Out of adversity comes opportunity
The title is a quote that is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It is interesting how we deal with adversity. It sometimes comes out of nowhere and hits us like a ton of bricks. Left tethered to the earth by only the tiniest filament, a spectre of disbelief envelopes those affected. The families in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, are facing the waking nightmare that comes with the devastation that accompanies lives cut short. All the hockey sticks in the country set out on porches won’t bring back those lost in the senseless tragedy. But those hockey sticks represent the support of a community, of friends, of strangers, of a nation. When faced with life altering devastation, it is that kind of support that can make all the difference in the world.
The support of friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances, and strangers is an amazing thing to witness when you are on the receiving end of the kindness. It is those tiny moments that fuel recovery. Last summer I saw the original cast perform Come From Away, the musical based on the thousands of passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland when North American airspace was closed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. An unlikely topic for a musical, to be sure, but an incredibly powerful piece of theatre that has been playing to packed houses on Broadway and to sell-out crowds in Toronto since its return. Gander is a community that was, on paper, ill-equipped to house the ‘plane people’ (as they were known), but it came together and figured out how to respond to the physical and emotional needs of the stranded. The relationships born of this tragedy were in many cases lasting and meaningful.
Life is difficult. There is no doubt that few of us get through unscathed. When faced with a life-altering event, we are thrown into the unknown. The distance between where we were and where we will end up is indefinite. It is a black hole of unexpected and unforeseen change, where certainty is replaced with chaos. The path forward, once clear, is now obscured. The clouds roll in on a wave of bewildering grief and pain unimaginable prior to the event. Change in light of the circumstances is inevitable; ironically, that change can offer opportunity.
Humboldt Bronco’s player, Logan Boulet, had recently registered to be an organ donor. At 21, one can assume that he figured those gifts would have supported him for a long time before they would serve to save the life of another. In a television interview, Boulet’s father acknowledged that the doctor retrieving his son’s heart commented on it being the strongest one he had ever recovered. By choosing to honour their son’s decision, the Boulet family took their grief and spun it into something positive; a final act for their son, a remembrance, a continuation.
Boulet’s organ donation has caused a surge in online registrations all over the country. People young and old are being driven to do something. Hockey sticks may show respect but signing on to be an organ donor will have significance far into the future. Boulet’s selfless act teaches us a lesson in giving, in compassion, in understanding. His family can find solace in the fact that Boulet’s final act has saved lives. In the darkness enveloping them at this time they found a gleam. A gleam that brings light to others. A light that recently shone for two lung transplant recipients I know. I am grateful for Boulet and others like him.
Every day all around us, there are people who are suffering. Their circumstances likely lack the publicity the Humboldt tragedy has garnered but their pain is no less significant. In the coming days, as the hockey sticks disappear, may we be reminded of the pain experienced by those in our own community. Consider what can be done to alleviate their suffering. Listen to their needs – sometimes the simple act of listening is all that is needed. Their pain doesn’t need to be in the headlines to be worthy of support. Perhaps that, and maybe a few more organ donor registrations, could be a legacy of the Humboldt tragedy.
If you are considering becoming an organ donor or if you want to check if you are already registered, visit www.beadonor.ca.