Allowing Tragedy To Define Us

Willowdale Strong

Unfortunately, I am not a stranger to tragedy.  Walking 7 years with my mom as she died a slow death with ALS was the most heartbreaking tragedy of my life.  And then, more recently, the Toronto Van Attack happened in my neighbourhood - leaving a shadow of fear and grief on the streets that I often walk with my family.

The memory of this most recent tragedy has been rekindled with the Danforth shooting.  As another neighbourhood in our city grapples with shock and grief at the evil that descended upon a bustling community, I think about how such traumatic events can define us - hopefully for the better.

When we are faced with things that we cannot control, when we realize once again the preciousness of life and the gift of those we love that surround us - tragedy can heighten the awareness of the grace that is life. The busyness of modern life paired with our addiction to social media can numb us and cause us to take the simple things for granted.  A tragedy wakes us up out of this numbness as we take stock of everything around us.

While tragedy is never something we seek - when it happens, I believe there is always a gift on the other side.  My hope for the Danforth community, for the City of Toronto, and for everyone impacted by tragedy, is that we would receive the gift that is hidden in these circumstances.  Let us be aware of all that we have to be grateful for and let us also contemplate our greater purpose - collectively and individually - to contribute to the betterment of the world around us.

In this awakening is the invitation to consider that life is more than what we are currently living.  My mom’s diagnosis and eventual death made me redefine success and gave me the courage to let go of a life and career that I had built in Taiwan for an unknown future back in Toronto.  My participation in the healing process for Willowdale after the Toronto Van Attack including speaking at the Toronto Vigil made me realize that I had more to contribute to my community and led to my decision to run for city council. The van attacked changed my life.  

While we continue to lift up all those impacted by the Danforth shooting in prayer including the victims, families and first responders - let us allow this tragedy to speak to us about who we are and what we are doing.  It could change your life - if you allow it to.  In doing so, goodness can triumph over evil.