“And as it be..I am so to be 24 and have still found almost no sense of purpose in my life … I am aimless and my directions point nowhere. My actions are those of one with half the brain. I hold and live only a fraction of the heart that is within me. Where does all the passion go? Why am I the only one who seems blind when it comes to seeing the meaningful reasons for living and breathing - am I the only one whose taste buds are dead and stay untouched with the thought of a will for life while I watch the others drool - looking foolish, - and oh so [insignificant] to me, my ..”

I was walking down Robson street, passing the 7-11 across from the public library. It was one of those fall evenings when the brisk air just soaks up your lungs. A slender young woman in a thin black shirt and pants was kneeling on the sidewalk, her back dangerously close to oncoming traffic. She was scribbling on something. She had a mild sway to her body, pondering, clicking her red pen away. I was curious but quickly looked away. I learned sometime ago not to stare at the folks occupying downtown Vancouver sidewalks.

Some time passed, and as I walked back past the same 7-11, I noticed the young woman was nowhere in sight. In her place at the edge of the sidewalk lay a wooden plaque. She poured out her heart onto this piece of wood, leaving it on the sidewalk upon her departure. I was taken aback by the plaque’s heartache and beauty, finding surprise and pain in something that many would consider ugly. I judged her for possibly not being in a sober state of mind. I judged her because she was on the sidewalk. I was taken aback by the raw confession and the certain sophistication in her hand writing. They are humans too. They were once children, naive to the world. They were once in school, learning to dream. They may be parents, trying to do good.

Vancouver doesn’t have an opioid problem. Vancouver doesn’t have a housing problem. We have crises. We have grown accustomed to the sidewalk population that is not limited to East Hastings anymore. Even children have learned to accept that that’s just part of the Vancouver streets. No societal problems exist in isolation. We are all responsible.

#WhatLiliSees