Let me start by saying that I moved away from Victoria in 1997 and that for the intervening time, I have mostly lived in the developing world. So my perspective on Victoria and Canadian culture is not the same as someone who has lived here all their life. I have lived in places of great poverty — both physical and emotional — and I have returned to Victoria with a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for all that life as a Canadian has to offer. And so, when I hear the ambulance sirens passing by my door, I breathe up a prayer of thanksgiving that there are hospitals and ambulances and first responders to care for those in emergencies. When I go to the library with my kids, we still leave with armloads of books, amazed that they are free to borrow. When I walk down the street, I am grateful for the safety of my neighbourhood. I enjoy taking the bus because it is clean, safe and reliable. I constantly marvel at the services available to me and my family — and I am so thankful for them.
It’s been a year and a half since we returned to Victoria, and a year and a half of gratitude. I’m sure that eventually this feeling will fade as it all becomes normal again — although I hope that I will never take it all for granted… however it is quite likely that I will. But today I wanted to write about the “sharing economy” I see in Victoria. The phrase “sharing economy” was one that I came across recently — and I wrote it down to remind myself that this is a topic worthy of a blog post. I see this idea, of sharing and participating in our local community, as one that really typifies Victoria. Every day when I read the paper, I see examples of people and businesses reaching out to help — whether it is a local business serving breakfast at Our Place, or someone making a donation to The Cridge, or the Lieutenant Governor and her staff wearing purple to raise awareness about epilepsy. We are a city that cares and isn’t afraid to let the world know about it. And how amazing is that? I LOVE it!
But I also see a lot of hurt and need in our city — the young man who begs at the stop light, the women who access our transition house after leaving a violent relationship, the refugee families who are so grateful to be in a safe place but so bewildered about how to make a life here. The fact that there are so many homeless people in our city is an absolute tragedy — in the midst of so much wealth, it astounds me that so many people don’t even have a place to live. And I often wonder what it would take to change this — what would it take for all of us to share and give enough that there wouldn’t be homelessness anymore. What would it take for our food banks to close for lack of need? What would it take for our children to go to school with full bellies and the physical ability to learn? What would it take, Victoria?