Dan Lett | Not for Attribution
Free Press
You'll never walk alone
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You'll never walk alone

“Sacrifice is part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to.” – Mitch Albom, journalist/author

It’s my last newsletter of 2022 and I’ll warn you beforehand, it’s going to be equal parts preachy and maudlin. Don’t tell me later you weren’t warned.

Dan Lett

Dan Lett, Columnist

Dan Lett

The Macro

This is my definition of hardship.

I was interviewing a group of women who live in Kibera, a sprawling shanty town in Nairobi, Kenya that is home to one million people. The women I was talking to had formed a collective to protect each other from the ravages of AIDS, poverty and violence. The Canadian government had provided some funding to the group to help them provide this support.

When I asked one of the women what they used the money for, she told me the first thing was to buy a wheelbarrow. When I asked why, she told me the men were reluctant to move the bodies of women who died from AIDS. So, they wanted a wheelbarrow to help them to move the bodies of their dead sisters up the steep roads that lead out of the slum for a proper burial.

Any time I hear someone claim hardship, I think of the women of Kibera.



I’ve been thinking a lot about those courageous women as I try to maintain some sense of perspective about what we’re all going through in Canada right now.

There is little doubt we’re all making sacrifices. Business owners continue to struggle with economic restrictions. Social restrictions are ruining holiday plans with friends and family. NHL hockey has been suspended and whenever it returns, it’s likely only half of us who have tickets will be able to attend.

But it’s important we keep our perspective. Would you say the hardship you’re facing now compares to the hardship faced by the women of Kibera? Most reasonable and intelligent people would say no. Those who seek to debate the point need not email after this newsletter comes out; I don’t need to be a witness to your perverse sense of entitlement.

Let’s face it, in Canada most of us are complaining about the lineups to get into Costco. In many other parts of the world, there are no lineups because there isn’t enough food.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press. The line of customers snakes around the corner at IKEA on the first day of eased shopping restrictions. January 23, 2021.

Travel to far-flung places on this planet and see how other people live, and you’ll never take for granted the relative wealth and comfort we enjoy here in Canada. I say that even while acknowledging we are a wealthy nation that tolerates unconscionable chronic poverty among its Indigenous peoples, and still cannot properly care for people who suffer from mental health and addictions. We’re not perfect, and there are people suffering from true hardship here. But that’s not most of us.

I wrote a little bit about this in my last column, which argued we have reason to be optimistic this year, even though it might feel very similar to last year’s holiday season. Things are not great but nor are they hopeless. Not here.

Before we lament the cancelled holiday gatherings and suspended hockey games, let’s remember we could be a country that only had access to COVID-19 vaccines that have since been proven to be ineffective against the Omicron variant. Countries like India, which finds itself completely exposed to a new and deadly strain of the novel coronavirus.

Those who are raging about the resumption of social and economic restrictions here in Canada need to give their heads a collective shake. Yes, restrictions suck. But the periodic resumption of restrictions is going to be more the rule than the exception over the next few years. Yes, I said years. Failures to properly vaccinate skeptics in wealthy countries and most of the developing world will sustain this pandemic for years to come.

But Canada under social and economic restrictions is still better off than most of the world. That’s a point that seems to get lost not only in Canada but also in other wealthier nations.

Over the weekend, I spent some time listening to a podcast that focuses on all things related to the Liverpool Football Club, my favourite side. The thick-accented Liverpudlian hosts were discussing the inevitable suspension of the English Premier League due to COVID concerns.

The mere suggestion football would be suspended — again — sent the panel into an apoplectic fit.

“It’s not football’s responsibility to solve the country’s issues,” said one of the panelists. “Football shouldn’t be booted into touch for the failings of other people.” Added another chap: “A much more well-rounded view is needed rather than pointing the finger at football.”

If football is suspended, it will be because it presents a perfect storm of conditions for the spread of COVID-19 and not because England's epidemiologists are cricket fans first and foremost. With tens of thousands of fans crammed together all singing, shouting and carousing together, a football match is tailor-made to be a super-spreader event.

Do I share the sense of disappointment, even despondency, about a shutdown? LFC is scheduled to play another three matches by New Year's Day. Each one of will, if they go ahead, be an event in my house. I will be heartbroken if they don't play but I know it’s a reasonable sacrifice to make to keep the players and the fans safe and healthy.

But my morosity will be tempered by the knowledge that going without a great but non-essential pleasure is not a hardship when life and limb are on the line.

The people who write to me every day to complain about restrictions would be good to sing themselves a few bars of You’ll Never Walk Alone, a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune that was re-recorded in 1963 by Gerry and the Pacemakers, a Liverpool rock band. That version of the song is sung by fans at Anfield before every game, in part to express the overwhelming love Liverpool has for its Redmen, but also to recognize the tragedies the team has been associated with over the years, including the Heysel Stadium  and Hillsborough disasters.

The song gained prominence in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And now, various recording stars, including Barbara Streisand, have reprised the song as an unofficial anthem for frontline essential workers battling the pandemic.

The song is a triumph of hope, a reminder that we’re in this together.

And to sign off for 2021, I offer you the complete lyrics. Be well.


When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm

There's a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

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