You might walk by the first time and not notice the small miracle. At first glance there is nothing unusual about a group of adults, some with happy dogs, chatting on a wide part of the seawall just west of Spyglass. The second time you pass by, you might become a little curious. Who are these people and why are they consistently here – same place, same time? And then there’s all that smiling and hugging! Who does that? 

If you walk by about 07:15 you will likely see Lee Van Steinburg, rolling along in his motorized wheelchair, dressed for whatever the weather. He takes up his position on the wall near the benches, facing the water, and waits for the regulars to arrive. He lights up a joint and watches the morning light change. This has been his daily ritual for 9 years. If this informal gathering has a king pin, an instigator, a host – it would be Lee. Cordial to all, a kind listener, a keen observer and a petter of dogs. People start to arrive in singles, pairs, some with dogs straining joyfully at their leashes to be loved up by Lee. Some walk briskly by, waving a cheery hello without stopping. Others stay just for a moment, but most linger for a chat, a pet, a hug. Aquabus drivers slow and honk in greeting. 

Years pass and the folks gather daily. Some move away. Newcomers are warmly welcomed. Friendships are made. They share their day, their life. And they will meet again tomorrow. They co-create community and connection. 

Back in the 70’s, False Creek South was designed as an experiment in social diversity. What happens when neighbours come from diverse backgrounds, mixing up incomes and households?  Small miracles, that’s what. Community. Those far-sighted city planners got it right.

By Carol Boothroyd