Posts Tagged ‘Mike Farwell’

Welcomed Where I Thought I Didn’t Belong

October 14th, 2016

This #WeBelongWR post by Rogers Radio host Mike Farwell explores his experience ‘walking a mile in someone’s shoes’ and finding a place of welcome on the other side.

We’ve seen them before. We pass them most every day.

Sometimes we feel moved enough to give them money, even though we know our spare change is virtually insignificant in getting to the root of the problem.

Yet they remain a part of our community.

They are the marginalized. The impoverished. The homeless.

On my best days, I like to think of us as all being a part of the same community. After all, we do share the same streets, the same weather, the same buildings.

But the reality is that we’re often two solitudes, the marginalized in their community and the rest of us — those who by chance or by circumstance have jobs and clean clothes and a little extra in our bank accounts — in ours.

I was fortunate enough once to get a first-hand experience at life on the other side.

I’d been invited by a local group of anti-poverty advocates to participate in a week long challenge.

The challenge was to live for one week like someone collecting social assistance from the province of Ontario. When collecting social assistance, we were told, there was only $20 per week left in the typical budget for food.

That’s right, after looking after all the other necessary bills for shelter and survival, a mere $20 was all that was typically left over for food.

I took my $20 to the grocery store and shopped as frugally as I could. Some milk, a box of cereal, a little fruit, some pasta, and some ground beef.

I kept a little bit back — about $2.50 — in case of “emergency” during the week.

I walked to work every day (since I couldn’t afford the bus) and I skipped my daily coffee — even the $0.50 cups at work.

I tried my best to be as true as I could to the $20 challenge and a fascinating thing happened.

Not only did I learn about the importance of my usual three meals a day but I learned at how missing out on that food really changes your demeanour.

I was hungry all the time by the second day of the challenge. I was irritable. I started staring at the ground on my way to work in hopes of finding some change that I could use to buy a coffee or some extra food. And by the seventh day, I had no food left.

Not a scrap.

At that point, I could have “cheated” and called off the whole thing. The drive-thru was right there and my debit card could have easily bought me a meal.

I could have gone to the grocery store and bought whatever I needed to eat and drink.img_1848

Instead I decided to stay true to the challenge and in order to satisfy my hunger on that seventh day of the challenge, I did what I thought others in my position would do.

I sought out a free community meal.

I found one served by Ray of Hope at the Salvation Army in downtown Kitchener. But I was very nervous as I entered those doors on that Sunday afternoon.

How would I be received?

There I was in my near-new winter jacket. My jeans were clean and I’d showered at home that morning. I didn’t fit the stereotype of the kind of person you’d expect to see at a free community meal.

What would everyone say?

I could smell the roast beef as soon as I stepped through the doors. I picked up a plate and got in line and nobody gave me a second glance. Nobody asked why I was there or if I belonged. They just asked what I’d like as I walked down the serving line and had my plate filled with meat, potatoes, and vegetables.

There was gravy and more salad than I could shake a stick at. There was fresh fruit.

I filled my plate with what was easily the best meal I’d had all week.

I plucked the shiniest apple I could find from the bushel at the end of the serving line.

And then I looked around for a place to sit. The awkwardness was all on my part. I sat at a table with three other men and a woman and, again, was not looked upon as an outcast. Nobody asked me why I was there or told me I wasn’t welcome.

We talked a little and ate a lot and then smiled broadly when a volunteer came by offering ice cream. This was a special treat and even though the temperature outside on this late fall day was in the single digits, we happily indulged in the extra dessert.

I’ve never been in a place where I felt less like I belonged, only to be accepted without even a hint of prejudice.

The next time we’re walking by someone in “that” marginalized community and thinking they don’t belong in “this” community, maybe we can remember how welcome we are in theirs.

Let’s Keep Talking

July 18th, 2016

This #WeBelongWR post comes to us from local TV and radio host, active community volunteer, and all around good person, Mike Farwell. He shares an anecdote illustrating the importance of telling local stories and how it impacts our own sense of belonging. You can find Mike on Country 106.7 and at his Twitter handle, @farwell_WR. Thanks for sharing, Mike!

The man on the other side of the bar had been watching me for at least ten minutes. It’s not like he was staring at me but there was no doubt he was trying to figure out if he knew me. And truth be told, it was getting a little awkward.

Not only was this man much bigger than me but I let my own mind race with how I might possibly know him and, worse, if I could possibly have offended him in some way.

I had just asked for my bill when he decided to come around the bar and take a seat in the chair two spots over.

“Are you Mike Farwell?” he asked.

I answered that I was and he immediately extended his bear paw of a hand.

“I just wanted to say ‘thank you,’” he explained, as his hand swallowed mine. “When I first came to this community, I watched your TV show. It helped me with my English and it helped me learn what was happening in my city. I want to buy you a beer.”

He wouldn’t take no for an answer and so we shared a drink while I learned about his experiences emigrating from Ethiopia and settling in Kitchener.

What a perspective-changing conversation that was for me. And as I look back on it now, I recognize the importance of sharing our stories.

11030388_10206781481718232_3358736114884609832_n-878x494This is not a story of a long ago TV show I once hosted and how it led to a free beer.

This is a story about a man who learned about his new city and found out how to navigate it by watching a TV show we created to tell the stories that were happening in our community. Whether good or bad, these stories helped this newcomer learn more about the place he was now calling home.

And it made him feel a part of that place.

In these days of increasing pressures on bottom lines and the ever-changing media landscape, we’d do well to remember the importance of sharing our stories. If we don’t know what’s happening in our community, and we don’t know the people who are making things happen, how can we possibly expect people to find a way to fit in?

I think we might be surprised to learn the impact of storytelling.

Let’s keep talking.