It always amazes me how the act of settling in one location can hinder local exploration. Is it the allure of far off places or the pacifying force of routine? To this day I remain uncertain. In recognition of this peculiarity, I set out beyond my traditional enclave in the Bathurst-Eglinton neighbourhood and ventured north into Lawrence Heights. Lawrence Heights, known by most as “the jungle”, is one of Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods – and the site of the city’s next revitalization project. The idea of ‘revitalization’ can be quite controversial, but it is held by many as the impetus for needed growth in poorly designed and resourced communities. According to documents published by the City,
“The Lawrence Allen Revitalization Plan (LARP) is a 20-year plan for the Lawrence-Allen area and the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood at its core. The plan envisions a mixed-income, mixed-use neighbourhood which is park-centred, transit-supportive, and well integrated with the broader city.”
As I went in search of “new adventure”, I was shocked by the proximity of this neighbourhood to my own, and while merely minutes away, the two communities seemed to be worlds apart. Just recently I learned of an incident that happened in Lawrence Heights. A young man and resident of the neighbourhood, with a strong desire to lead change, had started a contracting company to spur economic development and local employment. A finalist in this summer’s Wildfire Business Competition, my friend had a lot of people rooting for him, certain that he could carry through with great things.
He had been working hard and putting in the hours to bring his dream to its feet. Just two weeks ago, my friend was shot three times and left in in critical condition. We have been told that he will be ok, physically anyhow, his spirit remains in tatters. He was shot by a “friend”, a peer who thought he had been ‘wronged’ by my friend. In retaliation he sought violence, when in fact his victim was innocent.
In our correspondence, my friend has told me that he is shocked by his community. He feels rejected by the individuals that he is trying to help, yet certain that he must still soldier on. I want nothing more than to console him, but visitors are restricted and I find myself at a loss of words. Leadership is never easy, it often faces great risk and challenge. Yet moments like this are not uncommon and remain a part of the battle for those seeking to lead positive change. I only hope that my friend can take comfort in those that have come before him, those who have endured great turmoil to further the ideas that they believe.
Dear friend, I am rooting for you.