Day 6 – Saturday Virus Coffee Special

close up photo of coffee on table

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov on

Gotta say I am thrilled my daughter is not in school anymore. The thought of her going into those school hallways and classrooms would have had me feeling very anxious. But I don’t have to make that choice though sadly many of you do. Our governments have made this a lot easier, have they? Across Canada, there is a variety of approaches, none of which particularly install confidence.

Here in my adopted Ontario, Doug Ford has come out with a plan that has been roundly criticized by the Toronto School Board and by Sick Kids Hospital. Not a great signs of a winning strategy. Also, the need to open up the rest of the economy seems to be precipitous. I’m not convinced we’re through the first danger far enough yet to start opening everything back up, and yes I know that our economy has been brutalized. Still, I’d rather see a closed business than a life lost.

Add to all this the misinformation that comes out every day from that trusted news source Facebook friends. It’s no wonder people are confused and feeling uncertain. Yesterday someone who was in high school with me, who you would think would know better, sent me a private message with a news story insisting that the WHO had changed its mind about Carona Virus and it wasn’t contagious at all ! And now the WHO was being muzzled from telling the truth.



What I don’t understand is why so many people buy this kind of deliberate misinformation. With just 5 minutes using the goole, you will find the story debunked, verifiable sources for true information, and a host of stories about how this kind of pernicious mistelling of the truth damages our democracy. Yet there’s an old high school classmate blithely serving up a great big serving of self-delusion and misinformation.

Look the thing is I can be both cynical, in terms of school and business opening, and be for factual and accurate information. I don’t have to go over to crackpot theories to feel vindicated in my thinking. You don’t have to either. We should be able to hold two simultaneous points of view from slightly different perspectives.

In the end, what I say, and really what you say, matters not a wit. The government will do what they feel is best and everyone else will, or will not, obey safe distancing and mask-wearing. There will be decent people believing conspiracies and misinformation. Me? I’m going to enjoy the tomatoes growing in my back yard, wear a mask when in public, and cynically look at the information that comes my way. The only other choice is to listen to the conspiracists, and that does not serve my time or focus.

So onward and outward (inward?) friends. Saturday awaits, and so does my morning coffee. But you know did hear that the coffee plantations are using aliens to……….

Day Three – Left To Our Own Devices


black metal framed glass window

In the town where I live, I am often very lonely. I don’t have a lot of friends here and don’t see the ones I do have very often. There are some very concrete reasons for my absenting myself from friends and why I am often lonely. This town encourages loneliness, and many, many, many people have told me how difficult they find it making friends here. But this loneliness is not only about my town but also about your town ans the fact that loneliness not only happens here but happens everywhere in such massive numbers that I think it will effect our near and long term future.

I am sure you’ve read about the plague of loneliness that has gripped the western world. I am sure you’re aware of how exasperated that is with the arrival of this virus. It further strips people of any connections they have to other people, and the result is more isolation without any hope of connections to other people. I had read somewhere recently that there has been a huge increase over the last 5 years to help lines and that the volunteers who work those lines have regulars who call every day because that is the only connection to the world they have. Did you know that loneliness can lead to an increase of 30% in early death? I didn’t, but it makes sense to me. So those people who are calling helplines as their only source of social connection are more likely to die because of how alone in the world they are. Doesn’t that break your heart?

In Japan, the lonely and self-isolating are called Hikikomori. Japan has an official number of 1.15 million Hikikomori but experts tell us that this number is more likely 10 million. These people purposely withdraw from society. They are so hurt or bewildered by the world around them that they withdraw from all contact. Shutting themselves up in their apartments, never leaving. Many times they only come out when neighbours complain of smells and authorities investigate finding these poor individuals have died. I think I understand some of the reasons people become Hikikomori. The depths of their pain and hurt must be so extreme that they would rather not see anyone. Ever.

Why I am sharing all this with you? Well because I don’t think about this issue very often and am sure many of you never give it much thought either. More importantly, I want you to consider how we got to the point where people have to call helplines in order not to feel lonely. How did it come to pass that there is such an epidemic of loneliness that it is reported in the planets major newspapers as a substantial public health issue..

I believe that this global loneliness is also linked with the rise in bullying, loss of civility, our inability to see past our own point of view, and growing seeming indifference to one another. We humans are changing friends. We seem to be more lonely, less able to see opportunities for understanding and collaboration, and hardened and indifferent to the suffering that is growing around us.

I am not sure we can change the course we are on, and I would like to leave you with a typically hopeful ending to this kind of blog, but I am not sure I can. I know I am lonely, and I know you are likely alone as well. Both of us knowing this, we don’t seem to be able to connect and change the course of that isolation. So will we become a world of Hikikomori? This may be how many people end up. Unable to cope with the shattered world around them. I hope not, but I am unsure if we collectively have a heart big enough to overcome this and the rest of our problems.

I will look out my window, watch, and see what happens.

My Friend Steve (In Memoriam)


There are some people you meet in your life that become a kind of reference for the place you live, the times you have, and the triumphs and failures you go through. My friend Steve was one of these people for me.

I had come in contact with Steve before I moved to London. In 1999 my brother and I were talking in that kind of half serious/half joking way of creating an internet service provider company. So when moving to London became a fast reality I reached out to The London Economic Development Corporation ( LEDC) and it was Steve who replied. 

Frankly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I was talking about, but with the bravura that comes with being in my 20’s, I bulled ahead. When I arrived in London in December of 1999, Steve, with his usual grace and charm, invited my wife and I over for diner. Fortunately for us Steve, his wife Sharon, and his brilliant son Jeff had some people in common with us. The Longstaff’s. Kip and her sons, Nic and Michael, had a long standing relationship with The Glickman’s and on that December evening my wife and I arrived and began an 18 year relationship with the Glickman’s.

Jeff and I created plays together, had serious long talks about art, and I have had the joy of being a part of his work as a film maker. Sharon has always been generous with her time and expertise in design, and my wife Heather always made sure Sharon got our year end newsletter. But then there is Steve. My reference for my time in London.

Steve was there during the struggles and triumphs we’ve had with our daughter Erynn. Steve was there when , with my gifted friend Jennifer Wigmore, we created the Theatre Arts program at Fanshawe – Steve sat on the first advisory committee. Steve was there to see some of the plays i directed and preformed in. Steve was there during my time with Emerging Leaders, always encouraging me and always supportive. Steve was there with Sharon when we bought our home and quietly suggested i needed a good stereo and helped me choose one at his business, London Audio. 

Steve was there with thoughtful advise on the many times I fell flat on my face and had few friends. Steve was there. That’s the point. Steve was there to introduce me to London, to make a family from out west feel welcome in a new town, to show me the good places to eat in town, to introduce me around, to offer his wisdom and insight, to share his sharp and riotous wit when we sat together, and …well …to be Steve.

About a year ago I received an email from Sharon. Steve wasn’t doing to well and things were difficult, but Sharon was very grateful for our year-end newsletter and wanted to let me know how Steve was doing. Steve had Alzheimer’s. 

I asked if i could come and spend time with my old friend and over the course of the next year I was blessed by the time I had with him. 

Steve was born and grew up and married in Montreal. He went to University there and like many others decided his new family needed to leave that city and find opportunities elsewhere. London is where he came, and with his family, created London Audio. Steve served on many Boards in our community including Kings and at The Grand Theatre. He gave back to his community again and again and in so doing quietly added to the tensile strength of our forested city.

During this last year he memorialized his life in Montreal and London with me. He would tell me again and again of the accomplishments of his sons and how deeply proud he was of them. He told me of his childhood on the streets of Montreal and of his early married life with a brilliant young wife. He would share with me his philosophies of business – you must make sure the customer always gets what’s right for them. He shared his thoughts on politics and religion and the deep admiration and fondness he had for his friends and colleagues. 

My most cherished memory of this past year though is sitting quietly, no words needing to be spoken, and listening to music. We would sit for a few hours and listen to his favourite album, K.D. Langs Songs Of The 49th Parallel. Sometimes I would play my ukulele and sing for him and sometimes we would sit and talk. It was… very good. 

In his last week of life we was hospitalized and I would go and visit him to spell off Sharon or Jeff for a short time. I would sit and play K.D. Lang and just be with him. I was with there the day he died. Jeff and Sharon had left for a quick bite and so I sat and played his favourite music and offered what comfort I could. We spent two hours together . Me holding his hand and him, eyes closed, listening to his music. I left at around 4:30 p.m. that day. Picked up my wife from work, went home and ate some supper. It was 90 minutes later that Sharon let me know he had died with Jeff and her next to him. 

His funeral was a triumph of a life well lived. His three sons lionized their father with humour, honesty, and deep love. London came out and marked the passing of someone who made a difference to our little city, not with flash and spectacle, but with quiet service and dignity. And his friends, those of years, and those of his life in business , came and shared the grief of his passing. 

For me Steve’s funeral marked something else though. It marked my time in this city and pointed to a way of being and engaging – a way I have often failed at. It pointed to the loyalty of friendships long developed, it pointed to the strength of serving community, and it pointed to the pleasure of living a life well.

It was a privilege to know Steve. From my first moments in this city to his last moments among us. It was an honour to spend time with him in his last year. It was a joy to hear him telling me the stories of his life and it was with pride I watched his family, friends, and community honour his life. Thank you Steve for your generosity of spirit, your warm and joyful wit, and for allowing me to be a small part of your life for the last 18 years. I have been marked by our time together and will carry your examples with me in my heart.

Thank you dear friend

Rest In Peace.


The Hard Work of Love; Happy Valentines Heather


I don’t want to talk about chocolates and hearts and romantic dinners. I don’t want talk about moonlit walks or handholding on the beach . Those are other people’s ideas of romance and love that aren’t really what happens. No, I want to talk about the hard work of love, the day after day , ongoing , never-ending , one thing after another work of love. Love is hard work and it is work that never ever ends.

Love is about being woken up at 6 in the morning and hearing about the worries she has. Love is about seeing her being mad at you for something stupid you did and standing there and taking it because she’s right. Love is about going to see her parents year after year and not understanding where they are coming from and growing to love them.

Love is about the arguments about what to do when your kid goes of the rails, and is about what to do when there’s not enough money. It’s about making her laugh when you don’t want to laugh and is about caring the laundry from the basement when you just want to sit and watch your show.

It’s about picking her up from work for 202 years cause she refuses to get a licence and about hearing all about the minutiae, really listening, when your brain is stuck on a meeting you had at work three hours earlier. It’s about vacations where you see her overwhelmed with the memory of the place she thought it would be,  and seeing it live up to that expectation. it’s about arguing about the state of the world and about listening for the 10 millionth time about her tiny house obsession.

Love is about staying in the conversation and the argument and the laughter and the expectations and fears and the hope and the pure joy of seeing things we’ve worked on for years and years finally, finally, finally get some where. Love is the long game when you’d sometimes rather have the coach call in someone else to take your place. Love is about the pure pig-headed stubbornness to never ever give up on her and her on you. It is so much more than a box of candies or a card or a dinner. It is what love is about and that love goes on for years and years and carries you both through times of despair and times of laughter.

This is the heart of our romance. So happy Valentines Day Heather, I love you.

A little ragged

There are places we inhabit again and again and things we do again and again in a kind of dervish dance to distract ourselves from the the tempo of our lives. We do this  when no one is looking. Happens all the time. How many times do you watch a five minute, or less, video? Or, like a crack addicted marmoset, cheek your phone in a frenzied feedback loop to assure yourself that you matter, feel connected, and in the know. 


The result for me is a kind of intellectual tiredness. So much so that it feels often like I am literally throwing a switch so that I can engage. So I can be creative. 

The problem  in doing is that his I feel like I am depleting a resource that is finite. A resource that I really need. So in order to conserve, I inhabit the routine of checking in and in so doing end up checking out. And you know when your reach the checkout you have to pay for what you bought.

So I go back in to the store and argue in nanosecond narratives on places that no one will remember in 10 or 5 or even 1 year. It’s a kind of addictive distraction routine that i feel I must do in order to feel contacted to others. Bu that place is a discordant echo chamber where not one person knows how to sing in four part harmony.

You can, if you’re so inclined, turn it all off or inhabit the moment or be present or…..well you get the idea. But for me those are as false as the place I currently inhabit because they are about distracting yourself in whole new ways. It’s also a little about feeling just a smidge superior to those who don’t.  So what to do?

And there it is. It’s because I feel I must be doing something of substance. Something meaningful, Something that will leave a mark or let people know I am here and would love a minute of your time to mix with a minute of my time. But who are we kidding? It isn’t even a minute. We’d be lucky to get 30 uninterrupted seconds before something else popped up and become yours and my focus.

I’m not sure we were made to inhabit this current state. I think that we came about from a much slower process than that we have today. And because of that we’ve ended up in a kind on spiritual, emotional, and material cup de sac. Going faster and faster without seeming to get anywhere, and what’s really sad is that we know this is the case but don’t have any way of doing something about it on a scale that allows us to feel all together. We’ve gotten quite a bit worse at not being able to do something about it.

Now i hear some of you saying “we need to get back to community the way it used to be. To belong to clubs and organizations so you can feel a part of it all”. But i’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. I feel this way because those places ,where in times past, we felt we could belong were an organic thing. They came out of the values of those times. Churches are a great example of this.

It used to be that most people went to church, whether you believed in God or not, because that was a place we had in common. It was a place where everyone knew where to go to and what we were supposed to do together. Today however our own cynicism in institutions precludes us from even walking in the door. Politics is another great example. It is no accident that we turn up to the polling station in fewer and fewer numbers to add our voice to the collective. Is it any wonder that this experience is so coated in cynicism, media, and disappointment that it becomes a worthless endeavour to so many of us before even the thought of casting a ballot enters our head? No . It seems a perfectly logical choice at the end of a distracted chain of events.

All of this bellyflops us into an ocean that’s a millennia wide and an inch deep. 

So again what to do?

I don’t know friends. But I do know that this is grownup work and that it requires serious, serious thought and then even more serious effort. We won’t turn off the millisecond distractions of our lives but there is a growing desire for the authenticity while we continue to manufacture its very opposite. This desire feels to me like an ever-increasing rumble in our collective consciousness that we will sooner or later be forced to recognize and act on. I’m actually very confident that we will. But until then I am tired, distracted, unsure, and my creative well is in danger of running a little dry. So i’ll write this and hand it off to someone else for a little while before it’s passed back and I pass it on to someone else and it gets passed back again like some kind of communal version of a hot potato. Don’t think I am giving up here or am not optimistic for our chances. I am very optimistic and have no plans of tossing in any towels. But I am a little ragged around the edges so I hope you won’t mind me going home, sitting a spell, and maybe pull out the scissors and do a little trimming.

In the mean time have you seen this great video on…..but of course you have,


This last Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking at Ignite London. Ignite is a series of talks presented by people from the community with ideas about which they are passionate. The format of the talks is simple. Five minutes and twenty slides auto advanced every fifteen seconds to make your point. The format is straight forward but the work in getting there, well not so simple.

My talk was about the power of community to use social media and the web to share ideas but how there is trouble translating this to a focused local effort in London.

The reason it was hard to get to the point where I could make that presentation wasn’t because of the writing or the slides but in the experiences I had to have and the work I had to put in order to get to the point where I could write it. This is true for anyone who cares passionately about something and the drive that builds within them to share that passion with the people around them. My passion is for community.

For me it has been a strange journey from the privilege of creating and teaching art to  personal and family struggles to advocacy to work in a non-profit to friendships developed along the way to my latest job as an executive director and my work with a group of citizens eager to change the world. All those experiences culminated in a five minute presentation to a group of people who mostly did not who I was or how my journey led me to that moment and how that has culminating in this writing.

The reason I am sharing this with you is that I want you to imagine the billions of other journeys that have led or will lead to similar moments around the world. A farmer in India or an engineer in Israel or a teacher in Kenya or a mother in the Ukraine or a nurse in Turkey or a homeless person in Arizona. All of these people have had a series of moments that led them to the moments of culmination in which something has happened. Something small and human or something monumental and world-changing and every one of those paths are connected to our own in some small or large way. That is miraculous. That all of these lives on this tiny blue orb in this vast universe continue to cross each others paths and culminate in moments that we all have in common.

I am comforted by that. Comforted by the knowledge that there are billions of others on a journey that has common cause with mine. The common cause of life that I can share and help or be helped on my journey through life . We have opportunities to offer and receive that is the result of the culmination of our experiences that lead us to that moment. That moment of connection.That moment of sharing our story. That moment of comfort.

Think of that as you go about your day. Your life culminates continuously in the opportunity to share your story and to offer and receive comfort from your fellow human beings. I live in a world of wonder and woe but am grateful to be sharing that with all of you. Am grateful to be able to offer and receive.

City of Opportunity II – I speak as a Londoner


Councilor White in the previous Blog Post to this asked a question at the beginning. She asked ” Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED?”  Respectfully I have never claimed publicly nor privately to speak for Glen Cairn Centre or on behalf of Emerging Leaders who is my current employer. I ask Councilor White that when she called my previous employer and current employer Friday to complain about me was she speaking as a City Councilor or as someone who works for Children Aid Society or as a Private Citizen? Does she represent the City of London Council when she handles a CAS case? Does she represent CAS when she speaks at council? Or is she or any other Londoner allowed to speak out when they see something they disagree with?

I have never once spoken on behalf of Emerging Leaders or Glen Cairn Centre here or on Facebook, and would never do so, without express permission. The problem becomes when this happens it has a chilling effect on free speech and citizen engagement. But so be it, I can not be silent, even if it has personal consequences for me and my family.

Councilor White and the Mayor have made some points in defending their position. But the heart of the matter remains and while both of them and others have direct experience with people in poverty and Londoners with mental health issues so do I both within my family and amongst many friends. I have advocated my entire life both privately and publicly on behalf of those who are most often left behind because it affects my life and the life of my City, Province, and Country.

Mayor Fontana had posted the following in response to the outcry on the cuts to affordable housing, he did this on Facebook and I post it here unedited and in it’s entirety:

With a reduction in the contribution into the Affordable Housing Program, we will be shifting our approach to affordable housing. Right now there are a number of vacant units out there and a lot of individuals and families who need them. Instead of focusing on building all new units, our focus is shifting to filling existing units and entering into public private partnerships to convert exisiting spaces (like commercial space no longer being used as commercial space) into affordable housing. It’s a different approach, but it’s still a good approach and we will be able to increase the number of people we can help. London has done incredible unique things and we will continue to do so.

Affordable HousingThe reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.Changes were made to legislation January 1, 2012. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds: 
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. 
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding. 
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects. 

Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of:
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)

Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes.”

I think there are a couple of key points here to pay close attention to and to understand more fully and to seek clarification on.  I notice in this post the Mayor states ” a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.” . Notice some important words here?  An emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term? This will mean an increase in temporary housing and not permanent housing.

It’s important to note this as well: “While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. ” .  Fewer rental units and more short term or temporary housing.
What we need to recognize here is that we are in every case reducing the number of permanent homes as a means to achieve a 0% tax increase. We also need to understand there is an 8+ year waiting list for permanent housing and while moving more families into temporary housing may be attractive in the short term we will in fact be delaying the issue at the expense of those most vulnerable and  sadly who is to say that that temporary housing budget will be there in a year or 3 years or 5.
We also need to understand the economic as well as the human impact of this cut. Abe Oudshoorn ,a recognized voice in homelessness and housing issues, wrote in his blog “this means that the $1M cut to the Housing Reserve Fund represents a potential $8M loss, or at $140,000 per unit, 57 units of affordable housing not built.  Each new unit also represents 2 person years of full-time employment.
Abe goes on to say ” affordable housing represents a much cheaper way to house people who are experiencing homelessness.  Housing an individual in shelter costs $1,450 per month, jail costs $140 per day, psychiatric acute care costs $650 per day, and acute care inpatient over $1,000 daily.  These statistics are clearly outlined in your Council-approved London Community Housing Strategy.  Therefore, putting money into housing up-front saves us much greater costs down the line.You can read the whole post here
Councilor Joni Baechler wrote on her Facebook page ” In My Opinion
Some members of council indicated they support the cut in Affordable Housing by $ 1Million because of the “Mayor’s plan” presented to committee yesterday. To be clear, there was NO plan presented. The Mayor simply outlined how he would divert the Affordable Housing $’s. What may have been missed by some councillors was the “KEY MESSAGE” from staff on the briefing note which states: “The reduced funding from the Program will result in a STRATEGIC SHIFT from the creation of a MAXIMUM number of PERMANENT units to an emphasis on creating shorter term TEMPORARY housing MEASURES”. The plan presented is a significant divergence from the Council adopted COMMUNITY HOUSING STRATEGY. Staff DID NOT recommend the budget cut in this area.As a result of this cut, we will not be able to leverage the same $$’s in order to meet our housing targets ($20 M in municipal housing dollars has leveraged $140 M from other sources). We will construct 75 less units per year which results in the loss of 72 associated jobs. The “temporary plan” does not address the housing crisis as year after year we will fall further behind.The cut to Affordable Housing is permanent. It will temporarily solve a fiscal shortfall on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community
Important in what Councilor Baechler states is that Staff recommended against these cuts and that we will not be able to leverage these dollars and we will construct 75 less units per year.
So despite assertions to the contrary we are left with the same terrible loss at the expense of those that can afford it the least, but if we can focus and share our concerns with Council and the Mayor for just one week ,as so many on twitter and email and by phone have, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince a thoughtful Councilor or a thoughtful Mayor to change their vote and end this tragedy and begin to create a city of opportunity for everyone.

Day 364 2011

I have been thinking, as one is want to do at this time of year, on the previous 12 months and reflecting. I am fortunate in that my family is healthy and we are safe and sound and together which is no mean feat in these times of collapses, fall offs, and cutbacks. We remain solvent emotionally. We still like being together.


So last year began with my work continuing at Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre which is without a doubt the best place I have ever worked. My colleagues, including my brilliant and thoughtful boss  Barb Schust-Lawrence, have at all times been supportive, inquisitive, and we are always open enough with each other to ask difficult questions without the feeling of being attacked. Politics amongst us has never raised its ugly head and that is due to the dedication we each have to working in a community that is often left behind and the brilliant cooperative leadership that Barb uses.

In April there was a radical shift in my work responsibilities as funding was cut to my position and my hours were reduced to half time. This was hard for me but was equally as difficult in retrospect for my fellow team mates. This meant a lot of reorganization and I thought at first that I needed to move on but somehow that never seemed to happen. The Board and Barb were always supportive and would often have projects for me that were important to me personally and to the community as a whole.


Another shift, this one a much easier one, for me was the many new friendships I have formed in the last year. I became active on Twitter and because of that started getting involved more in the wider community.  I attended podcamp, an un-conference on podcasting, in the spring and because of that joined the Unlab.  That led directly to my cohost, the thoughtful and always interested, Stuart Clark and I creating This Week in London Tweets Podcast. The podcast is a weekly show that covers what’s on the minds of the London twitter community and has provided the opportunity to meet and interview some really interesting and engaged people in our forested city. I am looking forward to this next year to see where this show goes and how it evolves.

Also I met Ed Jackman (@edjackman). If you are at all on twitter and keep an eye on the London scene you will have seen Ed. Ed and I meet at the first City Symposium, the brain child of James Shelley – another on the go and engaged Londoner whom I am proud to know, and we fell into a conversation that seems to continue and evolve. Ed is one of those people who decides, much like James, to do something and then it happens. From his social media company, The Jackman Group, to his involvement with the London photo scene to Untrepreneurs, Ed is interested and involved and is continually building relationships. I am fortunate to have him as a friend.

I cannot fail to mention some other folks who I have gotten to know over the last year as well. Ronny (@ronnyxu) is someone who called me up for some info on mental health for a friend of his. Since that first meeting Ronny and I have gotten to know each other better and I am always impressed that he continues to meet his challenges (and that of others) with courage and caring. Let me also mention Ed Platero (film maker of London), Kevin van Lierop ( community ninja!), Laura Shelby (London’s Grace Kelly), Abe Oudshoorn ( a man who continually illuminates the issues around homelessness and poverty), Bill Deys ( one of the unlondon/unlab founders), Broderick and Scott ( owners of Kowrok), Titus Ferguson (Another unlondon/unlab founder and geek convenor), Chris Moss ( social enterprise goddess and supporter of all things community) , Donnie Claudino ( Artist ), Marty Leveque ( Anglican Minister and all around cool guy), Mike Battista ( AKA Phronk – one of the best creative writers I’ve met in a long time), Mike Marsman ( someone who I should have gotten to know sooner!), Kevin Labonte ( Green Party Candidate and stand-up guy), Derek Silva ( entrepreneur and supporter of TWILT), James Wilkinson ( force for chaos and joy), Rachel and Andy Berdan ( smart creative arts types – I like them), Ian Gifford ( the man who brought Q to London), Karen Shulman-Dupuis ( super smart social media maven and defender of good), Joel C Adams ( the man who oversees the operations of London`s most exciting tech incubator and godfather of the London Lawn), Kevin Dixon ( the Dean of London’s Anglican Cathedral and a man who is trying to shift some serious mountains), and Jo-Anne Bishop ( Pollyanna extraordinaire)

Also there`s Shawn Adamson (@late2game) who is one of the owners of rtraction ( a digital design company with a soul) who continues to ask the hard questions that need to be asked and has a heart that’s all about making things better for his fellow Londoners. Add to this London’s coolest individual, Jodi Simpson(@jodisimpson) Shawn’s partner and  one of the most thoughtful people in the city when it comes to issues small and large and I have found myself a wealth of new acquaintances and friendships.

I must mention also Don Seymour. Don is one of those people when I met him that I felt I had known him along time. Don is the Executive Director of WOTCH, a community mental health agency, who has taken the organization through some hard times and come out the other side stronger and better equipped to meet future challenges. In the mental health arena there are people who “Get it” and people who don’t. Don not only gets it but he advocates for people who often have no advocate. I’m proud to call him my friend.

Then there’s Glen Pearson. Glen and I got to know each other over twitter and then he invited me to meet. Since that time we have developed a deepening friendship. Glen was my former member of parliament, the very least of his accomplishments, and founded the London Food Bank. He and his wife also worked hard in Sudan to help to end slavery there and to bring about the creation of two new countries. North and South Sudan. He and his brilliant wife Jane adopted 3 wonderful children from that war ravaged country and we are all better for it. I am grateful for his friendship and our work together.


Another strong theme for me in 2011 was Community. Interesting word that, Community.  One of its definitions is – “ a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule”.  The rule that seemed to evolve from the conversations and friendships that I developed this last year was do good. Now this may seem overly simplistic or even smack of jingoism but when you think about it it rings of truth and common sense.

I have always been heavily involved with issues like mental health, through my family’s journey, and poverty, through the work I do, but something interesting happened this fall. Occupy London coalesced around the issues of income inequality and the lack of power we seem to have in our political and economic wellbeing.  I was familiar and had worked on many of these issues in the past so there was a natural affinity for me with this group. I went down to Victoria Park with a group of friends to meet the folks who decided to stake out their tents on some important issues but shortly thereafter our City Council evicted the Occupy London from the park. From this Glen was approached by the City to open a dialogue with the Occupiers. So he asked James Shelley, Myself, and Kevin Dixon, to come with him down to the park to make the offer. This, needless to say, was rejected and I understand why. What happened after that though has become one of the most meaningful things I have ever worked on. Glen was asked by City Council, through councillor Joni Baechler and with the support of Ross Fair, to ask for citizens input on the Social Assistance Review Committee. I’ve written about that here. We have so far held the first public meeting, under the auspices of City Symposium, earlier in December. I great number of people came out to learn about the income gap and what we’re doing and where we need to go. Our next two events will happen in January and we’re asking our fellow Londoners to learn how the most disadvantaged live and what we can do to change this uneven the playing field to a game that is fair for everyone.


The forth theme has been family. I have spent some wonderful time with my Mom and step dad fishing and laughing and being a family – something which I often need. My “little girl” turns 16 years old this January and I am constantly amazed at her imagination and ideas and I am grateful that she has inherited that absurd sense of humour I have – she’s one of the few people in the world that get my jokes. Then there is of course my wife of seventeen years, Heather. She is the anchor around which our family is connected to where we need to be and what we should care about and what we should let go. The three of us got to go to New York this fall and I am grateful that we got to experience so much art, and music, and Big Apple together with our old friends Andy and Aimee.  We’re a strong Family and we continue to be strong through the connections we strengthen to each other and build to the community around us.

DAY 364

So in reflecting on the previous 364 I have to say that it has been an outstanding year and I am a very lucky man for the riches I receive every day in my work, my friends, and my family. To all of you Happy New Year. If in reflecting at the end of 2012 I am a quarter as fortunate as I have been in the last year I will count myself lucky and raise a cup of cheer to you all in thanks for what I have.

Imperfect Me

Why is it one day I am so deeply dissatisfied with where I live and what my influence is on this place I cohabit with my fellow Londoners but the next am deeply moved by what someone is doing or the potential of an idea that someone shares with me? Is it because I am fickle? Is it because I don’t have a faith? Is it because I never see something through to its logical or illogical conclusion? Is it from lack of attention span? Or maybe it’s because I want things to change at a fundamental level be that education, civic engagement, art, or the care we take of one another, and I want to believe that is possible and I try and I believe but sometimes the more things “change” the more they stay the same.

I see that the stats about the failure of our education system and the sickening gap between the wealthiest and the poorest and friends I want to walk off and say  to hell with it all. I give up. I see the poverty of people where I work and live and the un-human way they are treated by the people who are supposed to help them and I want to say to hell with it all. I give up. I see the way we treat objects and things with the more worth and reverence that we treat each other, and yes i am guilty, and I want to say to hell with it all. I give up. I see people being elected to represent us but are representing money or ambition or their friends or themselves, and i want to say to hell with it all. I give up. I see no one letting someone else ahead of them in a line up and I want to say to hell with it.I GIVE UP.

A but then, and here’s the rub friend, but then I see a moment of such heart-rending beauty that I want to shout and point and say this is it. I will not give up. Or I see someone take someone else by the hand or offer a kind word and i want to shout and point and say this is it. i will not give up. Or I see a mother with her child in circumstance that are so cruelly bad but they still succeed and I want to shout this is it. I will not give up. Or I hear an idea, some idea, some simple perfect idea that is completely mad yet I want to believe and I shout this is it. I WILL NOT GIVE UP.

We are imperfect. We are cruel. We are destructive. But we have so much … potential…I have to believe. I have to believe we can make this a better …place… Because to not to is too painful. Too bleak. To…unrealized. it’s Imperfect

On Boxes,Community, and Curiosity.

Imagine you walk into a room and in this room you discover a lot of boxes. Now these boxes come in different shapes and different sizes, but each one of them is interesting in and of themselves. Some boxes are bright and have interesting patterns. Some of the boxes are finely crafted and have the patina of age. Some of the boxes are very plain-looking.

Now imagine that you begin to open some of these boxes and you find amazing things. You find plans and music and objects of beauty and art and, and, and, … What’s interesting about these boxes is that somehow each one of them  is connected to every other box in the room and that each have something in common . What’s the thing they have in common? Well to explain that we need to step out of the world of metaphor.

Recently I made a conscious decision to begin to communicate more with my wider community. There was someone I knew and had had a number of meaningful conversations with over the years but we never saw each other regularly. What I did do though was to consciously find a tool that I could keep up with the things he was doing. That tool was twitter.

So I began to pay attention to what he was talking about online and watching the responses he got. I then began to engage with some but not all of the people he was communicating with. At the same time I made an effort to look online for people in my city who were doing things I found interesting or meaningful or inspiring. Again I would use twitter to throw out a comment on their work or thoughts.

Critically I also began to write about and share the things I found meaningful in my life, my community, and in my digital and real life wanderings. The result was that the people I was communicating with tangentially began to comment on what I was doing and eventually I began to invite some of them to participate in some of my work.

I then began to go to attend a few events, meet a few people, and that led to the most important thing. Conversation. Conversation is important for me because it’s where I get to test out my ideas and be influenced by others and their thoughts. It is the essence of engagement and engagement builds community. I have now the beginnings of a broader community and from that I began to join with others in my city to act on the things we care about; Civics, social justice, just doing something fun, or doing something just for the sake of doing it.

For a while I thought “wow this social media thing is world changing” and in some ways it is but there’s an ingredient missing. You can buy the most beautifully well-crafted tools in the world and admire them and polish them and put them under glass but unless you take them out and use them then they are just useless objects. The tool I am talking about though is not Twitter. The tool decided to take out and brush the dust from is one everybody on the planet has…Curiosity. I decided to use my curiosity tool to provide a means to connect to the where I live. I used my curiosity to make a key to open the room to find the beautiful boxes which I opened up to discover my wider community.

There are other tools you can use as well. Creativity is something that everyone in the world has as well and is a tool I use every day. We all have these tools. We all live in a community. Maybe we should use one to help make the other.