I did a thing and learned some things, so now I’m going to tell you about it because if I don’t, did it even happen?

When the lockdown started, I, like everyone else, was gripped with a surreal sense of what the hell do we do now? Like everyone, I had to change all my daily routines, and face my own vulnerability to an unseen virus, worrying about my loved ones and my livelihood.

I’ve discovered that when a challenge is presented, I pretty immediately think, what can I do to help? I’m not saying that I always come up with the right solution, mind you. What’s more important–to me anyway–is that I do something–anything–to give myself a sense of contribution, which in turn translates to a sense of control. Apparently I like control.

So 7 months ago, on March 18, using flip chart paper, I sketched a drawing of an alligator wearing a vest, added a really cheesy joke, and stuck it to my front door. I also shared it on social media. At the time, I thought, this’ll be amusing for a couple of weeks. A month later, I ran out of flip chart paper and switched to a whiteboard fastened to my door with velcro.

Whiteboard illustration on a front door, text reading "Q: What did the drummer call his twin daughters? A: Anna One! Anna Two!"

One day soon after I started, I heard young voices outside my front window, where I’d set up my home office. With the warmer spring weather, a neighbour and her two grandchildren, Bea and Alex, would go by on their daily walk. Alex would come all the way up the driveway to read the joke out to his grandma and sister waiting on the sidewalk. They’d laugh or groan or say huh? Then I’d hear Grandma explaining the joke as they continued their walk. It became something I looked forward to every day.

Whiteboard illustration on a green door of Superman with his legs crossed, text reading "Q: What's the strongest letter in the alphabet? A: P - Not even Superman can hold it."

When George Floyd was killed, I felt that it was not the time for jokes. While I wanted to acknowledge what was going on–what has been going on for a long time–I was also conscious of the fact that whatever I put on my door would be consumed by Bea and Alex, and their grandmother would be the one to have to explain it to them.

With that, I pivoted to posting drawings and messages about Black inventors and other important individuals who have made major contributions to society. In doing my research, I learned a lot about these women and men who have played such vital parts in the world we live in today. I found myself surprised by how many everyday objects had been introduced to us by Black and Indigenous people, as well as thinking about the bias in me that resulted in those feelings of surprise.

 man, text reading "Thomas L. Jennings, inventor of dry cleaning"

7 months and 177 drawings later, I’ve decided to wrap on #DadjokeDoor, #GreenDoorBlackLives and #GreenDoorIndigenousLives, though they will live on forever on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks to my daily ritual, my drawing skills have improved, I’ve started learning about Black history, have met several of my neighbours, many delivery people, and can tell you which dry erase markers have the richest colour (shout-out to Expo). But now it’s time to do something else and contribute in other ways.

Whiteboard illustration of an Indigenous woman on a green door, text reading "Mary Two Axe Earley - Mohawk activist who fought for the right for Indigenous women to keep their status after marrying a non-Indigenous man."

By now, like everyone, I’ve established new routines and have settled into a new normal. They say that we’re about to enter the 2nd wave of the pandemic, which could mean new restrictions and another lockdown. I have a problem with these terms, reports of increased daily cases, the cursing of 2020 as some kind of doomed year. The way I look at it is, this is all simply life. It might look different this year, but it’s always been thus. Each day is a new beginning with a new joke, drawing, or something else to share. And everything is going to be OK.

Whiteboard illustration of 2 women, a dog, "Thank you for reading our door!" #DadjokeDoor #GreenDoorBlackLives #GreenDoorIndigenousLives

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