Recent events in Regina’s Wascana Park get one thinking

The recent drowning of an apparently homeless man in Regina’s Wascana Lake really got me thinking.

The still unconfirmed story (aka rumour) goes like this: 2 friends (both middle-aged, aboriginal, and homeless) are in Wascana Park on a brutally hot day. At least one of the men decides to swim across the lake, but he only makes it about halfway before running into problems. The second man tries to find help; asking other people in the park to call 911 or to borrow their cell phones so he can. But here’s the kicker: it takes almost half an hour before someone is actually willing to help him. HALF AN HOUR. People who were in the park that day have said they were asked for help, but thought it was a joke.

The story is oh so tragic in oh so many ways. I’ve worked in that part of town. I know from experience that it literally takes only a minute or 2 for the fire department to make it to the park. That man didn’t have to die. If someone had just thought, “maybe it’s a joke, but what if it’s not?” there would’ve been a very different ending to the story.

Some people probably read the story in the paper or online, thought, ‘Wascana Lake? Ewwwww,’ and immediately forgot about the whole thing. Maybe that’s the biggest tragedy here.

A man was in trouble, he was dying, and no one cared enough to make a phone call. I could make some snarky comment about racism or bigotry. I could make a call to action against homelessness. But I won’t. Others can speculate about whether ancestry or social status kept people from helping.

What would I have done differently?

For me the bigger question is, if I had been in the park that day would I have done any differently? Eventually we all have these moments where we have an opportunity to do “the right thing.” Most of the time we don’t even know we made the choice. I bet half the people who were asked for help at the park that day don’t even know what the consequences of their inaction were.

Okay, so here’s me ranting. Doing the right thing isn’t about waiting for the big emergency and then acting. It’s not about rescuing babies from burning buildings or kittens stuck in trees. It’s all the small things, like standing up and saying something is wrong or making a phone call even if you’re not sure that it’s really needed.

Ranch Ehrlo makes a difference everyday

Maybe that’s the best thing about Ranch Ehrlo; the belief that you don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference. Every day the people here quietly, and in their own way influence the lives of those around them. People here really understand that it’s not necessarily the big things that matter. Sometimes it’s the really small things that make all the difference: the feeling that someone cares about you and thinks you can succeed, the acknowledgement of small victories, or even a really bad joke when you’re having a particularly off day. These are the things I see when I think about the Ranch.

I’ll get off my soap box now.