Lessons learned from Ollie’s passing

The recent passing of Olaf “Ollie” Norum resulted in an amazing show of community spirit.

Dear Editor:

The recent passing of Olaf “Ollie” Norum resulted in an amazing show of community spirit.

Upon receiving notification of his death and a subsequent suggestion that a memorial bench be created for him, there was a massive outpouring of support from current and former residents, resulting in donations totalling $2,700 in a matter of days.

Norum was not a mover and a shaker in town — quite the opposite was true. The small, unassuming, friendly man was an almost ubiquitous presence on the streets and in the cafes of the town for 60 years, and few citizens were better known in the town’s history.

Certain themes arose during the discussion regarding Norum’s passing. Many people said things like, “I knew Ollie and liked him, but I never really took time to talk to him”, or, “I wish I had done more for him.”

Here is where we find an opportunity to learn from our old friend. Ollie’s influence on the town both in life and death, should teach us to have more compassion for the disadvantaged and more tolerance for difference in general.

It is important to observe that Ollie was beloved not because he was like the rest of us — he was loved and remembered because he was different.

The Review recently had a full page ad regarding the “Pink Shirt” anti-bullying campaign, and that is actually relevant here because so many young people are targeted and picked on because they are different.

What Ollie has taught us is that difference, when benign, is not something to be scorned or frowned upon, it is something to be celebrated.

So when Ollie’s bench is finally unveiled in Memorial Park, maybe take a moment to sit on it and ask yourself how you relate to people that are different and less fortunate, and perhaps resolve to do something good; take some time to say hello to somebody less fortunate, maybe buy somebody a coffee or a breakfast. If we can all become a little more compassionate, then Ollie will have given Summerland a very great gift.

Rick Selinger