Former B.C. premier and man with autism form enduring friendship
When Kody Bell went to get a Boston cream donut and a large milk at Tim Hortons all those years ago, he never expected to meet his newly elected MLA.
“I walked up to him and I said, ‘You’re John Horgan,’” Kody says.
“He said, ‘You got 12,642 votes. You beat the other candidate by x-number of votes,’” John recalls meeting Kody.
“And he was impressed about that,” says Kody, who has a developmental disability and is on the autism spectrum.
“I hadn’t committed that [exact number] to memory,” John says. “But Kody had.”
When Kody wondered about visiting the B.C. legislature buildings, John offered a personal tour.
“He was absolutely unvarnished,” John says of Kody. “And I liked that.”
“I got to sit in the speaker’s chair,” Kody says of the first of many visits to the legislature. “It was pretty neat.”
It led Kody to start volunteering at John’s constituency office, where he did everything from helping pick Christmas card art to being the voice on the answering machine.
“He’s not a partisan,” John says. “But he knows who he likes and who he doesn’t like.”
And Kody likes John.
“He’s a down-to-earth person,” Kody says.
John couldn’t help but like Kody.
“I chose to be friends with Kody early on,” John says. “Because of his genuineness.”
Beyond politics, they’re pals who regularly hang out together.
“[It’s] John and Kody’s excellent adventure,” John smiles from behind the wheel after picking Kody up for a drive and a visit.
“We have fun together,” Kody adds.
John will tell jokes and enquire about Kody’s family. Kody will express his infectious curiosity and genuine caring.
“Kody’s taken me to places that have made me cry, have made me laugh,” John says. “And made me reflect on what we can all do as a society, as a community, to lift each other up.”
They make a stop at the drive-through of the Tim Hortons where they first met. John orders a coffee. Kody requests a chocolate chunk cookie and two small milks.
They reflect on the day Kody was invited to attend the ceremony at Government House when John was sworn in as premier.
Following the ceremony, Kody was wandering around and happened to find the room where the cabinet was posing for the official photograph with the lieutenant governor.
“I went around and I didn’t think anyone would see me,” Kody recalls with a smile.
“You were at the side of the door,” John beams, imitating how Kody’s head peered into the room. “I’ll never forget that.”
John says he waved Kody into the room and invited him to sit where the lieutenant governor had just left.
Kody shows me the photo of him in the centre of the front row, surrounded by politicians.
“The unofficial photograph is Kody Bell right in the heart of it,” John smiles. “And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
And now that John has stepped down as premier and is preparing to leave the sometimes cynical and divisive world of politics, this optimistic friendship remains.
“His dearly departed mom used to always thank me and I would say thank you for letting Kody into my heart and letting me experience the wonder that he experiences the world with,” John smiles. “Everybody should see the world that way.”
It's a reminder of the unexpected gifts that come when we allow our differences to unite us.
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