• Eugene Stickland

Do We Have Enough Toilet Paper Yet?

We are sadly on a hiatus with The Road Project at Stardale. Like the rest of the world, we have been forced into "social isolation."

It's frustrating because we are getting close to finishing the script, and last week we had a good evening working with our wonderful director, Helen Young. It's never a straight line working as we do, but we have faith that we will have an entertaining and provocative show when we are done.

Our deadline for our first performance has been, and hopefully still is, the Stardale Gala which is scheduled for May 14 - almost two months from now. Yet the way things are going it's impossible to predict what the world will look like on May 14.

It's fair to say, our sense of reality is shifting, it is being shifted for us by the virus. None of us knows for sure what is waiting out there on the other side of the pandemic. In a very abrupt fashion, our whole way of life seems threatened. Many of us are being taken out of our comfort zone, and there is a lot of fear and anxiety in the air.

I wrote a funny post on my Facebook page the other night about the fact that so many people are comforting themselves by buying vast quantities of toilet paper. People are even hoarding toilet paper, making something that we hardly ever think about a treasured commodity.

But not just toilet paper. Meat. Water. Produce. Cleaning supplies. Hand sanitizers. You name it, it's being bought up and stockpiled against a perceived apocalypse right here in Calgary. We've all seen pictures of the empty shelves in Superstore and Walmart. It feels like the end of the world as we know it.

But what is this world we know? What is our reality? What is our sense of comfort if we feel we need 24 rolls of toilet paper on hand so that we can fall asleep at night? And is that the same for all of us, in our society?

I believe I can say with some confidence that none of the Stardale girls' families are stockpiling, let alone hoarding toilet paper, or anything else. They live in urban Aboriginal families and you don't need a degree in sociology to tell you that by and large that means they live below the poverty line. Well below.

When you live below that line, you don't stock up on anything. You can't. Basically, you survive. As a child, you might well be sent to school without any breakfast, without a lunch. You might come home hoping for supper but find none. For those urban Aboriginal families, the apocalypse is already here and always has been.

That's the reality that some toilet paper hoarders must be imagining for themselves, but sadly one that many of our girls already experience, day in, day out, every day of their lives.

The same with the uncertainty. And the sense of disconnect from an ominous future that holds no assurances, let alone hope. This is the day to day reality of our girls, which the toilet paper hoarders fear for themselves.

So what can you do? Well, it's pretty basic but Helen always makes sure that they have a hot meal when they arrive. And she has a few little gifts for them when they depart. And she runs a beautiful program to help mitigate against the privations they have come to take for granted in their young lives.

And for my part, I make sure their stories will get told.

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