a community where everyone’s eyes were open to each others remarkableness. And when everyone thinks you’re remarkable, well, you become it.

And I’m so amazed by my community here in Hamilton, where such a high percentage of the people are seeing the greatness in each other, reflecting it back, introducing others to it. We aren’t mushroom farmers here, we’re Remarkable Farmers and it’s so great to be able to write about these people and their remarkableness. Thanks for reading!