“How very kind of you to weigh in.”

I sat alone in the dark as I read an email sent to me through the missingryan account.

“I just listened to the Vanished podcast. I was struck by Heather – relating how there seemed to be such strenuous emphasis placed upon “having a life plan”. The discussions about work, type of work, travel, etc.

It seems a real shame. Maybe if Ryan hadn’t felt pressure to have a plan, and he was allowed to just live his life without any expectations, then maybe he wouldn’t have gone to British Columbia and none of this would have happened.

Very sad.”

Stunned by such a blanket statement, my breath caught in my chest, weighing heavily in each ragged intake of air. In that moment, tired and sad, it was easy to give in to an anonymous judgement sent to me from someone that did not know me or my family. Someone that found it incredibly easy and satisfying to email a person in pain, to offer an unsolicited opinion.
I could have responded: Clearly, you do not know our parenting style. All we have ever wanted was our children to be healthy and happy. We put no pressure on the paths our children choose to take. Not going to Sun Peaks may have avoided Feb 17, 2018 but it never guaranteed safety.

But I didn’t.

It would serve no purpose to provide an indignant reply. This person felt no qualms behind the anonymity of a computer screen to be cruel. Perhaps she has been blessed with such good fortune that she lacks human empathy or she has felt the disappointments of life, that callus indifference is her stock and trade.

It matters not, I suppose. I am stronger than that. My memories of our life are deeply entrenched in every action, all of my children take.

What I have found extraordinary though, is the emergence of our culture that finds it necessary to weigh in. Consistently. Constantly. Social media has offered us a venue to provide opinions. What started as a soundboard to gather information, offer innocuous advice has quickly spread to offence at every turn.
“It is our right! “. We have forgotten how to debate with respect. We have abandoned our ability to be moderate. We have castaway kindness so that we can be heard above all else.

We no longer remember what is it like to place ourselves in another’s shoes.

I recall attending a leadership conference and our instructor brought up conflict resolutions. In an exercise, we went through a personal experience that was causing internal disagreement. I was explaining a dear friend who was going through a personal struggle. She came to me to vent, to ask for advice and to cry. In my infinite wisdom, I offered my opinion. It seemed like such common sense that I could never understand why she never took it. Arrogant, isn’t it?
My instructor turned and said something I will never forget and has become a mantra to me. “You would do the same thing, if you were in her situation”

Well no, didn’t you hear me? I gave her great options that made sense. She doesn’t take them. Strike two for arrogance.

“You are not listening, Heather. If you were her, if you had her life history, if you had the same experiences, the same reactions to your actions, you would make the exact same decisions. Reserve your judgement to actively listen. Perhaps in doing so, you can learn to bridge the gap of disaccord.”


Sometimes, I think you can pinpoint moments when growth comes and your life changes. This was it for me.

I look at the email glaring at me from computer screen.

I type the words..”How very kind of you to weigh in.”

And carried on.