Shedding light into darkness

For me, December 13, 2017 was a moving and humbling experience… one I will remember for a long time. On this day, a fellow DCL brother and I were honoured to meet the Estepa family. The name may not be immediately familiar to everyone, but the circumstances that brought us to this lovely family made international news. The Estepa family was attacked in the Elgin Mall parking lot on December 9, 2017. While the precise circumstances behind the attack are still being investigated, the video footage speaks for itself. The horrible words uttered by this man leave very little doubt as to the darkness that likely drove him to commit such an act.

We are not born with this darkness. It is cultivated by our surroundings and grows in us. In some, it never manifests beyond micro-aggressions, such as when I am asked “so where are you from?” (I’m “from” Canada for the last 37 years). In some, it shows a little more, such as in a casual chat at the poker table when you drop “dune coon” and your friends chuckle awkwardly but don’t say anything about it. In others, the darkness is so consuming that it drives them to grab a baseball bat, label a Spanish-speaking family as ISIS terrorists, and start breaking ribs.

And while this darkness may have driven this young man to commit such an atrocious act, Mr. Estepa’s wisdom and experience helped me to contextualize the event. This was, to paraphrase him, an act of projection… a man who saw his accumulated negative experiences and feelings reflected in a marginalized target: a group of non-English speaking immigrants of a different race. Mr. Estepa’s remarks were those of love and understanding, of sympathy for the darkness that inflicts the minds and hearts of so many. We were humbled by his perspective, and the family’s courage, kindness, and resilience. His words were exemplary in their regard for humanity and citizenship. His words were those of love for his country – OUR country – and of love for its citizens, who have not fallen short in their support during a challenging time for his family.

And speaking of support, Dad Club London stepped up to do what we do best. What started as a shocking, news-sharing post in the group, quickly evolved into a spontaneous passing of the hat, 3-day fundraiser. Local dads pitched in (during the tightest time of year) and raised just over $1000 in gifts, food, and gift cards for the family including an iPad mini for their son.

We were further moved by the lovely owner of Fellows Fernlea Flowers of St. Thomas. Ms. Treana Fellows who, upon learning of our mission, gave us the lovely arrangement as a token of her support. I won’t lie and say I cried as I hugged her. My friends at Cedarhurst Spa also provided us with a generous discount to help put a smile on mom’s face. And boy did she smile!

And last but not least I’d like to thank our friends and allies of the St. Thomas Police Services. We salute you and thank you for connecting us with the Estepa family. As an aside, my partner in delivering this gift (who cannot be named) told me he was holding back some tears, too. But he did a great job of keeping his cop face on!

It fills me with great humility being part of this superb organization. An organization whose membership consistently steps up to the challenge… and crushes it. An organization that challenges its members to discover the good in each other and the good in our communities. An organization that strives to instill love, respect, responsibility, and citizenship in its children.

This is fatherhood. This is DCL.

Mo Oshalla, DCL board of directors member