April 12, 2018
                          No. 215
An Empathetic World RespondsAt the Rod Stewart (that would be “Sir” Roderick Stewart) concert last night at Rogers Place, I wondered whether mention would be made of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. 

After all, the singer is British, and his entire troupe—all thirteen of them—were British or American. And the tragedy was now 4 days old. But the news seems to be everywhere, so I wondered . . .

Nothing at the beginning. But, about half-way through, when introducing his tune “Rhythm of my Heart,” which is otherwise dedicated to those fallen for our freedom, he also dedicated it to the victims of the Humboldt tragedy, and flashed up on the screen a team photo.

Then he acknowledged how close to his heart the incident actually is. 
“My son played hockey up here,” he said, “and rode those long bus trips of up to 11 hours. So it touches me, how quickly a life can be snuffed out.”
After the son, he flashed up a photo of his son, in hockey uniform. I was, of course, surprised to learn this British rocker’s son actually played hockey in these parts.  A quick google search, though, reveals that his son Liam played four seasons of major junior hockey with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League.

It’s amazing how this tragedy has touched people worldwide. The Queen sent her condolences, as did many major world leaders. Prime Minister Trudeau was at the Sunday night vigil in Humboldt. The incident was referenced at an Australian event. Monday night’s TSN sportscast had the first 20 minutes devoted to the story and the half-hour CTV national evening news had about half of its time allotted to it, with the telecast coming live from the Humboldt Arena, where senior anchor Lisa LaFlamme was stationed.

I had a small connection myself, having travelled to Humboldt in my high school days on a school bus full of school buddies to participate in a basketball playoff tournament there. Plus, I’ve driven through that very intersection, taking my daughter to a provincial competition.The “Gofundme” campaign has, at this writing, surpassed $8.5 million in funds raised for the victim’s families, and is now among the five largest ever such campaigns worldwide. Donations have come in from 65 countries. And that’s in only five days!

Why has this tragedy so touched the world?

According to a Global News story quoting psychology professor Steve Joordans, it’s about two things: 1. The youthfulness of those killed and injured, who’s entire future was snuffed out, making it feel more tragic; and 2. The fact that people all over the world resonate with it because most everyone has a child or friend, or knows someone, who travels on buses for hockey, soccer, or whatever, somewhere in the world.

“When I was playing I got to know the guys probably the best when we were travelling, and it was just a fun time, it was just you and your teammates,” Liam Stewart is quoted as telling Global News. “You spend 90 per cent of the time on there and you get to know the guys. You’re switching around seats, talking smack with all the guys, playing cards, watching movies — you’re spending 12 hours at a time on there and you get to know the guys, he added.”

I even identify with that. Do you?It does raise a question, though. What about all the other innocent people, youth in particular, who are killed in highway crashes or other accidents, whose stories never get out there, and who don’t have a world to empathize with them?Should someone set up a Gofundme campaign for those who don’t get the publicity the Humboldt Broncos did? 

Would people contribute?

I don’t know the answers but, even while I’m sympathizing with those involved with the heart-rending Humboldt Broncos situation, I’m compelled also to sympathize with the many other anonymous families who are victims of tragedies.

Apparently, that’s how many others feel, too. Organ donations in BC, they tell us, have already risen six-fold since the tragedy.

It’s great to see the generosity of the human spirit when these kinds of events happen. 

Let’s carry that on even when there’s no compelling circumstance to trigger our empathy.