A Wonderful Friend
On Saturday, February 22, 2014 I participated with more than 200 walkers and runners in Regeneration
Outreach of Brampton’s Coldest Night of the Year Campaign. Together we raised over $51,000 to help
Regeneration provided daily breakfast and care for the homeless in Brampton.
On the evening of the event I met John T. a 76 year old retiree from Mississauga at the start of the walk.
At the start of the walk our goal was to walk 10K. While the theme of the event was the Coldest Night of
the Year, it was far from being the coldest night as the temperature and wind chill was relatively mild.
The greatest challenge for us and the other 200 participants was the ice on the sidewalk. In fact heading
east on Queen Street John T. slipped once and luckily he did not hurt himself. We both acknowledged
that the sidewalks were treacherous and therefore, at times we walked on the side of the road. At 46
year old I had to be on top of my A-game to keep slightly ahead of John T. He is brisk walker and his
endurance is remarkable and admirable.
John T. and I were among the leading walkers and runners. For our two man team I became the defacto
navigator whileJohn set the pace. Heading north on Dixie, I missed the markers to turn west on Howden
Street. This would have taken us back to the starting point at Century Gardens Recreation Centre on
Vodden Street. Consequently, we ended walking north to Williams Parkway where we eventually turned
and headed into a westerly direction. On several occasions we had towalk on the side of the road facing
the oncoming trafficbecause the sidewalks were too icy and slippery. Some motorists had to literally
come to full stop when they saw us. Others honked their horns perhaps annoyed by two grown men
walking on such a busy street.
For me walking on Williams Parkway was extremely frightening. I can only imagine that John T. was
scared too but if he was never showed any signs of fear. The street was dark and the vehicular traffic
was heavy. At one point I tried calling my friend Myrol to see if he could come and pick us. I even
thought of flagging down a police car for help.
John T. and I walked for close to two hours. Along the way we shared a lot about ourselves with each
other. I learned that his youngest child was at least 2 years older than I am and that he had
grandchildren as old as Marchelle and Malcolm, my two older children. We quickly developed a level of
trust and respect for each. Our trust and respect helped us get through the path of our journey along
Williams Parkwaythat was most dangerous. Eventually from Williams Parkway we turned onto
Rutherford and headed back to our point of origin. At the end of the walk we high five and hugged each
other. From my estimation we walked about 15K and during that time developed trust, respect and
friendship. When weeventually bid goodbye to each other at Century Gardens Recreation Centre I gave
John T.one of my business cards and told him to please keep in touch.
Below I share an email I receive from John T. late Thursday, February 27, 2014 just before I retired:
Sorry it took so long to e-mail you – I had not forgotten you but had misplaced your business card.
Luckily Henny, my wife found it, so here goes.
First of all, thanks again so much for letting me walk with you and for taking such good care of me.
Henny, too, says thank you. We sure walked a good distance that evening and I guess that at the end I
was flagging a bit, but you always patiently waited for me. I have never walked so far over such terrible
sidewalks. I’m glad that the weather was not so cold as it is now, I would have frozen to death for sure.
You are a wonderful friend and I would like to see us meet again.
Again, many thanks
Below I share my reply to John T.’s email:
Your email warms my heart. I am so happy to receive your email and very kind words. I have spent a lot
of time reflecting on my purpose in life and have concluded that one my purpose is to impact the lives of
those whom I come in contact with. I was deeply troubled when we were walking along Williams
Parkway as it was extremely treacherous and busy. I was extremely worried and at one point I actually
tried calling my friend to see if he could come and get us.
I share this now to say that I do care about you. I was at times a bit apprehensive but at those moments
I knew my task was for us to return safely. John we high fives and embraced at the end...and I did say we
were brought together for a purpose...and for me that purpose was to form friendship, admiration and
respect for each other. John, if I get to 76 and can walk the distance you walked last Saturday I think I
would have done well.....you inspire me!
Please tell Henny hello for me and please call me anytime.
Have you met a wonderful friend recently? How did you meet?
Mark McKenzie is a leading Subject Matter Expert in financial services regulation and supervision as well
as a professional motivational speaker, corporate trainer and youth mentor. He can be contacted by
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