Remember when you went to camp as a child and you would sing campfire songs that increased in length with each verse? Or how about the first time you tried to remember the words to the 12 days of Christmas?
Imagine if your mind worked that way – where each new thought surrounded the last – and rather than moving from thought to thought, each conversation became an expanding circle, spinning, growing and anxiously holding on to where it began. That is how Danny’s mind works: Capable of listening, comprehending and communicating, but processing in a complex way where everything repeats and circles around initial thoughts. Struggling with concurrent disorder (mental illness and drug addiction), Danny has his challenges. As a resident of the DTES, he is living in SRO Housing where he does his best to make his life normal. Earlier this month, he joined my husband and I for a walk through Vancouver’s crisp, leaf covered streets.
Rather than sharing my experience with you, I want to tell you our story verbatim so you too can walk with Danny. Here’s my best recollection of our chat together:
“Do you have any spare change? Any spare change?”
“No – sorry – I don’t have change but I would love to buy you some lunch or a coffee.”
“Oh – you don’t have change, you don’t have change – coffee. Hmmm” looking down at his empty coffee cup, “you don’t have change and I don’t have coffee but how about a bus ticket?”
“Yes, we would be happy to buy you a bus ticket”
“Ok – a one zone bus ticket – can I get two? We can walk to 7-11 – you don’t mind? You don’t have change but instead of coffee you will buy me a bus ticket?”
“Sounds great – yes, let’s walk to 7-11”
“Where are you from?”
“We are from Maple Ridge”
“You are from Maple Ridge but you are in Vancouver and I am from the Portland Hotel but I am going to 7-11. I am from Steveston. But I lived in Coquitlam because I was at Riverview. But it is gone but I was born in Steveston. You don’t mind buying me a bus ticket?”
“Sounds good Danny. Let’s walk to 7-11 and get you a bus ticket.”
“Do you have a job?”
“Yes – I work at a school.”
“You have a job? I have a job. You work at a school. My job is to go to 7-11 and get a bus ticket. One zone. I will go see my dad in Surrey. You have a job and I have a job and we are going to get a one zone ticket but I don’t need a coffee and you don’t have change. I went to UBC.”
“Nice! I went to UBC too :)”
“You went to UBC and I went to UBC but I didn’t go to school there. I just went there. You went to UBC and went to school there but we both went to UBC.”
“Yes Danny – we both went to UBC.”
Arriving at 7-11 together “Can I get two? Two one zone tickets? I don’t need a coffee or change but can you buy me two one zone tickets?”.
We offered Danny some food and some lottery tickets as well. The cashier rang up two one zones, two lottery tickets and a banana bread and my husband paid.
Danny seemed flustered. “Two. Two. Two.”
“Yes Danny. Two. Two one zone tickets and two lottery tickets. Two. Two. all for you”
“Two. Two. Two.”
“Yes Danny – two”
We handed Danny his new items and headed back into the crisp air.
“It’s almost Christmas and you just bought me a present. This is good Christmas. I am from Richmond and you are from Maple Ridge and we both came to 7-11. We both went to UBC. I have a job and you have a job. Thank you Thank you.”
“Danny – have you ever taken a selfie?”
“It’s when we take a picture together – do you want to be in a selfie together to remember our day?”
“We are friends and we walked to 7-11 together and we both went to UBC and you bought me bus tickets because you don’t have change and I don’t need coffee. This is a good Christmas.”
With a fist pump and a smile, Danny beamed as we walked away towards the bus. It was only hours later when we looked at our bill we realized why Danny had been so flustered. “Two – Two – Two”. Danny was trying to be a good friend save us money only asking for what he needed. We accidentally bought Danny 2 packs of bus tickets – not two one zone tickets. Danny now has 20 tickets to circle around Vancouver, and next time we meet our new friend, our circle will grow as we will have even more in common.