When I was 17 years old, I applied to Ryerson University for its journalism program. Of the many items we needed for our portfolio, we were instructed to write a short essay about a person who had inspired us to become a journalist.
I wrote about a man named Stuart McLean.
This guy, I wrote, narrated many Saturday morning trips to gymnastics with my dad when I was little. This storyteller behind CBC’s Vinyl Cafe made me feel calm in those moments; he gave my father and I a laugh and some lessons, and in doing so, an opportunity to connect with each other. It was the first time I remember grasping the power of a story to do such a thing.
I remember one summer night a few years ago when I ran into Stuart on College Street in Toronto. He was holding a bouquet of flowers, and it was the first time I had ever seen him in person.
“STUART!” I exclaimed, as if we were longtime friends. “Are those flowers for me?” I told him how I had featured him in my essay and how I was doing in the journalism world to that date.
We had more encounters quite similar after that, the majority of them in and around Kensington Market. “How are you doing, Kimberly?” he said, remembering who I was after I simply said, “I’m the girl who-”
On that one particular instance, when my faith in the industry was waning, he had his producer take my number.
“STUART!” I exclaimed, as if we were longtime friends. “Are those flowers for me?”
My favourite memory, however, is when I went to talk to him in the CBC atrium during a book signing—another simple interaction, just a chance to talk from a place of shared passion.
Stuart knows how to listen.
You can tell that he is equally interested in your own story as he is with Dave and Morley’s, his characters that so many people across Canada cherish. He ended up giving me free tickets to his show that night.
Thank you, Stuart, for those tickets.
But most importantly, thank you for sharing your heart.
Thank you for inspiring me to write words into this world and to believe in my own capacity to persevere.
Thank you for listening, thank you for making my dad laugh, too, and thank you for making the airwaves a little brighter.
I will certainly miss you there.
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