Aug 262009

“I was born in a small town … guess I’ll die in a small town.” John Mellencamp

What is it about small towns that folks from the big cities find appealing?

Consider ‘Bob’ from New York, a guy I met at the downtown New Hamburg annual Cruise Night. He likes the friendliness of the people and the area charm. He normally comes to attend the big weekend Moparfest of vintage Chrysler-made cars; but this year he also brought some friends to catch the car action a day earlier downtown. (I wonder if he knows about Expressway Ford’s car cruise, a few days later.(?)


In any event, this type of enthusiasm makes you appreciate what many of us take for granted. And nothing says ‘Happy Days’ like an old car or an old song. In fact, the number of people I met that evening – affecting many aspects of my life – was truly amazing. These included:


·         Meredith, of MeMe’s Cafe; discussed a Marketing presentation to my night class.

·         Kristen, of Upper Case Books; graciously offering wisdom regarding literature and research

·         Les, of the licence office; a funny guy who can cut through red tape like nobody else

·         Gary, with wife, (‘be nice’) Bernice: a great car guy and neighbour who will be looking after our property when we’re on vacation.

Some family members showed up: Jessica and Wade, my daughter and her husband, along with our new grandson Kolton. (Somehow when my wife Judi arrived, the men got the assignment of pushing the stroller, while the ladies enjoyed the car show from the dining comfort of the Puddicombe House veranda!)

Of course, all communities, big and small, have also seen their share of trials – adversely affecting the lives of family, friends and neighbours.   However in small towns, the awareness happens much faster and as a result so is the response – helping hands that often times overwhelm the recipients. It’s just our way; and that makes all the difference.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and speaker, has said:

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”     

I guess it’s all the way you look at it. Or again, as Mellencamp sings: ‘Got nothing against a big town … (but) I can breathe in a small town … Oh, and that’s good enough for me.’

Aug 092009

In Memory of Alexander Martinez


John Lennon reminded us in a song that ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans’. This week ‘life’ happened with the news of the death of Alexander Martinez – an adult student attending a college night course that I teach.

Alexander was a real gentleman and a genuine person. Originally from El Salvador, he told us, in a recent class presentation, how he had been a 3rd year law student who was forced to leave school in order to make a living.

His life was a series of stories, each with a rise and fall ending … being forced down, only to succeed later. As he talked (needlessly apologizing for his command of English) I was able to see the picture of a man who was ‘worthy of his suffering’ – choosing not to give in to defeat.   

Listening intently, I wondered how it was that a man like Alexander could find it so difficult to obtain meaningful employment in Canada. Was it his English? It certainly wasn’t his ability to communicate.

Nor, was it for lack of effort, as I had met him in one of my classes some 2 years earlier, working on completing yet another college certificate.

The night I passed on the sad news of his sudden death to his fellow classmates, we were consoled in the memory of the spontaneous group exercise we did for him after his class presentation. Together, we conducted a brainstorming session to develop ideas that would help him gain employment. We listed these on large board sheets which we all signed, along with our best wishes. Later that night, towards the end of our class, I glanced over to see Alexander re-reading those sheets. He seemed moved that we took the time to care.

Maybe that’s what Canada is all about. Maybe, we should demonstrate that more often.

Good bye Alexander. And, on behalf of your classmates, thank you for choosing Canada!

Your life decision has helped re-confirm mine. Or as one of Charles Dickens’ immortal characters said best: “Mankind was my business!”