Wednesday, 6 May 2009

I Second That Thanks to Faron Hall

I second Alex's thanks to Faron Hall, the homeless Winnipegger who dove into the Red River to save a teen.

Considering that we spend a lot of time looking down on people in his situation and blaming them for the ills of downtown or why we don't like to go here or there, it's nice to give credit where credit is due.

It's also nice that, for a change, we took a brief snippet of time to focus on the homeless as not some nameless, faceless bolus of humanity. As taken from the above noted FreeP story:

Hall, 44, has been an alcoholic living under the Provencher Bridge — "-51 C with the wind chill is my record," he recalls — for about seven years.

A member of the Dakota Tipi First Nation, he says he grew up in a good foster home in Waverley Heights, finished high school and was working as a teaching assistant at Hugh John Macdonald School while taking education classes at the University of Manitoba. But booze took hold, especially after his mother was murdered on Maryland Street about a decade ago.

"I had potential," said Hall. "There have been so many pitfalls in my life."

"This is a man that most people would avoid at all costs, who is kind of scary-looking," said Willis. "But he just had both the courage and the humanity to not even think about it and just plunge himself into the water to save a life."

When I think of many of the homeless the old phrase "there, bit for the grace of God, go I" comes to mind. The issues that led them to the street: bad decisions; addictions; illness (mental or otherwise), are not income-based, intelligence-based or race-based. They can happen to anyone. Boldly stating that you could never end up "like that" is as untrue as stating that you will never get cancer or never be in a bad car crash. You just don't know.

Now, of course, the outpouring of attention for Mr. Hall has started.

Politicians lining up for photo-ops, deciding what gifts and attention to foist upon him to make themselves look and feel good.

It's even at the point, and this is when you KNOW you've made it, that some have begun to poke sticks at him. Case in point, Sinclair's column today. After admitting "there was something distasteful about the way the media pack circled our homeless hero" he nonetheless posted a column about Mr. Hall, making sure to point out that "he arrived intoxicated" and tut-tutted that, though he saved the youth's life, "he can't seem to save himself". Great, thanks for pointing out the pathos of the man. I think we had a sense of that already.

There's a fine line between celebrating the guy's actions and taking advantage by clamoring to out-photo-op and out-report each other.

Maybe just take him aside, quietly ask him what HE would like to receive in recognition and quietly give him what he'd like. Than, as Hall was quoted by Sinclair, "Let me be the way I want to be. I'm not bothering nobody."


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