Last Saturday night, I really wanted to fall asleep. But breaking news on Twitter that a “Hollywood actor” had died earlier in the day in Vancouver kept me up until I could learn who it was. After I found out it was Cory Monteith, suddenly I wasn’t very tired anymore and stayed up late so I could read and watch the stories about him.

cory

In the days that followed, so many people on my social media networks posted pictures, quotes, and news stories about him, But this Huffington Post article shared by my sister is the one that has stuck with me. In particular, this quote:

This vast social and economic gulf between Mr. Monteith and those that face not only addiction but homelessness too begs the question if someone like Mr. Monteith – with stature and a wealth of resources at his disposal – was not able to conquer his addiction, why do we still express disdain for those individuals of lesser means with multiple, competing health issues who also “fail” to recover?”

Growing up in a small town, I never witnessed many signs of visible poverty. Once my family moved to Kamloops, we would walk through downtown and past panhandlers and street-entrenched homeless people. I often felt scared, nervous, and uncomfortable, but the worst thing I could do is simply walk past. Ignore the person and pretend they were invisible.

Three summers ago I stumbled upon a new career path for myself. I wound up working for United Way and the Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan. I couldn’t begin to understand complex issues like homelessness, poverty, mental health and addictions, but over time and through many discussions, my opinions have changed.

Everyone has a story. Walking by someone on the street, you cannot begin to understand what led them to the point of having to ask for money and search for a roof over their head. If we can show compassion, if we can simply make eye contact and offer a “hello”, if we can show that person the same adoration that millions of us felt for Cory Monteith, maybe we can begin to change the attitudes around the issue. 

I’ll leave you with my favourite Glee song of the last four seasons: