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Laura Dodson Was a Pain in the Ass

NotL Rants column, The Niagara Advance

Laura Dodson was a pain in the ass. And that’s what made her great.


Few people live their lives for others. Most of us just try to scramble through, getting the dog walked, making sure we don’t run out of milk, trying to do the best we can. We are the little people, the masses. The greats, the Laura Dodsons of the world, live lives based on service, ethics, bigger pictures, grander scales. They have vision and courage and Ideas. They’re not afraid to stand out, be rude, speak up.


On top of those lofty and rare enough things, Laura also had the equally rare quality of grace.


While she was such a powerful force, in her presence you always felt you were the smart one, the good one, the special one. Any light that shone on Laura she delivered on to anyone near her. It was so good to be near her. Not only did Laura make you believe in her dreams, she gave you faith in your own. She made hope.

A local real estate agent refused to give, or even sell, Laura the URL he had registered,; he said he’d rather hold on to it and use it for his destruction/development of the property when she failed with her dream. I hope he’s enjoying that URL. He can add ‘CH’ to it to define himself. But Laura would never have said such a thing, and instead just found another way to get Willowbank online.

At Laura’s funeral, I found myself wanting to take notes, to keep track of the fine words, the strong sentiments. At the very moment I had that thought, I found a little string-wrapped pencil on the shelf in front of me. Thanks, Laura, I thought. And yes, I will keep writing.

The service was imbued with a sense of love and compassion; the church overflowed with it. Laura’s spirit embraced us all, and I, in turn, felt great love for everyone there. In each familiar face I saw the greatness of our shared community, the goodness in us all. Good thing that nasty real estate agent wasn’t there.

As so many people have said, with Laura gone—and Margherita too, lest we forget—we all need to work a little harder to keep things real around here. Write a letter, send an email, make a call, show up. Make it a policy, a tribute, a goal. Be a pain in the ass.

In that spirit, I have to bring up my own bête noire: ye olde community centre. First, to respond to J. David Gorrell’s letter of two weeks ago: Fine sir, do please join your private clubs and play cards at your friends’ houses. Your ‘ilk’ aren't welcome in our ‘collectivist’ community centre. But stay away too from our library, and our roads, and our schools, and our parks, and everything else our stupid collectivist taxes help to support.


See, there’s a great example of how I am not Laura Dodson. Laura would simply have felt sorry for this poor man who, in doing his research about me and my ‘acolytes’ didn’t even get my name right, never mind my beliefs. Petty me again. So much to learn about grace.

Incidentally, if he knows a lot of teenagers, or anyone, really, who can afford to join the local health clubs, then

he’s in with the A-listers. Shame on our local hotel chain for charging as much as White Oaks for a membership to their fitness centres—boasting a total of four or five treadmills over the three locations—which of course would only be bought by locals. That could have been such a nice, healthy way to give back to the community that helps to support them, rather than yet another way to gouge us.

At any rate, I was thrilled to read that almost everyone on council believes a new community centre to be a priority.

But. I haven’t heard a single original, or productive, idea. Cutting budgets, redesigning the building, begging for

money from various levels of government, these are nothing new. In fact, they are tired old ideas, guaranteed to delay the process even longer and compromise the thing to death. We need a community centre + we need money = we need action and ideas.

I’m almost reluctant to share my own ideas because a) people get paid big bucks for these kinds of things, and b) they’re not bloody likely to get implemented anyway. But, in the spirit of Laura and her patient generosity, a couple of quick thoughts: Phase one, have your old barn-raiser event, get the community together, and spruce up what we’ve got. Have local businesses donate the necessities (paint, tools, pizza, beer) in exchange for some public recognition and a logo on the freshly-groomed wall. Solicit programmes that will make us enthusiastic about getting the venue together so we can try them.

Phase two, if it still looks like a new centre is a priority: Screw taxes and public funding—unless you have something great to fund, and it deserves a grant or subsidy because it’s an environmental breakthrough or an architectural wonder. Instead, put the call out to the world: We want to build a dream, something that matters, something truly new. Make the wish list long and interesting, make the request exciting and inspirational, and who knows where we’ll wind up. But it won’t be hat in hand, begging the various levels of government for funding for yet another ode to beigeness.

And I hope someone has already begun setting up the Laura Dodson Award to be given annually to the town’s

greatest pain in the ass and/or volunteer: A plaque (something done by a local artist, not bought at Trophies R Us) to be hung at the town offices, and one free breakfast a week for a year at the Stagecoach.

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