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  • The Low Down

A Thanksgiving reflection

Blissfully riding my bicycle in June, I skittered along the railroad track behind the General Store [in Wakefield] and down I went. Unfortunately, my rib cage collided with a bit of protruding track and there I lay writhing in pain (yup: four broken ribs).

There are no strangers here, only friends you haven't met. People from out of town came to my rescue and called 911.

During my confinement, I often sat on my veranda watching a gloriously diverse parade of people sauntering toward the Covered Bridge. People from all over: Africa, the Balkans, Asia and South America. I waved and called out “Welcome!” The universal response was: “It's so beautiful here! What a wonderful place!” I couldn't agree more, but complacency is not warranted. As Adrian Kiva wrote in the Sept. 2 edition of The Low Down [“Open letter to the community in support of MH and anti-racism”], “We must keep addressing racism and embrace a vision of vivid, inclusive, mutual appreciation and respect.”

What keeps us safe? The young police officer who responded to the 911 call knelt by my side, gently removed my helmet and cradled my head in his hands. “Don't worry, you're safe, I'm here.” He treated me with such respect and tenderness, I could have been his own grandmother.

Every grandmother – every person – deserves to be treated like this, but we know that this is not the case. Community-led, life-affirming police protection in a context of redistributed, adequate, stable funding for social and mental health services — now that's what I call public safety.

What is essential? I didn't have to worry, as I lay on the tracks, about how to pay for it all. Publicly-funded healthcare, equally accessible to everyone, is the cornerstone of a just society. The ambulance arrived and the saintly paramedics conveyed my broken body to the Wakefield Memorial Hospital. I was competently seen by nurses and doctors, but it was a member of the cleaning staff who noticed, while mopping the corridor, that I was sitting forlornly unattended to after the diagnosis and prescriptions had been dispensed. “My son has no way of knowing where I am right now,” I whispered. She conveyed the message to the waiting room.