I'll never forget this moment from my childhood


It was a beautiful summer day, which I had just spent with my best friend and her dad.


If you’ve ever been in Toronto in August, you probably know the “Ex”, aka the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition). The Ex is the beloved portable carnival where we go to drown our back-to-school sorrows on rickety rides, impossible-to-win games, and deep-fried butter. (Yes, it’s a thing.)

We were leaving the grounds feeling as carefree as kids can, when I saw him.

He was sitting in a wheelchair, which was unfamiliar enough to my 9-year-old eyes – but what was really striking was the air of abandonment surrounding him.

The CNE grounds are large, but this man was sitting in a circle of emptiness, as if everyone was giving him a wide berth. When I moved closer, I could see that he was both mentally and physically disabled – he did not move or speak, and there was a cardboard sign placed on his lap, which read: “My name is John. Please take me around and show me a good time.” (Or words to that effect.)


I remember being appalled. To this day, I have no idea how John ended up there, or what happened to him after. I was filled with questions. How did he get there? If someo