Short and to the point


On the wall of the waiting area of the Montreal Children’s Hospital emergency room used to be a quote from the mid-19th century poet Rabindranath Tagore that said, Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.

As the mom of three boys, I’ve spent a lot of time in emergency rooms and though I’m not particularly religious, that quote holds a special place in my heart. Much of a journalist’s job is spent documenting some of the more unsavory actions of adults - those who, unfortunately, often hold positions of authority in our communities. Notwithstanding the fact that psychopaths are significantly over-represented in upper levels of the business world (not necessarily a bad thing according to Forbes magazine) we regularly witness grownups behaving badly - from industry executives trying to skirt myriad regulations to public officials hiding their misspoken words and miscalculated actions behind lawyers – those paid by the public dime.

So it was an immense privilege this week to be writing about a group of young kids willing to sacrifice what can often constitute a portion of one’s own identity – their hair – in an eff ort to raise funds for cancer research for the upcoming Shave2Save event this Saturday, April 25, in Hudson.

The fact that interviewing them also made me smile until it almost hurt is just an added bonus. I made an effort to highlight all the positive aspects of having a shaved head to the kids, telling one, “You won’t have to worry about things like combing, brushing, and washing it.” The young man looked at me, patiently, and said, “I don’t really do any of those things anyways.”

Another 10-year-old lad with a head full of thick dark wavy hair was quite sincere in pointing out that he had already been bald for the first two years of his life so this head-shaving business should really be a walk in the park. The only girl (so far) in the group of kids to step up to the challenge went door to door in her Rigaud neighbourhood to raise funds, undaunted by any refusals, and said she doesn’t care what people will think of her bald head, the money raised in memory of her grandparents was more important.

Though it sounds counterintuitive, listening is a skill that is not easily mastered and the complacency of conducting repeated interviews or covering endless council meetings can lead journalists’ writing to fall into a cookie-cutter same-old pattern.

Most young kids, bless their hearts, have not mastered the skill of bullsh-tting and their brutally frank responses reminded me to respect my interview subjects regardless of preconceived notions of what their answers may be based on any accompanying factors.

The best response of the day came from one of the youngest of the group, a 7-year-old with an impish grin.

“How do you think it’s going to feel to have your head shaved?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. Of course, he’s right.

Lesson learned.

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