Tuesday July 5th 2022

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Life vs. People



I recently read “Ghost Rider,” Neil Peart”™s memoir, recounting a 55,000 mile motorcycle trip he took to help him deal with personal tragedy. His 19 year old daughter died in a car accident, and ten months later, his partner of 22 years died of cancer (although Peart claimed the real cause was a broken heart). Lost in grief, he left his house in Quebec and rode to Alaska, then south into Mexico and Belize, before returning home.

Early in the book, Peart mentions how the deaths changed his perspective on life. Before that point he led a blessed life, untouched by death or disease, with a job he enjoyed as the drummer of Rush (arguably the most successful Canadian rock band of all time). As you might expect, being in a world famous rock band brought many people into Peart”™s life, who sought to befriend him superficially, in exchange for what his fame and wealth could do for them. His belief was, as he put it, “Life is good, but people suck.”

As he healed from this tragedy, his mantra became “Life sucks, but people are good.” His new attitude stemmed from those who supported him through the blackest time of his life. After his daughter”™s death, friends and family took care of his business dealings, ran interference so he wasn”™t overwhelmed by well-wishers, and even accompanied him and his partner overseas to prevent either of them from committing suicide as they grappled with their loss. When his partner died, he continued to lean on friends, and during his journey he met others who unwittingly helped him regain his emotional balance. Before he started his trip he received help from people who had been only marginal characters in his life, and he was touched by their concerns. During his trip, few of the people he met knew his plight, but their simple acts of civility and hospitality helped him heal.

I have often wondered what makes Peace House Community such a special place, and I believe a lot of it comes down to the founder”™s view of life. Sister Rose Tillemans would probably have agreed with Peart that “Life sucks, but people are good”. She suffered many mental health crises and was even hospitalized on occasion. She focused her life on activities that helped others, but she wasn”™t satisfied. She realized that hurting people often need connection, rather than activity, to help them heal. She then created a place that didn”™t offer counseling, or provide housing, or train people to get jobs. She created a place for people to sit and talk, connect, and support each other to heal from the pains of life.

I enjoy working at Peace House Community more than any other agency I”™ve been part of. The reason is simple: every day I see that people can be good, even when life has treated them unkindly. Generosity, support, and laughter make life bearable for those who have little. At Peace House Community, I get to see goodness if I just stop to look.

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