In praise of Sandy Hill and its people

Nawar Touchan

As a periodontist practicing in Sandy Hill over the past 10 years, I’ve come to learn so much about our vibrant community and the people who breathe life into all of its rich, diverse, and storied corners. I settled into the community nearly a decade ago when I purchased my practice nestled near the corner of Friel Street and Besserer Street.

As a newcomer to Sandy Hill, I assumed my connection to the community would be circumscribed by my Monday  —  Friday schedule: I anticipated that I would drop in to the neighbourhood and perform in my capacity as a gum specialist. I figured that I’d then head home at the end of the day as anonymously as I had entered in the morning. This wasn’t what I was hoping for, rather, this was my expectation of city life and working in a downtown neighbourhood.

I’ve since come to learn how delightfully wrong I was. Over the past several years of working (and also living) in our community, the margins before and following appointments have become some of the most lush of my professional life — the moments between the reclining and eventual raising of the dental chair always get filled with stories of the people of Sandy Hill. I’ve learned so much about the qualities of the people who comprise our community over my time lingering in these margins with my patients.

A veteran Sandy Hill resident comes in for a dental implant. She hopes to restore her smile like she’s restored her heritage home —an iterative process that’s spanned years she tells me. She says she doesn’t mind  —  it’s a part of living in Sandy Hill. Comes with the territory, she says. The dedication to upholding her property is as much servitude to her home as it is servitude to our community — preserving a peek into the past of our neighbourhood for the visual delight of all those who pass by. A student sits in my chair — she’s studying at the university nearby. She tells me that she loves the mixture of buildings old and new. She says she feels that the diversity of the streetscape speaks to her and gives her a place that she feels at home in  —  a neighbourhood as diverse and multifaceted as her own background, she says. I see a local business owner with a fractured tooth from grinding excessively  —  he tells me that although his business has been hard hit by the pandemic, he will carry on. He vowed to never close his doors, for he wants Sandy Hill to have access to the amenities that sustain a community.

Although our neighbourhood is comprised of an eclectic landscape both in people and topography, I needn’t look too closely to see the strong community identity present in those I have the great fortune of treating each day. My reverence for our community is ever-renewed each time someone sits in my chair. The souls here, as I’ve seen again and again, at once are keepers of the memory of our neighbourhood, a call home for those seeking diversity and inclusion, and dedicated protectors of the neighbourhood, ensuring that it thrives perennially. I can’t imagine more compelling qualities in a community than that.