That was the nature of my daughter Rehtaeh. She was like that her whole life. I couldn't go for a walk in Halifax with her without her asking me for change to give to someone in need. She was always looking out for people or animals that needed help. She called Animal Control Services on our neighbors because they left their dog outside too long. Her room and her life was always full of little creatures.
They say parents need to teach their children. Instead, it was Rehtaeh who was my teacher. My precious gift. She was the absolute best part of my life.
I have a theory.
There's a part in most people (narcissists and psychopaths being exceptions) that sees empathy as a strength. Our superheroes are people of conscience who always put others first, even at the risk of personal sacrifice. We worship those who give their lives on behalf of the people.
We want to be strong enough ourselves to be the change we long to see in the world.
But we're afraid that we aren't. We don't know if we have the endurance, the will, the patience or wisdom to make the right choices, to make consequential sacrifices if and when the time comes. Equally, we're afraid we'll be mocked for trying. It's a cruel world, after all; it isn't worth the risk of exposing oneself through acts of kindness.
As such, we admire strength of character from afar or resent it as a bright light that brings into sharp focus the shadows of our owm inadequacies. At our weakest points, we will seek to put out that light and keep our own personal failings in the dark.
I don't know what was in the heads of the boys who raped Rehtaeh Parsons, nor why they felt it necessary to post pictures of their sins. But I can guess. They wanted to be seen as tough, powerful enough to pluck the wings off an angel.
Everything I have read about Rehtaeh suggests a person of strength who put others before herself. There's nothing more powerful that the testament of a father who recognizes that his child will surpass him and knows humility in their presence.
With her death a light has gone out of the world, but it doesn't need to be extinguished entirely.
Not if we're willing to pick it up and carry it.
Society did let Rehtaeh down, but her death need not be in vain. People around the world are raising their voices, demanding justice, wondering how this could have happened, wanting action of some kind. Rehtaeh's death has mobilized us; what will we do with our raised voices?
Let's honour this sacrifice by not fixating on what can't be changed and instead flipping this around, seeing what we can do better moving forward.
Perhaps the best place to start is to ask - what would Rehtaeh do?