I didn't know Raymond Taavel.
I don't know what his voice sounded like, I don't know what he liked to have for breakfast, and I don't feel the acute grief that those who know him and love him are feeling now, just a day after his death in Halifax's North End.
But Raymond was a part of my life. He was a part of the life of this media organization. Not quite three years ago, he pledged solidarity with an idea that people should have the space to tell their stories. As a sustaining member of the Media Co-op, he pledged solidarity with my struggles as a journalist and media organizer by being part of a movement that takes responsibility--financial responsibility--for the stories we allow ourselves and our friends and neighbours to be told.
This act of solidarity is, doubtless, one of a thousand that will be sung, spoken and written of in the days to come as Raymond's family and friends, acquaintances, colleagues and communities share their grief. But it is the very lightness of his touch on my life that is so striking: here is an example of being truly human. We can connect with people, feel their struggles and choose to walk beside them, without knowing them. We can place a small seed of change in people's lives, without having met them. We can be part of good things in our communities (in our world!), good things that people will feel, even if they don't know who we are. We can, quite simply, care.
By acting on a belief that getting a grassroots media network going was important for Halifax and for Canada, Raymond placed a hand of support on the shoulders of everyone who is a part of this co-op. When I think about the struggles of his life, I am reminded of the reason we do what we do: because people are worth it. Because being with other people ignites a spirit that spreads out over the world and lives on after we die. Because this spirit is powerful, transformative.
I didn't know Raymond. The heartbreak that I feel--as a Haligonian, as a human being who has been touched, however lightly, by another human being whose life ended much, much too soon--will heal quickly. But the ripples of Raymond's life will expand, and join with many others in a movement toward peace and justice.
I'll bet Raymond's story is worth telling. I invite you to tell it here.