I didn’t plan to go for a run through four neighbourhoods. But when John started driving his red mobility scooter down the one-way Fort Street, I knew I’d have to chase him on foot or we’d lose him. I had been hoping to do an interview with John for a-year-and-a-half. He’s the happiest person I have ever met and I thought he’d be a perfect person to profile at the end of our six o’clock newscast.
When I finally caught up with him, John smiled the most amazing smile you’ve ever seen, and agreed to an interview. He said he was hungry though, and his hands were cold, so he didn’t have time to stop. So I kept running after him and texting the videographer in the truck with updates on our location. I thought we could document John’s commute home and show how he interacts with the people he passes. John seems to have a limited vocabulary but the words he uses have limitless, positive impact. As I ran after him from Oak Bay junction to downtown, through Cook Street Village, he would introduce himself with that big smile, and look deep into strangers’ eyes and tell them they were beautiful. The reason John would be so good on screen is because you can see how his unexpected words transform the faces of the people he’d say them to. People who may not usually feel beautiful seem to feel that way in John’s presence.
The videographer finally caught up with us as John turned his scooter into Beacon Hill Park, and started running along. Unfortunately, there were no people there for John to interact with. Instead, he seemed to be singing to the peacocks he passed. He also kept smiling at the videographer – who was running with a 30-pound camera – and asking if he was OK. Although our lungs, muscles and pounding hearts were feeling anything but OK, we felt wonderful being with John. By the time we reached his home in James Bay, I (who don’t do much exercise at all) had run more than five kilometers. John looked deep in our eyes, smiled and opened his arms for a hug. We happily accepted. He told us we were beautiful. The pain from the run disappeared. Then John reminded us he was hungry and his hands were cold and he drove away with a wave. Although we didn’t get the TV story we hoped for, we were grateful to have witnessed the work of a man committing random acts of joy.
Adam Sawatsky is an anchor at CTV News Vancouver Island. On the weekend, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.