Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… No, Wait, It’s Happy Tears

If you’d met Hector Montoy a few months ago, he’d have seemed to you like a typical nine-year-old kid. Hector had been saving up his allowance for the past year, with his sights set on a PlayStation 4. That’s commendable, of course. It’s nice to see a kid with the patience to save up for something special, instead of blowing his weekly allowance on candy or comic books. But it’s not remarkable.

Then came the gamechanger. Hector, who lives in Grande Prairie, Texas, heard a news report about a mother and child who’d lost their lives to a fire. A smoke detector might have saved them. They didn’t have one.

Hector was astonished. He knew how important it was to have smoke alarms in the home, and hadn’t realized anyone went without them. “It really hurts my heart,” the boy is quoted as saying.

Suddenly, his need for a PlayStation 4 didn’t seem as dire. Precious Hector took his stash of cash – about $300 – and spent it instead on dozens of smoke detectors, which he and his local fire department proceeded to install for community members who needed them.

“Saving a life is more important,” he explained to a TV news channel.

Not that Hector no longer wanted a PlayStation 4. He simply revised his plan. He’d start saving again… from zero.

Never underestimate the ripple effect. Teenage brother-and-sister team Ashton and Peyton Harder heard Hector’s story, felt various heartstrings appropriately tugged, and put their own money together to buy, and personally deliver, a video game console for this little lad.

The Harders also donated another $150 for smoke detectors.

Happy Hector has said he, too, will keep the campaign going. That was a few months ago. I’ve tracked down his GoFundMe page (here). It hasn’t had a lot of activity, but things can change.

That’s a lesson Hector has already learned.


Confession time. I’m a zombie nerd. Yes, I do enjoy the endlessly entertaining exploits of the undead. I enjoy movies about them, and TV shows about them. And I even dropped in once at a zombie car wash because that was my idea of Saturday-afternoon thrills.

So, naturally, I’m a huge fan of the show The Walking Dead. (Not that you asked, but it’s Norman Reedus all the way. It’s a bad boy thing.) If you’re a viewer too, you know that a strongly recurring theme in this show is kindness. What? Some might say. How can blood, gore and splatty brains have anything to do with good deeds?

And yet it does. Over and over again in these episodes, the main characters go out of their way to help each other. They consider each other family, beloved individuals worth sacrificing their lives for. And yet they will even lend a hand to a stranger – yes, even at the risk of losing a hand (i.e. to a bitey person).

This may be one of the reasons why I’m drawn to this show. Besides the special effects, that is. I guess it’s comforting to know that, even in a zombie apocalypse, we humans will always look out for each other.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

The Right Kind of Global Warming

When I heard about the Global Chorus project, I was impressed right off the bat. A guy from Prince Edward Island by the name of Todd MacLean – journalist, musician and champion of the environment – had come up with a winning idea. Step one: Collect a very large batch of inspirational, poetic, one-page perspectives on our planet’s future – 365, to be exact, or one for every day of the year. (Pick from famous authors, well-known politicians, celebrity environmentalists, musicians and TV personalities, world-renowned leaders and scientists. Cajole every one of them into writing an essay.)

Stop to mop brow.

Step two: Organize these hundreds of contributions into a thought-provoking, game-changing literary compilation.

Step three: Publish, and donate all proceeds of book sales to environmental and humanitarian charities.

Step four: Make a difference to the world.

Sound ambitious? Todd pulled it off. Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, published by Rocky Mountain Books, will be in stores across the country at the end of the month. You can pre-order your copies online.

The theme was hope. The responses were optimistic. Notable contributors – and I’m only naming a few here – include Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Mikhail Gorbachev, Justin Trudeau, Desmond Tutu, David Suzuki, Jane Goodall, Rick Hansen, Farley Mowat, Temple Grandin and the Dalai Lama.

Every single one of these individuals donated their work and time to this project. Including me. Yep, I’m jammed in there on October 28, rubbing elbows with none other than October 29’s Stephen Hawking.

I’m humbled to be included. Floored, in fact. But proud. It’s a worthy project. And it will matter.


Puppies by the Truckload

I don’t know exactly what Greg Zubiak expected to see when he took a stroll through a field near Glaslyn, Saskatchewan on Friday. We know he had moose hunting on his mind. But I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect to stumble across a series of boxes strewn around the field. And I’m positive he didn’t think they’d be stuffed with tiny puppies – 20 in total.

“As I walked up, they all just kind of looked at me, and I guess my moose hunt was over,” Greg said in a news story. He added that it didn’t take much coaxing on his part before they all came running.

I guess they know what heroes look like.

The puppies were cold, hungry and full of fleas, but oh, so cute. After Greg had retrieved all of them, he literally took the clothes off his back – and used them to build a warm nest in the back of his truck. Then he delivered the bunch safely to a local humane society.

Although they’d been abandoned, these 20 are luckier than you might initially think. Lucky, because Greg found them on Friday and not Saturday. He says the area is rife with coyotes and there’s no way the pups would have survived overnight.

At the Battlefords Humane Society where the puppies are hanging their hats for now, space is tight. Staff here have never looked after more than 11 animals at a time, and with the arrival of the Glaslyn puppies, they’ve now got almost 40 dogs under their care. But they sensibly reached out on social media. And the responses – including money, food, puppy toys and adoption offers – have poured in. (They still need more volunteers to help care for the crowd, so if you live nearby and like little furballs, get in touch.)

The puppies were all born between three and five weeks ago, says the vet who examined them. They’re believed to be from two or more separate litters – they seem to have bits and pieces of husky, collie, retriever and German shepherd in their blood – but they’re all 100% pure cuteness. Ahh, puppies. Am I right?

“See, Daisy? It IS possible to hitchhike without opposable thumbs.”

“See, Daisy? It IS possible to hitchhike without opposable thumbs.”

A Sad State of Affairs

You may not have all the same chic outfits, fancy cars and new electronics as your neighbour (not to mention, you don’t show them off to the same obnoxious degree), but you may have something she doesn’t: happiness. People who are more materialistic are also more depressed and less satisfied than the rest of us, say psychology and business researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. That’s because these folks are constantly obsessed with what they don’t have, instead of feeling grateful for what they’ve already got.

Humans are healthier when we focus on others. Since we can’t survive without each other’s support, the little lift we get by helping another individual is a hard-wired reward to make sure we keep doing it.

If people spend a lot of time buying new stuff for themselves, they simply wind up wanting more, and feeling grossly deprived in the process. Apparently, all this takes so much selfish inward concentration that they miss out on that happy little perk that comes from focusing on someone else’s needs.

Hence the crushing existential emptiness.

Hm. My house is modest, my clothes are sensibly priced and my iPhone 6 is, um, not yet a reality.

But now I feel much, much better about it.

Sure, she looks happy. But inside, her soul is dying. (Photo courtesy of photostock /

Sure, she looks happy. But inside, her soul is dying. (Photo courtesy of photostock /

Up in the Air

Imagine performing CPR to try to save an almost lifeless heart attack victim. Imagine doing it for two hours straight. Now picture doing it 30,000 feet above the ground, on a cramped overnight passenger flight. A 60-year-old man is alive today only because a trio of young (and clearly energetic) men doggedly kept his blood pumping. Dave Monks, an Australian doctor, and two men from Toronto – pharmacist Ramon Goomber and his buddy, police constable Ming Li – did everything they could to keep the passenger’s weak heart in beat mode (they lost his pulse 38 times before the plane could make an emergency landing in Beijing). Besides the CPR, they made good use of an on-board defibrillator, medications from the first-aid kit and three tanks of oxygen. All were applied in the narrow confines of the plane.

Miraculously, the tireless team pulled it off. The man they saved made a full recovery, and crew and fellow passengers gave the three heroes a deserving round of applause. As for the airline? Not so much. They offered the men one single first-class seat, presumably in a show of gratitude. One wonders, did the guys draw straws? Does it matter who lost? All three are clear winners.

Nerves of Steel

What’s your biggest, strongest, deep-rooted, visceral fear? What makes you tremble, or scream and run away, trampling any and all seniors and small children in your path? Maybe you’re afraid of hairy spiders, or great heights. Perhaps it’s the idea of singing in front of an audience, or taking a dip in a dark lake. (Please don’t tell me it’s an ice bucket.)

Would you face your fear to raise money for cancer? That’s the basis of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Fearless Challenge campaign. Celebrities and commoners alike are crowdfunding for cancer while promising to take on whatever makes them shake in their boots. Some of them will eat gross stuff. Others vow to make various radical grooming choices such as head-shaving and hair-dyeing. The bravest ones (yep, guess what my fear is) are skydiving, bungee jumping and, gulp, leaning over the edge of the CN Tower, apparently secured by nothing more than a filament that could surely snap in the breeze of a passing pigeon’s wingbeat.

I will pause here while my palpitations return to normal (thanks, vivid imagination). The fascinating thing about the Fearless Challenge campaign is that everyone’s particular constellations of fear are unique. One guy doing the challenge is so shy that, to him, high-fiving a stranger is terrifying. Another man is leery of confrontation. His idea of facing fear is fighting a sumo wrestler. One woman doing the challenge says she’s prepared to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Um. We won’t even. We just won’t.

Whatever your fears are, you’ll probably find something on the campaign website that resonates with you. And maybe inspires you. In fact, perhaps yours will be the next face we see posted on the Fearless Challenge page, promising to play with snakes, or tuck into a fresh piece of uni sushi, or finally tell your boss what you really think of her. Hey, we won’t judge. It’s your journey.

The CN Tower EdgeWalk: My own Fearless Challenge is just looking at this picture. Oh my. (Photo copyright of Canada Lands Company CLC Ltd.)

The CN Tower EdgeWalk: My own Fearless Challenge is just looking at this picture. Oh my. (Photo copyright of Canada Lands Company CLC Ltd.)