Set aside the pity party

Written by Brenda Schimke

With Omicron on the horizon and apparently ready to wreak havoc in the new year, we tend to get down and start feeling sorry for ourselves. 

Instead, let’s rejoice in the fact that we are far better off than we were at this time last year. With vaccines free and available for every Canadian, and a pretty decent lifestyle compared to the majority of the world, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

I always find reading about others is a good way to kick to the curb my ‘pity parties’. 

It was truly inspiring to listen to and read about the life of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who died this week at 90. He was instrumental in helping bring about the fall of apartheid rule in South Africa and was, together with Nelson Mandela, the face of the African National Congress (ANC). 

But for Tutu, he lived a life of principle without compromise. In 2013 he criticized and stepped away from the ANC because of its inability or unwillingness to deal with overt corruption, violence and inequality, even though in power.

In an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge in 2002, he was asked, “When you look at the world right now, what worries you?”

“That we are taking a hell of a long time learning a lesson that God wants to teach us, that we are family. There are so many ways that the lesson seems to be driven home. You look, say, at the environment. When somebody pollutes in one part of the world, we wish it could be quarantined and that they pay the price alone. But it isn’t, the whole globe has to run the gauntlet and pay the price. And terrorism you discover, in fact, that you can’t hope for one country, however powerful, to be able to combat terrorism or conflicts.

“But it’s basically that we are refusing to learn that our survival is going to happen the day we realize we are made for one another. That we are made for family. That it’s not just obscene to spend huge amounts of money on instruments of death and destruction when a small percentage of that would enable children everywhere to have clean water, enough to eat, etc. etc. etc.

“It makes the world so holy and stable.”

The other obituary that took me out of my ‘pity party’ was that of Ken Lyotier, a former homeless man on Vancouver’s east side, who after 40 years of age went on to convince the first government in Canada to introduce a refund for plastic bottles. 

Working with a church to secure a small grant, he proved that cash for plastic bottles was an excellent way to reduce, recycle and employ. 

His group ran a large recycling facility with homeless workers, supported by the work of fellow dumpster divers. He proved that the homeless are neither dumb nor lazy.

His 2005 comments particularly struck a chord during Christmas week.

“It’s amazing how much stuff people throw away. We’re an incredibly addictive society all the way around. We squander so much, consume so much. It’s like this never-ending hole that we’re trying to fill up, and it’s not all that different from the hole in somebody’s (an addict’s) arm.”

My hope and prayer for 2022 is that we will get to know someone really well outside our culture, financial strata or religious circle; volunteer more of our time and money to those less fortunate; and be grateful for all the freedoms and stuff we have. We are indeed the privileged few.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.