Yeah yeah. North End youth may have be more likely to drop out of high school, collect social assistance, and have a lower life expectancy.
But I'll tell you the most important difference:
They don't wear f***ing helmets when they ride their bikes in the park!
This Wednesday we took about 15 North End youth to Assiniboine Park as part of a youth group outing. We had fun, did a scavenger hunt, and drove past the mansions on Wellington Crescent (which many of them had never seen). It was clearly "good times".
But seeing our kids in a Charleswood-Tuxedo environment created an interesting contrast.
Say what you want about the problems in the North End - they're there. Nobody's arguing that. But at least they can mess around as kids without the weird and ridiculous safety concerns of some cultures.
We let a couple youth bring their bikes along. It felt like they were the only people biking without helmets - in a freaking park. I was with them once and we were passed by an entire family - all of whom wore helmets. Perhaps making fun of someone for wearing a helmet is the correct evolutionary response?
A different example: One of my youth leaders brought large yellow rope and immediately started climbing a very large tree with several of the older youth. It was about 20 feet to the first branch, climbing just with the rope, your hands, and your feet. It was a little dangerous (I would have been in big trouble had this been some suburban youth group... and just to be safe(!) don't tell my boss anyway). But it was fun. One person scraped their arm - but everyone had a great time and was fine.
I've worked in the North End for four years now and I've never seen a youth riding a bike while wearing a helmet.
There's something refreshing about that.