Speakers Bureau Workshop storyteller, vendor and writer
By Nicolas D. Leech-Crier
Like everyone, Kris Cronk—Megaphone’s 2021 Vendor of the Year—has a story.
However unlike everyone, his was so unique and inspiring that just about anybody that ever heard him tell it, in that shy, empowering inflection of his, was happy to admit they were changed people altogether.
I started calling it “the Holt Renfrew Lady effect,” named for his personal saviour of sorts, a woman who worked at the namesake store and was kind to him while he was panhandling in Vancouver and who stood up for him when others tried to keep him down.
“Don t worry Kris,” she told him, “one day you will get up from that spot and get on with it.”
And that is exactly what he did.
Now that he has left us—the wider Megaphone community throughout Vancouver that surrounded him and supported his self-determined rise to accomplish great things, and now mourn this terrible loss of our teammate—I would never try something as ridiculous as thinking I could ever tell his story, but I’ve heard it enough times to be familiar with the main points of reference. So…
He lost his father, his mother, and later, his wife and kids. He was trapped in the darkness of drugs for a long time, disillusioned to the point of panhandling… and yet he took this as an opportunity for honing his psychological analysis of people passing by, betting on who would drop change or who would kick him in the teeth. He would actually care about the people he was humbly asking for small pocket change from, knowing full well the odds of them returning that consideration were small.
It was amazingly simple and straightforward, like a Buddhist monk. I always liked that about Kris: he was a no-nonsense kind of guy.
I remember sitting alone one late afternoon at 312 Main and typing up the more than 100 comments and questions asked of Kris (or congratulating him on his many victories) from the open dialogue portion of the many successful Speakers Bureau workshop presentations he did as a Megaphone storyteller, addressing such consortiums as the UBC School of Dentistry or Community Action Initiative, including his carefully handwritten answers to the questions we ask of audience members—What resonated with you about Kris’s story? What connects you to his story?—each one posted lovingly on a flip chart like confetti, all these colourful sticky notes.
The comments were all resoundingly positive, and filled with hope and words of genuine encouragement and gratitude for Kris’s sharing of his story having awakened a new and refreshing understanding within themselves.
This was truly profound for a panhandler who decided to start selling a local street magazine.
Again, that is just who he was: a nice guy, totally unpretentious about his obviously impactful spirit.
I remember thinking to myself: how fortunate I am, to have this super-intimate glimpse of the real truth of this man, a sometimes hard truth, which he so graciously offered as a means of raising awareness of our simple, yet complex speaker campaign: “Drugs aren’t the problem, it’s how we treat each other.”
Kris took that tagline seriously and I can honestly say, never wavered in any way whatsoever from that pioneering mission. I mean, the guy was at every single Speakers Bureau meeting from the day the program started in January of 2018. I don’t think I even made every meeting... and I was the program coordinator.
Anyway, from growing his reputation through his home base at Megaphone, to helping people find a home through his outreach job at XXX, to just chilling at home in the nice new apartment he had recently moved into, Kris was just a friendly, quiet man with a powerful story and a way of sharing that moved people to gushing emotions and introspective reverie. He was a good friend and a great speaker, and I for one will always remember him as a true champion of the Downtown Eastside community.
Here’s to you Kris! And of course, Holt Renfrew Lady.
Rest in peace, my friend.