Monday, August 28, 2006

Bumping into an old friend; or, the beautiful kindness of people

When I was growing up in Newfoundland, there was a fellow who wrote - among other things - a humour column in a local magazine. Now, one stereotype about Newfoundlanders that happens to be absolutely true is that we are, as a rule, damned funny people; so in order to rise to the position of public humourist, you're going to be a very funny person indeed.

Ed Smith was a teacher, school administrator, and, eventually, community college principal, who had turned his hand to humour writing and was very good at it. I was very surprised, therefore, that when I unexpectedly bumped into him again, it was in the role of a writer on very weighty matters indeed. In 1998, Ed Smith became a quadriplegic in a car accident, and he is now one of a tag-team of columnists who write on disability issues for the CBC News website.

But as soon as I started reading his latest column, it was evident that he'd lost neither his fine writing style, nor his eloquent Newfoundland earthiness, nor his self-deprecating humour and his fine eye for human nature. This article expresses with pinpoint precision exactly the one shining, positive facet of the experience of living with an illness or disability. While I've thought about trying to capture this experience in writing, Ed Smith with his homely descriptions of Lions Club dinners and nerve-wracking encounters with scary teenagers in the Big City says it much better than I could've.

The beautiful kindness that is in people. Experiencing it is inexpressible. How sorry I am, and glad I am, that most of you will never experience it the way we do.



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