PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
Have you ever noticed how one will attract companions from different directions and bring them into his personal group of friends? Gerry McClintock was a personality who did that with those whom I personally would not have sought out as close friends.
Dave Miller was such a rather awkward relation to me – he was Gerry’s personal choice of friend and not mine. There was nothing particularly wrong with him; he had his weaknesses and strengths, as with all. I think I simply lacked empathy or closeness with him. In spite of this, we went into buying and living in a house together.
It was a similar situation with Ed Korpan in junior high. He was the extroverted ringleader who attracted a variety of people. I would not have chosen Ken Dowson and Wayne Childs for personal friends, but Ed was our social common denominator. Outside of him, we had nothing to do with one another. But I had lots to do with Dave. Things could have been better, had I been a decent fellow, but I wasn’t.
My former roommate, Rick Steinke, rented a room from us. I deeply regret getting after him to get a job when he was out of work, having no sympathy or patience while watching him sit and play guitar in his bedroom month after month, going drinking with his buddies, and falling behind on his rent. Rick, wherever you are, I apologize. (I owe many people apologies.)
While from an outward appearance of what was happening with you, my reaction might have been common among many landlords, I had no capacity to be helpful and understanding, as a friend should. I’m sorry.
While working at the Bay in 1970, a newspaper ad for the Dale Carnegie Course in Public Speaking caught my attention. I enrolled and discovered my fear of speaking publicly, but also gained victory over that problem, as did others in my class. The course awakened in me an awareness of, and desire for, a better life in terms of how we ought to treat one another. I longed to have purpose and find virtue in myself and others, like truth, understanding, goodness, respect, sincerity, positive thinking, liberality, courage, conviction, and love.
Roger Black, the fellow holding the Carnegie franchise for Winnipeg, was enthusiastic and inspiring. While we participants experienced a sort of camaraderie, it was barely a whiff of what I desired out of life. Still, it was an alert to better things.
An Allan King attended the Carnegie course, and he had a painful time in front of the class, being so subdued. One day, as we were instructed, he talked about something personal that he was passionate about in his life. Before our eyes, something broke for him and his fear was gone. Allan eventually won the “most improved speaker” award of our class.
From that day forward, not only was he confident to speak before others, he was bold. Unlike previously, he would even lightly taunt and defy me, and I suspect others as well. Quite a change. Sometimes I wonder if people might not be better off in their shackles of shyness. In Allan’s case, it was more playful than harmful; it would be good that he didn’t get carried away with his newfound freedom.
As a side note in April 2016: Allan found our site ThePathofTruth and wrote me. A pleasant surprise! An excerpt from his letter:
“While I was in McDonald’s in Winnipeg , I was introduced to Amway Products and met a bright and professional young man named …I think Rick or Vic Hafichuk. Have we met ??? chuckle …? or did I meet your relative, perhaps? I managed a restaurant in West Kildonan and then in St. James .”
Who should I meet up with, after a Carnegie public speaking class, in a restaurant but Raymond McKillop, my childhood neighbor friend who taught me to speak English! Raymond was thin, bashful, his face badly marred with acne, and I was told, a bachelor, and an alcoholic. He was farming his father’s land, the same land we knew as children. Raymond had very little to say; he seemed so awkward socially.
His mother had spoiled Raymond rotten. She worshipped him, gave him what he wanted, and in her eyes, he could do no wrong. Once when he was about eight, his father Russell was giving us a ride home from school in a team-drawn sleigh wagon. Raymond showed off in front of us against his father, disobeying and talking back.
This continued until Mr. McKillop got very angry and tried to discipline him. Raymond, being selfish and proud, a typical brat, would not submit. His father spanked him in front of us all, and Raymond was very embarrassed, trying to laugh while crying.
People commented on how Raymond later was not going to fit in with society. They were right. He was psychologically shortchanged and socially destroyed by lack of discipline, thanks to his mother. No wonder the wise proverb:
“Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. As a matter of fact, it may save their lives” (Proverbs 23:13-14 GNB).
Raymond, if you should read this, take heart; listen to me, there is hope, most definitely. There is hope for anyone at any time. All you need to do is let go of your pride and turn to God, Who is there, here, now. This world isn’t the end of it.
And don’t be bitter toward your mother. She was wrong, but so have we all been, you and I, everyone, one way or another. All you need to do is read my story, which you are, hopefully. I can tell you these two things that I have learned: There is nothing too hard for God, and there is never any need to despair.
(Thus far, the reader has not seen the change or positive side for me, but look what happens next.)
One fateful day, Mary Jane Junker, a young, pretty fashions salesclerk at the Bay who had a crush on me, invited me to go skiing at a ski hill south of Winnipeg. I accepted and spent the day with her and friends on the slopes. This was, I think, my second time out with them. I had not the slightest inkling of the pending painful, but very significant, redirection of my life.
Several factors led up to what happened. I was a total novice, overweight, somewhat drunk, and though those with me had learned how to ski, I was trying to keep up with them. On the legendarily treacherous last run of the day, I fell and severely tore everything in my right knee (I broke no bones, however). I was tobogganed off the slope and my friends drove me back to Winnipeg.
Not having a family doctor, they asked where they should take me. Bill Nairn drove me to the Misericordia Hospital, which was Catholic. Why there, I don’t know. He may have been Catholic, or it may have been simply the handiest hospital.
I was booked in, weighed, bedded, and my knee packed in ice. I was in pain, and there would be much more of it in the days to come. For days, they could not operate until the swelling came down. My injury was serious. I can still recall nearly going through the roof when they inserted a large hypodermic needle into my knee to drain it.
It was at this time that God set me down, and I began to experience a subtle work within me, though I had no idea what was happening. Years later, in retrospect, I would come to realize this injury was indeed a “mercy stroke” (the meaning of “Misericordia”). The event would turn out to be a watershed, a tremendous blessing in the disguise of a tragedy.
For my repair, God provided Dr. Duncan Croll, an aged, experienced, skilled surgeon who was reputed to have done marvelous work on wounded soldiers in WW2, enabling men to have a normal life who were predicted by specialists to never walk again. He was a brusque, outspoken man, often scolding me for one thing or another, but I didn’t mind. I was humored, actually.
He always wore white gloves because he had a chronic case of eczema; I walked into his private office months later and saw close to a hundred pairs of laundered white gloves hanging everywhere, tended by his eccentric secretary.
I recall waking up in the middle of the operation, and he said to me, “Son, you sure did a job on your leg. It looks like a cat got in there and clawed away, shredding everything.” They gave me another shot of sodium pentothal, and my lights went out.
I again woke up in the elevator on the way to recovery and overheard the nurses talking about how unusually long the operation had been (over four hours), and how Dr. Croll was so painstakingly thorough.
Because I was about 35 pounds overweight, he put me on a 1,200-calorie diet. He told me that I was going to have to ease the burden on my leg. I lost 28 pounds in the 35 days I was in the hospital, 28 of those days flat on my back in traction. I was discovering that one of the fastest ways to lose weight was to go skiing, provided you did it right – or not. Who says you need exercise to lose weight? Just break a leg. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, you have nothing over drunken skiing.
I found out later that there had been some medical consideration of fusing my knee. Thankfully, they didn’t, and I have lived a normal life for the most part, able to do most things with a minimum of discomfort to this day, several decades later.
I didn’t know Heaven was an upper storey of the Misericordia Hospital. My window overlooked a main traffic route to city center and the Bay. Being winter, with temperatures –30 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, and watching the frosted-up cars spewing their condensing exhaust into the frigid air, I was very thankful for not having to drive to work – or in the nicest of weather, for that matter.
I was also thankful to have my meals prepared. I was amazed at how good hospital food was! Who’s the liar who said hospital food is bad? As a bachelor acquainted with faring for himself with no cooking skills and no interest in the culinary, this was a privilege. Besides, being on a diet, I was hungry and enjoyed what I got when I got it. Even the hunger was enjoyable – I was thankful to lose weight.
I was also thankful that my friends smuggled in Southern Comfort, which I hid in my flower vase. I was thankful to make friends of the patients. I went through perhaps six or more roommates in my semi-private room, but I had no desire to leave.
Another change was occurring, too – I was thankful to have ordinary conversations with the nurses and talks of spiritual matters with the nuns and the visiting priest.
Oh, how I wished my accident had never happened! And here is a strange thing: I did not believe in miracles, I was not a believer, yet I had dreams wherein God completely healed my leg. I always woke up disappointed, yet expecting or hoping that one day it would happen.
Ché, a patient while I was there, was a young, intelligent paraplegic who had big dreams. He spoke of meeting Johnny Cash’s brother, Tommy, cutting a record and becoming a music star someday. I didn’t know if Johnny Cash had a brother named Tommy. I do now.
But I felt he was making up stories out of an escapist frame of mind. I don’t know if Ché could sing. I don’t recall his last name, but I do recall that Dianne Heatherington, a local Winnipeg rock and folk singer, came to visit him. Dianne seemed to have some interest in reaching out to handicapped or disadvantaged people.
Dolores Barber was a young hairdresser, I believe. When we were released from the hospital, I invited Ché and her over to my Charleswood home. I later dated Dolores a few times for sexual favors.
I was in the hospital for 35 days, 28 of those in traction. I went from bedpan to wheelchair to crutches before I was sent home. My leg was cast from hip to toe.
Once home, it was not long before we threw a party. I was using my crutches when I headed down the stairs with some guys. I wasn’t doing very well because, as I began the descent, I had both crutches under my arms and their ends set on the step together with my good leg. My bad leg was naturally forward. I suddenly began to keel forward, locked on the two crutches under my arms. I had no way of escaping the plunge forward and down.
A sudden alarm rushed through my whole being. “Oh God!” I cried within. I thought I was on my way back to the hospital if I made it out from this one alive. I had nothing to protect me from going face down on the uncarpeted stairs and smashing into the cement wall and floor at the bottom.
As I look back, I see that God provided deliverance at this moment. Gary Slobodian was right beside me and caught me, even though things happened so fast. He picked me up, while others took my crutches, and carried me down. They said my face was as white as a sheet. I don’t remember being so thankful for any human being in my life as I was for Gary at that moment!
He was powerful. There was a day when he, Dave Miller, and I went hunting deer, and Dave bagged a sizable buck. It was perhaps a mile or more in the bush in snow halfway up to our knees or higher, so it was a lot of work to bring it back to our vehicle, though we had gutted it.
By the time we got back, Dave and I were tuckered out, and Gary was pulling the buck by himself, not bothering to take breaks with us! We marveled at his strength and endurance. This is the guy provided to be right beside me when I was falling. God was merciful.
Of course, God could have prevented me from being in such a situation. So why did this happen? A message was coming through to me – there I was, fresh out of the hospital with a serious injury and months of physio waiting for me, cruisin’ for another bruisin’ by my boozin,’ wayward, and reckless lifestyle.
It was a wake up call, an alert in my innermost being to set myself to reconsider the way I was living (or rather, dying) and to get earnest about my direction in life.
Months later, when visiting the hospital for physiotherapy, I spotted Dr. Croll sitting alone in the hospital cafeteria. Would I be a bit presumptuous to sit down with him for a few minutes? I thought, “It can’t hurt.” After the few minutes were over, I heard words from him that surprised me: “Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with a lonely old man.”
Oh God, how I see that I could have been more sensitive and able to reach out to him and so many others throughout my life! How people are hurting everywhere, not just the poor and ignorant, but the wealthy, famous, important, skilled, and educated! They are all people with common feelings, troubles, infirmities, and needs, in many cases being more lonely than the common man.
I was off work for three and a half months and in physiotherapy for much longer. For the first month, I could only think of the work mounting at my desk, but soon they appointed two assistant managers to take my place. For the second month, I went into neutral and did not seem to think much about anything.
It was in the third month that I began to ponder the simple, yet profound, questions of life. A search within me for more meaning to life gradually intensified. I began to ask questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What’s it all about? Is there a God? Will He talk to me? What does He want from me? What is the most worthwhile thing a person can do with his life? I began to seek out various causes, philosophies, and religions.
During my convalescence at home, my renter friend Rick Steinke got me involved in what I now call the “Amway importunity.” I started to sponsor people who then went out selling. John Buller and Ken Buehner were two of four. We were rather excited, and the whole thing seemed free and spontaneous.
Soon, seeing the activity in their downline, my upline Direct Distributors Ralph and Lenore Eidse of Morris, Manitoba came along to assume control and authority. We soon lost that “magic feeling,” an innocence and spontaneity. It became “work.”
What is the secret to knowing when to let children find their own way and when to intervene? Or is it a matter of having the wisdom to know when and how to direct? Come to think of it, when Rick Steinke sponsored me, in his simplicity, he did no more than get me an Amway kit and let me at it. His way seemed much wiser than that of the Eidses.
Lenore was an evangelical believer of Mennonite background. She and others in the business shared things with me concerning faith in God, planting seeds I suspect eventually bore fruit. Amway was an attraction to evangelicals, I suppose partly because its founders, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, were evangelical – Christian Reform. God used Lenore Eidse and other evangelicals in Amway to work something in me.
I was so enthused about Amway, thinking that unless one was an Amway distributor, one was not doing what he or she ought to be doing. Of course, that did not make sense; however, I think it was the expressed principles of morality and ethics that appealed to me.
I once made the statement publicly that God sent Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel to show everyone how business ought to be done. While they introduced many good principles and ideals, and many would do well to heed the principles they taught (though reportedly did not necessarily practice), I was wrong in what I said. Years later, I would learn quite differently.
Lenore had heard of Bert Kynman, a lively massage therapist, perhaps a physical therapist, in his late 50’s, who worked with sports people, even the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I believe. He was reputed to be very good at what he did, having done some wonderful things for those who had serious injuries, restoring capability and hope for them to live normal lives, perhaps even to indulge in stressful sports again. Lenore thought Bert might be able to help me recover with his expertise in physical therapy. This was in 1971 while I was in Amway receiving physiotherapy at Winnipeg General Hospital.
As he was treating me, he was full of energy. He told me his “secret” – Vitamin E. “D-alpha, not L-alpha,” he would emphasize, the former being natural, the latter synthetic. At his age he would leave behind young athletes huffing and puffing on the racetrack. There was controversy about how much Vitamin E one could safely ingest, if it should be taken as a supplement at all. Bert believed there was no harm in taking thousands of milligrams. It energized him, and he couldn’t see a problem. “They feed wheat germ, which is high in Vitamin E, to race horses. It’s good for the heart. Why shouldn’t it be good for us?” he argued.
I began to take it. While Bert took several thousand milligrams a day, I started with a few hundred and perhaps for a short time went up to a thousand. It did indeed invigorate me. About three years later, I heard the sad news – Bert Kynman died of massive heart failure. I think I heard he had collapsed on a racetrack. There were those who attributed his death to large doses of Vitamin E.
I resolved my intake would be no more than about 400 mg per day. Eventually, I stopped altogether, though I don’t believe there’s any harm in taking limited doses. Likely there’s some good, especially for those on a nutrient-poor diet.
The lessons: Always be careful of health advice, even such that produces apparently desirable results and which comes from apparently successful, healthy, knowledgeable people. Temperance in all things is wise counsel, even life-saving.
I became friends with Ralph and Lenore Eidse and other Directs – Larry and Joan Shine, Gerry and Bev Krawchuk, Neil and Cathy Wiebe, and Art and Doreen Beals. My associations with the Amway opportunity began to divide me from my drinking friends. This division would be complete when a much more significant event than breaking my leg would take place in the near future.
One thing I noticed about my Amway Direct friends who were not in our leg or branch of the organization: We were competitors, and we could not relate to one another in complete comfort as friends – a flaw in this MLM business, and a shame. I now realize that I was desiring a fellowship, community, or society of friends, unselfish friends, true and good friends. I also realize that I had never been part of such a community, whether with my family or otherwise. One day, I would have my desire.
What marvelous, if not bizarre, connections in life! Because Mary Jane Junker developed a childish crush on me, she persuaded me to come skiing with her, and I was injured and kept away from the Bay. Set off to the side, I began to contemplate more intensely the important questions of life.
It was also Mary Jane who was instrumental in my return to work. She persuaded me to attend a Bay staff party, though I was not fully recovered. I was able to go, however, so I went with her. At the party, Mary Jane had a few drinks and became attracted to Colin Laker, department manager of the Bay Men’s Clothing, a married man, handsome and entertaining, who also had a few drinks and was wooing her after most people had left. In front of me, Mary Jane carried on with him and he with her, kissing and all. It was a humiliating affair. Nothing was said afterwards, but Mary Jane and I had nothing more to do with each other.
When Jerry J. Jellison, the personnel manager, witnessed at the party that I could get around, he thought I should also be able to come back to work. I was reluctant, not feeling quite ready physically or mentally, enjoying the freedom of a casual life and being away from the hectic pressures of the Bay. It didn’t seem, however, that I had much choice.
Not only was I not happy with that kind of work (I never was), I had a growing sense of morality and search for meaning. I began to desire to do something more fulfilling and noble than retail merchandising. I thought of developing and improving human and public relations skills on a personal and business occupational level – perhaps the Dale Carnegie course was having its impact on me.
Charles DeManby was a recent executive of the Bay, hired to deal with just these kinds of matters with Bay personnel. I had a few talks with him, but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. Charles chose to be rather neutral on personal matters. While I was prepared to wade into deeper waters and talk about my personal struggles, he was only willing to risk the knee-deep waters of impersonal policy, principle, and theory. As I look back, I realize that my quest had become a spiritual one, beyond any man’s ability to comprehend, much less deal with.
The next thing I was thinking of was the environment and how I might get involved to improve the world. I began entertaining serious thoughts of resigning from the Bay.
Though I was not happy there, one of the hardest things I did in my life was resign from the Bay. It had been my first professional occupation, lasting just over four and a half years. There was security, a sense of status, and an okay income. The Bay had graciously paid my salary during my convalescence. I had bills to pay, and if I left, my only foreseeable income was the Amway business, which at the time was not paying – it was costing. Besides, I was still somewhat physically incapacitated. Despite all of this, I grew in conviction that I had to leave.
In my first attempt to resign, I took the escalators from my department in the basement to the personnel office on the top floor. Before I reached the office, I turned around and went right back down.
In my second attempt, I made it to see Jerry Jellison, who talked me out of it, suggesting that my accident would have had a psychological impact that needed patience and time to heal. I asked him about integrity and treating customers with respect and unselfishness. I suggested that if the Bay did so, customers would be pleased, faithful, increasing, and the Bay would flourish. Though Mr. Jellison seemed to be a great guy, commending me for my thoughts, he did not seem to catch the vision.
Finally, I returned to him a third time, firm that I could not remain. He accepted my resignation, and within two weeks, I was gone.
How Mary Jane Junker was used to change my life, and in what strange ways! I also had once proposed to her – I think it was before the accident. She resisted, and I determined to use the positive thinking I learned at Dale Carnegie to persuade her to marry me, but she was not interested. Thankfully, it did not happen. God had other plans for her and for me.
I bumped into her in Winnipeg two years later; I was with a girlfriend, and she was with her husband. She seemed happy and gave me a hug. The chances of that meeting were astronomically low. God had arranged it for some reason.
Around that time, I discussed my search for meaning to life with Ernie Hafichuk, one of my favorite uncles. When I talked about various philosophies, religions, and religious founders, he spoke words that stuck with me.
“Victor,” he said, “first of all, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, and other religious leaders said, ‘Come and follow me; I will show you the truth or the way,’ but Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.’ Second, the other men are still in their graves, but Jesus’ grave is empty. He is the only One raised from the dead. Third, history is divided according to His life, B.C. and A.D. This is not so for any other man. Those are some of the differences between Jesus Christ and all the others. They are all men, but He is God.”
Those words remained with me, though I strayed from the truth of them for a time.
One evening while visiting Uncle Fred and Aunt Josie Hafichuk at 220 Rouge Road in St. James, I went to the washroom. The door was not shut completely. Assuming the room was free, I pushed on the door and found Uncle Fred on one knee at the toilet bowl, peeing. I said, “Excuse me,” and retreated. I thought, “What a henpecked husband!” (I saw Aunt Josie as quite thorough in her housekeeping and generally fussy about everything.)
Many men in certain segments of our less civilized society are generally accustomed to standing at the toilet to urinate. It was not until years after this incident that I realized what a filthy habit and attitude it was! Splashing occurs on everything all around the toilet and is, therefore, highly unsanitary. I have heard women complain about the filthy practice, and in our ignorance and crudity, we have ignored them, thinking nothing of it, even laughing it off. Yet they are the ones often having to do the cleaning.
We at Harvest Haven have a sign above a private toilet sometimes used by the public that says, “Gentlemen, please be seated.”
My family knew, not from me but from others, that I was fornicating. They knew one or more of my partners, one of which was even confiding to them that she purposed to have my baby. One day my mother advised me: “Be careful; use protection.”
There are those who think that talking to someone about abstaining from extramarital sex is like asking pigs to fly or birds not to, and in not a few cases, that certainly is so. They conclude that “safe sex” with the use of condoms is the wisest advice they can give.
I disagree. While I was a lawless fellow, I think it would have served me well if my mother had spoken to me of morality, chastity, and God’s ways, not of how I might eat the forbidden fruit and presume to get away with it. My mother’s advice is not the advice a parent should give her children. And it is not the advice the educational and medical systems should give the public. It sends the wrong message altogether, taking people in the opposite direction from what is right.