As Published in The Bridge for Nov. 2020.
By: Dustin Stern – Building Roots Director
Recently, I was in a conversation on Instagram with a devastated young local business owner.
I started following the shop after stumbling in one day and learning about the owners’ philosophy that an artist is merely one who creates. Whether you’ve had years of success in the fashion industry or just last year discovered the healing powers of pottery and got inspired to now want to spread your shiny, pottery-shaped love, the owners would be willing to put your creations on shelf. I was touched by this, and devastated to hear of the loss of the shop.
I am waiting to hear test results from a loved one I was in brief contact with who was exposed to Covid-19, and therefore may have infected me. Home in isolation since the encounter, I do not think my risk was high, but it still terrifies me. All the people they might have infected, all the people their infector might have infected – you know the thought process.
This is all so messy. People call 2020 a horrible year, but I argue it’s as messy as it is merciless. So many firsts, so much change. The horribleness of 2020 is indisputable, so instead I focus on the messy.
Messy is uncomfortable, but no change was ever created from within “the comfort zone”. Push sometimes comes to shove whether we like it or not, and falling hurts, but it’s also how we learn to get back up. Perhaps if we’re smart, we can learn how to plant our feet and situate ourselves so the next time we won’t fall down when shoved.
For example, we could change our public perception of harm reduction initiatives and enact better laws around drug use, so that next time the city (or the world) goes into crisis, we don’t see an unprecedented spike in fatal overdoses.
We could ensure access to affordable, dignified housing for all, so it doesn’t take city parks filling up with an upsetting number of unhoused Torontonians for us to realize we are in a housing crisis that is not going away.
Speaking from my experience with Building Roots – a local grassroots organization that works collaboratively with just about every community agency and social enterprise in Moss Park (including the bridge, our proud partner and collaborator since its launch), and, most important, being on the ground hearing directly from those most vulnerable to the virus and its social implications – it’s clear that the answer is going to be found in cooperation.
Perhaps it is merely the circles I am grateful to find myself in, or being situated in the inspiringly resilient and beautiful Moss Park community, but for every story of an oversized pantry jam-packed with the local grocery store’s remaining stock of toilet paper, I can offer you three about the power of togetherness that could move you to tears.
People have found a million and one new ways to connect, to make one another smile, to ensure that no one goes hungry and that no one gets left behind. Speaking for myself, this community I have found in Building Roots and in Moss Park – people from walks of life I’ve never known existed, and displays of kindness I’d never have imagined – have made 2020 not merely a year of disaster, but ultimately a story of hope.
Thank you to all of my neighbours in Moss Park, housed and unhoused. We will get through this – and the next challenge, and the next – facing up to and taking action on our vulnerabilities, doing it together, and becoming more resilient and vibrant with each challenge we overcome.