Sunday, May 27, 2018

My, how we laugh.

I'm not the kind of guy
Who dresses like a king
And a really fine pair of shades
Means everything
And the light that blinds my eyes
Shines from you

Life's not a drag.

Iggy Pop,  Shades, from the album Blah Blah Blah, written by Iggy Pop, produced by David Bowie

(with thanks to T and WD 40 for making me whole)

We laugh today. We laugh and we and burp. We laugh until tears swell and then we laugh more, and more yet.  We are irreverent in our love. 

We show affection through humiliation.

We open our hearts and we show our vulnerabilities and fears. And then we laugh and we tease.  I am Cotton Man in that moment of perfection, the moment that is now lost, never to be relived, but always to be reimagined. 

We run on beautiful trails through a sea of ferns and old forest elm trees, three-hugs thick.  Winding trail. Endless trails that shelter us from storm. 

Three of us run and we walk and we laugh.

We speak of benevolence. 

We speak of higher order. 

We share books and music. 

We speak of relegion and parents and the collateral damage.

We speak of and colonialism and Truth and Reconciliation.

And we reflect.

And we laugh.

My, how we laugh.

And then we laugh more.

We run 22 km, one runs an extra loop because he suffers more.  

Some are tired and need to walk. We work it out. No one person ever left alone.

My friends, it is such a gorgeous day to be alive. I hope your day was lived in laughter and with friends.

We laugh.

We rise higher in our thought and belief.

We clarify our thinking. 

We define ourselves through movement.

We we run while we can.

We run.

We ran.

It's a good day to be alive.


Monday, May 21, 2018


Red means run son, 
numbers add up to nothing.

Neil Young, Powder Finger.

Charles Paul Bennett, my father.
Buddy, our dog.
When I was a young man, freshly minted teaching certificate in hand,  I was offered a full contract to teach in Norway House Cree Nation.  I was hesitant to accept this contract so I consulted my father.  I paraphrase his response as his actual words are lost in time yet the memory lingers strong:

You know what it's like to live in Winnipeg.  Surely you're tired with the South End. You should learn to live in other worlds.

And I did.  And I am grateful.

I learned of privilege during my three years in Norway House Cree Nation.

My father, Charles was born at St. Boniface Hospital on May 20, 1919 and died at St. Boniface Hospital on January 24, 2000. He's in my thoughts these days.

His was an imperfect circle of birth, life, adventure, science, work, love, family, redemption, death.

Imperfect, yet lovely.  Who among us has a perfect family circle?  We exist despite our scars and skeletons.  We thrive in our imperfection. We are human.

Some are privileged.

Some are not.

It was 1986 and my life experience couldn't fill a thimble.

I asked my grade two class to line up for recess. I stroked Clayton's head to show affection, to say good job Clayton, you are special, I acknowledge your good behaviour.

Clayton's life was not of privilege. His was a life of violence and unpredictability. He knew not of love, not of permanence, not of family. His life experience collided full on with mine and the collision was powerful.

The explosion of our paths altered my life trajectory and helped shape my person.

His head dived to avoid the expected slap for that is what he knows. A touch to the head hurts. Affection is alien. Sudden movements are dangerous.

Red means run, son.
Numbers add up to nothing.

In this moment I understand privilege and I think of my father's words... you should learn to live in other worlds.

And I have. And I am grateful.

I am grateful for my father's wisdom.  I am grateful for Norway House Cree Nation.

I am grateful for Clayton, for he taught me the meaning of privilege.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

West Broadway Youth Outreach, 5-ish Fun Run

We are not running with the ghosts of the dead
We are alive
With the spirit of our passion

Michael Franti, Passion

On your mark, get set, GO!
Start line, West Broadway Youth Outreach, 5-isk km Run
photo credit Community News Common
To say Ken Opaleke is passionate about the West Broadway Youth Outreach centre is to compare a candle to a stick of dynamite. The candle flickers while the dynamite is incendiary.  Ken is the latter.

Ken is original director of the West Broadway Youth Outreach. He's never taken a sick day in his 27 years at the helm. He refers to his deceased grandmother, Naomi Sullivan, as his spirit guide and credits her unconditional love with the success he has achieved.  His love of this often maligned community is immeasurable. The children he serves sees him as a lighthouse to navigate the rough waters of West Broadway.

I arranged to meet Ken because I wanted to learn more about the annual 5-ish km run that has it start and finish at Mulvey School.  I plugged a couple of toonies in the parking meter thinking an hour would be plenty. Little did I know that an hour simply scratched the surface of this most amazing man.  I may have wanted to meet to learn the nuts and bolts of the run, but I left with a new and profound love of my community.

Photo Credit Canstar Community News
Ken Opaleke passionately believes in the children of this diamond in the rough neighbourhood. He give tirelessly and he holds the highest expectations of the children he serves. He sees success and promise where outsiders see poverty and failure.

The WBYO centre exist on an annual budget of about $115 000.  The Winnipeg Foundation generously donates $100,000 and the 5-ish km Run raises an additional $15,000 (based on 500 participants).

Two full time staff and six part timers deliver 30 programs ranging from team sports to homework clubs and so much more. If The Winnipeg Foundation keeps the lights on, the 5-ish km run enables a sweeting of the pie.  This is an organization we want to support for the good of our community and for the future of our children.

Photo Credit Canstars Community Newspaper
 Ken's reach into corporate Winnipeg is deep.  He's forever searching for exciting prizes and motivators for our West Broadway Youth.  Jets tickets, Bomber tickets... no problem. Limo rides to McDonalds... got that. Airplane rides around Winnipeg... sure no problem.  Pizza parties, movie nights, trips to Wheelies, the museum, all free, all donated to West Broadway Youth Outreach because Ken asks and when Ken asks corporate Winnipeg responds in spades.

Ken (left) at the finish line.
Now it my turn to ask. I ask you all to put this little race in your calendar. When we run local, when we support those less privileged, when we believe in our community, great things can happen. The West Broadway Youth Outreach Centre has produced three medical doctors. Ken is not stopping until he's reached ten. Help him reach his goal.

To register and learn more about The West Broadway Youth Outreach Centre click HERE.

Ace Burpee, if you're reading this, I nominate Ken Opaleke for your 2019 Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans list... just saying.

Postscript.  I have just learned that Ken will be receiving the Order of Manitoba on July 12, 2018.  Go here for information.  

It's a good day to be alive.