Away from the spotlight of praise

Caring when nobody notices but the kid cared for.

I almost missed it. My daughter and I were up in the bleachers watching her son at a house league hockey practice. The six-year-olds were skating, falling, trying to stickhandle and the arena was bursting with noise. Then I spotted this one boy standing way off to the side, crying, wanting off the ice. One of the volunteer coaches skated over to him, got down on his knees and quickly connected with the boy in conversation.

The boy stopped crying. The coach’s face looked very encouraging and before long the boy was over the trauma and re-joined the practice. Nobody seemed to notice the exchange. It was low key, calming, but clearly motivational. And I thought of that quote by that U.S. national basketball coach from the 1970s.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking,” John Wooden once said.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Double the Christmas gift.

As I wrote last column, welcoming a baby grandson into the world was truly a gift. That was the First Day of Christmas. On the Second Day of Christmas, I went looking for a gift for my sister. I searched and then I found a photograph, taken of the two of us about 1972. So, I went to a local photo place and the guy said he could duplicate it, but that he didn’t normally adjust for contrast and brightness.

“But in the spirit of the season,” young Michael said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Thoughtful, I’d say. Unexpected gifts are the best.

A Dickens of a story

Church of the Ascension, immediately after our reading of A Christmas Carol, Dec. 3, 2017.

I found Christmas over in Port Perry last Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t alone. And, no, there wasn’t a sudden conversion in my life. But I was in a church. A few minutes after 3 p.m., last Sunday, I was invited to a lectern to initiate a fundraiser with these words:

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. … Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

Testosterone-free meeting

The Griddle Pickers – (l-r) Mike Milner, Sean Patrick &  Dale Patrick. Photo: Jim Campbell.

It was following their second or third song, that the two youngest members of the acoustic country and bluegrass band, The Griddle Pickers, paused. The two brothers in the band were enjoying the relative peace of the moment, performing in a church sanctuary in front of a capacity audience.

“Gosh, it’s sure different singing and playing in here,” commented banjo player Sean Patrick.

“Yeah,” his brother Dale, the guitarist and lead vocalist, agreed. “Most of the time we’re trying to play over a noisy crowd, or a bar fight.”

It’s more than Scarberia

Aileen Hill, one of 150 Scarborough Neighbours honoured.

I wouldn’t have known that she was my neighbour. But it turns out that in more ways than one, she and I have been connected. First, we have both supported the arts and those who create them. Next, we are both the children of immigrants. But for me the surprising aspect of our neighbour connection is that Aileen Hill and I both have Scarborough roots.

“I was born here,” she told me, “then, moved with my family to the Caribbean, but have now come back to Scarborough.”

Ethics versus life

Carol Off reading at Blue Heron Books & Brunch event, Nov. 12, 2017.

Last Sunday morning, I watched a seasoned journalist get uncharacteristically emotional. Previously a foreign correspondent, a reporter who’d covered hostilities in the Middle East and a long-time current affairs radio host, Carol Off’s eyes welled up. She recalled, in 2002, convincing Asad Aryubwal, an Afghan father of five, to go on-camera to expose the warlords the U.S. military was courting to overthrow the Taliban.

“Asad’s courage in speaking out was rewarded only with the calamity when, in response to (my) documentary,” Off told Zoomer magazine, “Afghanistan’s most powerful warlord sent a death squad to kill him.”

Simple actions. Astonishing results.

Leslie M. Miller, lieutenant in the Canadian Corps.

The padre stepped up to the lectern this past Sunday morning in Shedden, Ont. The audience at the community centre for the Remembrance service settled into silence. The clergyman unfolded his papers, that I thought would contain a prayer, a piece of scripture or perhaps the words of a hymn. But, no, he looked out at the assembly of cadets, veterans and the public in the audience and introduced his Nov. 11 thoughts this way.

“From simple actions, come astonishing results,” he said.

Retail apocalypse

A few weeks ago, I sat down with an old friend. He’s retired now. But when we met 30 years ago, he was a happy, enthusiastic and very upbeat employee in a Canadian retail success story. But when we chatted recently, he shook his head in amazement.

“I cannot believe that Sears is going under,” he lamented. “When I worked there, it seemed as if we’d go on forever.”

Teach our sons

It’s not just about showing sons and grandsons … but about teaching them too.

The young man was showing off in front of some of his buddies. The conversation shifted from small talk to basketball – one of his favourites – and then to some of the women in his college class. At the time, I was one of his instructors, and he didn’t know I could hear pretty much everything he was saying.

“Oh, you know what they say about women,” he joked. “They’re like city buses. If you miss one, there’ll be another along in a minute.”