Sometimes you are fortunate to meet someone with whom you connect and if you are very, very lucky, you end up creating one of those deeply close friendships. Such is the case for me with Don Seymour. Many of you know Don from his work as the C.E.O. of The Canadian Mental Health Association here in London but I know him in a different way.
Don came to London almost five years ago to take the reins as the new Executive Director of WOTCH, Community Mental Health Services. I met Don through an event held by Pillar about social enterprise and we quickly fell into a challenging conversation about social enterprise, mental health, and his experiences in London. Right at the outset I got that gut feeling that here was someone I could talk to and who was interested in a greater community life.
From there we met for coffee and soon we were friends who hang out regularly and we deepened our friendship. What I appreciated about Don at the time and still do now is his very visceral passion for the most vulnerable among us. The work he has done with this population came from a strong desire to work through community to help make our community more inclusive and caring. This is not an everyday trait in my experience.
Don also has this quirky sense of humour that I share in the extreme and we riff off one another because nothing ties the bonds of friendship like a good laugh. We also share a background in theatre and we both play guitar – kind of. So this then led to where we are as friends today. He’s leaving London.
Don, as many of you know, will be moving to Kingston to work his magic with another organization in mental health and addiction as he has done so brilliantly with the amalgamation of CMHA. He’ll be amazing I am sure, but I can’t deny that when he’s gone there will be a hole in our city, and for me personally. Don has not been afraid to be public in enumerating the challenges around mental health and homelessness, mental health and addictions, and in being a champion for My Sisters’ Place. We need more of this kind of public engagement in our forested city and more of the kind of leadership Don has shown.
I will miss my very good friend. I will miss our long discussions on how best to create smoked delicacies – his ribs are better than any you’ll find at rib fest, I’ll miss our sharing of troubles, our commiseration when we were dealing with difficulties at work, and our shared sense of something better that may be just around the corner. I know he’s just a call, DM, or Skype chat away but not having easy access to my pal Don will be hard for me.
Even so, the kind of friendship we have developed will stand the test of time and distance. I’m fortunate as I write this to have a very dear old friend visiting with for a few days, and as old friends do, we quickly fell back into the rhythms we had when we lived blocks, rather than hundreds of kilometres, from each other. This will be true of my dear friend Don Seymour as well.
So goodbye Don. I’ll miss you very much. I am grateful to you for the generosity of your friendship, the enormous heart you bring to making our world that much better for those that need it most, and most of all I am grateful that our friendship will remain and grow. Kingston is very lucky to be getting you and you will be missed here in London.