This is the Life: When someone is in need, don’t just stand there

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Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

It seemed more than a little ironic that only a week after being royally peeved about an incident described in our letters to the editor I was sitting in a presentation called Be More Than a Bystander.

Capping a day of meetings and presentations aimed at reducing violence toward women, BC Lions’ centreAngus Reid (who announced his retirement a few days later) was standing before an audience of several dozen, talking about a program he and teammates deliver. It targets high school students, encouraging young males not to tolerate inappropriate behavior or attitudes toward females. Be More Than a Bystander.

The letter to the editor, written by our office manager here at the Advance, described two incidents in which her elderly mother could have used someone who was willing to be more than a bystander. In the first, a driver apparently went out of his way to swerve over and drive through water as Mom walked along the sidewalk. She stood, drenched, as the vehicle drove merrily on its way.

Only days later, again out on a sidewalk, Mom was knocked over by an loosely leashed dog whose owner called out that the animal “just wants to make friends.” He stood chatting with another pedestrian while Mom, who landed on her face, struggled to her feet. Makes you think that a little baseball bat justice might be in order, doesn’t it?

In another meeting organized before the Be More Than a Bystander presentation, I sat in a group that ended up being about three dozen strong, learning about an Interagency Case Assessment Team (ICAT) that has formed locally in an attempt to head off serious domestic abuse cases before they spin out of control.

ICAT brings together representatives of the RCMP and local social service agencies to discuss potential problem cases and to formulate plans to deal with them. Sitting in a circle listening to a presentation by members of another ICAT team from the Vernon area were social workers, First Nations women, educators, case workers, church leaders and citizens representing pretty much every agency and organization in the valley. It was an impressive turnout and the discussion was open and interesting.

But I couldn’t help but wonder how this willingness for all these people to get together to talk about the abuse of (mostly) women squares with a community where an elderly woman out for her daily walk gets soaked by an idiot driver and then ignored by a dog owner after his animal has knocked her over. It seems like willful ignorance still exists among us, despite efforts to combat abuse.

During the day of his visit, Reid spoke to a group of high school students. Having heard him speak and watched a video about the Be More Than a Bystander program, I have no doubt that male students walked away thinking about ways in which they might approach other males who are behaving badly toward females. And I hope that the message sticks.

After Reid spoke on Tuesday evening, I talked to him briefly, sharing my thoughts about how the program might work to bring in sports teams, recruiting young athletes to become part of the Be More Than a Bystander team. These young men are often influential among their peers and to engage them in their teen years is a great investment in their future, and that of their community. It’s a strong message to send that they can play affirmative roles that not only protect the safety of others but prepares them for fatherhood and careers.

For those of us who are just a little past the target age of Be More Than a Bystander, we could make a commitment to keep an eye out for each other’s safety. It doesn’t mean taking a baseball bat to an ignorant dog walker or throwing rocks through vehicle windows. But it does mean not turning a blind eye and, at the very least, stopping to offer a hand to someone in need. We can all play a role in what is generally a pretty safe community. No one, of any age, should be made to feel fearful when they are walking along our streets.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.