The true measure of a person is not how much money they make, it’s the good they do in the lives of others.
By that standard, Wray Elias Hart had no peer. He proved that outward appearances can be incredibly deceiving.
It illuminates the cruel nature of our society that someone such as Hart would ever be shallowly dismissed as simply a “homeless man.”
Such a term was never used by anyone who knew him or stopped to talk to him as he sat on his spot along the wall by the old Spring Garden branch of the Halifax Regional Library. To them, he was “Wray,” and the quality of his interactions with those people were revealed in the countless testimonials and tributes that poured in after Hart was killed.
“He looked out for everybody, regardless of his own situation,” Natasha Pyke told CBC News. “He helped everybody. He never said no to anybody. He had a really hard life and he struggled a lot, but he remained positive through every bit of it.”
Said Farah Henry: “[He] was somebody that would make friends with everyone and he took a lot of people under his wing.”
Cat MacKeigan was one of those people and she recalls meeting Hart 20 years ago. In a Jan. 29 tweet, MacKeigan wrote about Hart. “Ray, I first met you as my teenage self, sharing my lunch with you sitting on the Halifax Library wall. You noticed when I left for school, commented when I came back home, shared your stories with me, and left your imprint on my soul. You will be missed.”
Toward the end of his life, Hart had found a new apartment and placed his bed near his window so he could look out at the stars, just as he used to when his usual spot on the street was the corner of Spring Garden Road and Brunswick Street.
Hart was only 62 when a driver jumped the curb on Queen Street, hitting him on the sidewalk, pinning him under the car and killing him. It was just before 3 a.m. on January 27. Hart was out looking for bottles so that he could buy a friend some cigarettes. It was a final selfless act by a man of limited means.
Dennis Patterson is facing charges of operating a motor vehicle while impaired and impaired driving causing death. He’s a 23-year-old MBA student at Saint Mary’s University.
Amid the outpouring of tributes to Hart, there was also financial support as Haligonians donated more than $5,000 to help pay for his funeral. But Hart deserves a more tangible legacy. If the driver is convicted, part of his fine should go to a homeless shelter and any community service he’s ordered to do should help people like Hart.
We should do something to remember Hart and my suggestion is to build a residence for homeless people and name it after him. It could be funded from all three levels of government and administered by a group such as Hope Cottage, which already works with the homeless. It should be more than a place to get a bed, a meal, and a shower. That’s all good, but they also need a place to use as a fixed address and help them make the transition to independence.
Some have a different view of what success is. I hope the outpouring of grief and love for Hart causes many to reconsider.
It’s hard to imagine a more apt compliment for Wray Hart than the last line of his obituary, published on the Dignity Memorial website: “His soul was made to care.”