Home > Uncategorized > Jonah Andrews

Jonah Andrews

New to our school. A fantastic kid. Eyes filled with wonder, nerves, trying to make the best of this new place. She mentioned she’d been on a track team, before her mom had died, before she ran away, before things fell apart. She saw pictures of kids crossing finish lines, hugging each other. She said she’d like to know what that felt like. She asked if she could run with me. She heard about the Deep Cove run. Wondered if she could do it. I knew she could. We set it up for Friday. Unfortunately, Gord was away, things weren’t lining up. Nothing worse – getting a kid excited to try something big and then bailing. Couldn’t screw this up. Scrambling. I called Jonah. Asked for a favour. He said yes. Of course, he said yes. They ran 20 km that day. Total strangers. He held her water bottle. She looked wiped when she returned but had a huge smile on her face. You could tell she was proud. Jonah saw me looking at her and he smiled. Nothing said but everything known.

Jonah Andrews. He fills the space in between. Something needs to be done? He accomplishes it. A challenge offered? He takes it on. A smile needed? He offers it. The class needing a box of popsicles? He buys them.

I’ve known Jonah for 4 years. He entered grade 8 barely over five feet. He was completely unsure of himself. He didn’t trust the world for it was cruel, capricious and cold. He couldn’t discern who was an ally, or foe. He made a decision early on that required a lot of faith. I told him he needed to trust us. In our school, trust is everything. True success only comes from trust. It’s a contract that is signed with intent, action and truth. “Stick close to us. We’ll insulate you from the inevitable strife that new kids face.” He assented. From there he kept close. He modelled what the staff did. When I ran a 10, he ran beside me. When we shot hoops, he learned how. He always asked how to get better. Humility, the rarest of teen traits. We passed the soccer ball. Over and over. We hit the ball against the fence. Over and over. He studied the way I thought he needed to study. Over and over. We ran. Over and over. He got better and better. He stood taller. He spoke up. He trusted. He thrived.

He ran his first half marathon 13 days into Streetfront. I asked. He said yes. It was along the ocean in Richmond. Lots of veterans with us. He ran beside me. Constantly asking questions. Hoping the answers would make the experience easier. He didn’t need any of that. He ran the final 8 by himself. I had lapsed into some kind of stupor, literally seeing Show Bisons (trust me, that’s another story), and I barely finished the race. I told him to stay by the finish line and I’ll find him. I wobbled across. He came and helped me. 13 days into his life at Streetfront and he was already my right-hand man.

Jonah and I developed the kind of relationship you hope is possible between teacher and student. I pushed and he pushed back but he was never far from me. His desk was 5 feet away for 3 years. Every time I’d glance to my right, he’d be there. Always there. Flux and dysfunction are common conditions at our school. Life isn’t easy. It’s fucking hard. Hard to witness. Hard to live. But Jonah was a salve to all that. Bouncy, light, energetic, curious – a generous spirit that spread throughout. He struggled many times and sought counsel almost daily, but his burdens felt temporary compared to the others, not because they were insignificant but because there were things he wanted to experience and explore. Beating yourself up, worrying about family issues, struggling to understand the vagaries of human cruelty, were always there, but he fought through the fog to find the light. To find hope. To find a purpose.

Jonah listened and accepted the mantras that always seem to come out of a certain grey-haired teacher. “Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” “Be proud that today you did something that almost nobody else COULD or WOULD. Take satisfaction in that.” “Anybody can quit. It takes no skill. Finishing – that’s where freedom and liberty lie.” “Always find a reason to finish. Never look for a reason to quit.” Stupid Facebook shit but, though it reads cheesy, I believe in it. Jonah found purchase in these phrases. He started to live based on these precepts. He started off as one of the least coordinated students’ I have ever coached or taught (we are talking 1000’s of kids) and by the end of his Grade 10 year, he was easily our best athlete. Where other kids were too cool to constantly try, thinking it so utterly devoid of street cred, Jonah flipped that entirely. He made hard work and effort the standard at Streetfront. The other kids might snicker at his relentless commitment but in the end, Jonah was at the front, cruising to the finish line, the others always blaming the ref or talking about that injured something. Trying to diminish excellence and build up mediocrity.

Jonah had goals unlike any Streetfront student I’ve taught. He decided running 1000 km in a school year (technically 8 months) was a noble goal. He ran a minimum of a 10 km every single run. Often, he would finish his 10 and then head out for another 5, sometimes another 10. He’d miss his lunch (and if you know Jonah, food is a big thing to him) but the contentment that came from following through and reaching his goals, easily outweighed his hunger. He ran every marathon and half marathon we offered (usually 2-3 fulls and 4-6 halfs) each school year. He was never too injured or too tired. He never found an excuse not to succeed. He always stayed around till the last kid crossed the finish line and cheered them on like they were family. In every marathon photo, you can find Jonah smiling, obviously proud that he’s part of something special. When he graduated from Streetfront he stood alone. His running accomplishments were unparalleled – he had run almost 3000 kms (beating the previous record held by another Streetfront superstar, Ibin Ardila). He had run every single marathon or half marathon offered (ok, he missed one). During COVID, he ran 2 fulls and half in a month’s time. He’s on our Mount Rushmore. Smiling that beautifully naïve smile that only comes from believing that the world is good.

Jonah was the perfect candidate to join our next Street2Peak Expedition. Though there was no doubt he’d be a member of the team, he never took that for granted. He attended every training hike, on time, ready to go. He carried more weight than was required and assisted any nervous kid, who had their eyes searching for a caring soul. When we got to New Zealand, Jonah’s role once again morphed towards what the group needed. Tragically, and really only in a Streetfront world, we received news minutes before we departed for New Zealand, that one of the boy’s father had passed away. Unbelievably, 24 hours later, we got another awful call. This time news came that another boy’s brother had been murdered back in Vancouver. We were reeling. I had numerous conversations with our admin and the Street2Peak Team about whether the trip should be called off, whether we should send the boys home, whether family members should fly out to support us. It was crazy. The business of tragedy takes you instantly from the micro to the macro. I couldn’t tend to the boys in the way they needed. I needed help. Jonah was right there.

Both boy’s needed companionship, fellowship. They didn’t necessarily need someone to talk to them, what they needed more was somebody there to listen. Someone just to be there. Jonah was the natural fit. He intuitively knew what to do. The boys stayed up all night chatting, laughing and bypassing the pain that was so obvious. As the trip unfolded, Jonah was a constant companion of both boys. He sat beside them on the buses. His bunk right by their’s. He helped them manage their pain. The day after we returned to Canada, I took the two boys out to breakfast at Bon’s on Broadway. Both boys, without knowing, asked if Jonah was joining us. I made a call and Jonah was there before we arrived. The meal was a means of checking in on the boys but to them it was as if I wasn’t even there. They had everything they wanted and Jonah was right in the middle. One of the boys wanted to run a half during COVID, Jonah ran alongside him.

Jonah is now in Grade 11. He’s attending an amazing outdoor education program called Take-A-Hike. He will be their Valedictorian in 2 years. 100%. He texts me about 3 times a week, I wish it was more. I miss him every day. I am a strange man when it comes to friends. I’m 51 and most of my dearest friends are Senior Citizens – people well into their late 60’s and 70’s. I’m like my mom that way, I guess, I appreciate their sensibilities. I appreciate their perspectives. I like how they believe in hard work and good times. Jonah’s not 74, he’s 16, but he’s just like them. He lifts my spirits and makes me happy to do the work that I do. He’s one of my best friends.

Introducing Jonah Andrews, a Streetfront Legend.

If you’d like to support Streetfront or students like Jonah, maybe you’ll consider donating to the SHLF. This charity raises money to insure that student’s like mine can participate and explore the world around them. We usually host a charity 5 and 10 km run but due to COVID, we are fundraising through donations or the purchase of the most amazing run shirt imaginable.

If so inclined, here’s the site:https://www.shlf.ca

Hope this finds you all well. Happy Thanksgiving Gobble Gobble

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: