Transformation and tears of joy!
by Toby Barazzuol on Thursday Apr 26, 2012
Some of you may recall our story about recognizing Diamond Dave back in 2010. We saw firsthand the transformative power of recognition that day, but we never expected how much we would learn from the series of amazing events that it triggered, including what happened this week.
Dave was so inspired by being recognized on that day in 2010, that ever since he has been looking for opportunities to recognize others that are living and working in the Downtown Eastside. So last month, when Dave asked us to make an award to honour one of his dearest friends at the Vancouver Native Health Society, we were happy to oblige. We had helped Dave recognize Doreen once last year, but this was different because Doreen was retiring from her position as nurse coordinator.
On the day of the presentation this week, Dave came to our office so that we could walk over together to the Native Health Society for the ceremony. He wanted us to take some pictures to remember the day by, and also see Doreen receive her gift.
When we arrived, there were close to 40 people setting the place up for a party. Some were moving tables, others were watching TV and a few others were taking it all in on methadone. Out of the chaos, the room came together quickly and within a few minutes Doreen was brought into the room. Dave brought her to the front and said a few kind words to thank her for her years of service and endless compassion...then he handed her award. Doreen looked at it and her face lit up as tears of joy came to her eyes. It took her nearly two minutes of crying and smiling before she could read aloud the words on the award:
“It's a small world and if everyone had a heart as big as yours, the world would be a better place...from your friends at Native Health”
And with that, the room broke out in applause. Doreen was obviously well-loved! A string of other people presented her with gifts they had made and with words of thanks for her years of caring and compassion. Several people chanted and drummed a native blessing. Then one older gentlemen stood up to thank Doreen for all that she had done, but apologized for not having a present. Doreen replied “no present? you’ve given me the biggest gift of all because you’re still alive!” This seemed to surprise him at first and then he said “you’re right, I am still alive because you saved my life Doreen”. And with that, a chorus of agreement came from the crowd "...you saved my life too” and “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you!”. I was floored by the outpouring of love and affection in all its different forms!
Doreen said to everyone that they had all helped to create a community of caring, and in doing so they had reduced their client death rate from 10% to 2%! While most of us struggle with improving ROI's, the Native Health Society is dealing with life and death situations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. By creating a stronger community they were actually saving people's lives!
As the speeches ended, Dave called for a group photo with all of the staff and volunteers. As the group assembled, more and more people were asked to join in since they had helped out or volunteered at some point. Then Doreen said “this is a family photo...this is what family means to us”. After 10 minutes of reshuffling, nearly everyone that had been in the crowd was now included in the photo - the group had been transformed. It was amazing!
Over the space of an hour, I had seen joy, love, community and affection. I realized that tears of joy are the same for everyone. I realized that community and recognition are powerful forces that can actually save lives. Imagine the potential! So much of this stemmed from our recognizing Dave 2 years ago...
Above all though, I realized that I too had been transformed by the experience! As a simple bystander in the room, I had gained a deeper understanding of the power that accompanies love and compassion and community. It was an amazing reminder of why we do what we do at Eclipse Awards and as I walked back to our office, I couldn't help but think about the potential we have to change communities and improve peoples lives through recognizing them and building community around them.
What about you? Have you ever been transformed by recognition? Have you ever been inspired by seeing others be recognized? We'd love to hear your stories!