For me, Jim Green is and was one of the most important people that I have never interacted with in my life.
Yesterday Jim died.
I’ve never gotten a chance to thank him personally for the work that he did in the community that I grew up in, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, but I’m pretty sure he knows the impact that he’s had. If it wasn’t for him, there likely would be no Four Sisters housing co-op, which I only lived in briefly but is where I spent most of my childhood.
You would think that growing up in the poorest neighbourhood in all of Canada would make you feel like a second-class citizen or be something that people might hold against you. Not so much at Four Sisters. At Four Sisters we had the best basketball and hockey tournaments, the best summer programs and when the Grizzlies came to town, there were always tickets to games care of Jim.
Growing up in the ghetto was a sense of pride because you were surrounded by people that knew that you weren’t a soon-to-be screw up, or a lost cause. Growing up in Four Sisters, I knew some of the smartest, hardest working welfare moms and dads in town. Gary Jobin, Lore Krill and Kathleen Boyes are just some of the names of people that I will never be able to thank enough for everything they’ve done for the neighbourhood that has made me the person I am today. If I can accomplish a fraction of what those people have done, I will die a happy man.
So here goes my shot:
It might be on the opposite side of the planet, but I see the same determination in the eyes of the youth that we’re working with over here in Kenya. Being back on the ground over here reminds me how fun this work really is, how surrounding yourself with people that inspire you on a daily basis is a feeling that cannot be adequately described.
Seeing people become real change makers in their communities makes the past five years all worth it.
This week we were digging out a pile of fossilized garbage that had been a result of a three month long strike by the municipal garbage collectors. There were six people with pick axes, shovels and hand carts moving what had to be at least three tonnes of diapers, rotten food and all the other niceness that gets thrown out. This dump site will host the only public soccer pitch/basketball court in the Mathare slum (and probably all of Nairobi) within a few weeks.
Kaka, the visionary of all visionaries, looked at the pile of garbage with a smile and said “we are moving mountains”.