I don’t watch a lot of TV, but happened upon a show on CBC a while back that really touched me.
‘Still Standing’ is a series each of you should make time to check out, so accurately does it portray the eclectic melting pot of strengths and values that make up the country we call Canada. All the small towns comedian Jonny Harris visits are on the ropes but still holding on. While Jonny visits, he unravels the history of the town and the people who still make their homes there, along with their triumphs and struggles.
Towns like Buxton, Ontario – a small town with a rich history of being the final destination for many black slaves who fled slavery in the United States and gained freedom here in Canada. When a new family of former slaves arrived in town, someone would ring the ‘Liberty’ bell by the church and everyone in town would come, build this new family a home and help them get settled.
From Manitou, Manitoba to Lytton BC, the stories of these small towns and the diversity of the people struggling to keep them alive are so compelling. Many of these towns were the backbone of their area until progress brought a new highway that bypassed them, or the railway moved or a bigger city with bigger box stores drove small local businesses under. Those that remain impart wisdom and courage in keeping their history alive and it’s these collective stories that make Canada what it is today. And we can all learn from that right now.
Throughout this election,my heart has felt much sadness as wedge issues revealed the prejudices of many on a much larger scale, that moved far beyond whether or not a woman should wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony or the Syrian refugee crisis.
At one point,I received an email from a long time friend who I had considered progressive, with a link to a story about Syrian refugee’s in Europe: ” We can’t take all these Muslims!” he said.
That line bothered me. He didn’t say we can’t take all these refugee’s. He said we can’t take all these Muslims. I’ve seen a side of some people I know I can’t go back and un-see and that pains me. But as hard as it was to move past his statement,I knew that un-friending him or blocking him would only serve to enable and perpetuate his feelings.
We are better than this. Some of us have forgotten who we are as a nation and we need to build bridges within our communities, not barriers. We need to sit together and have difficult conversations in person,not sparring debates on social media where you can easily avoid the personal connection. So much is lost in translation online that can only be built in person.
There is so much to be thankful for in this great country, yet so many have been sucked into a divide that will take time,education and hard conversations to heal. Take a lesson from these struggling small towns I first mentioned in this post and remember your heritage. Most of us,myself included,come from a family who immigrated here with few if any possessions save the dreams for a better life.
I am so thankful for the diversity of my friends,readers and followers this Thanksgiving. Even when we don’t agree, we always feel free to share our opinions and that matters. Because lasting change only comes from understanding, and understanding comes from education. Don’t hide your head in fear or ignorance.Reach out a hand in tolerance and make an effort to understand a perspective,culture,community you are unfamiliar with.
Today, I have chosen to be thankful for this heart wrenching political divisiveness because it gives us the opportunity as a nation to decide what kind of country we want to be. The only positive in this is that we now have the chance to define ourselves as Canadians. And I trust we will rise above it all and show the world who we really are.
This Thanksgiving, I know you’ll all appreciate the blessings of your family and your table, but take a moment to look beyond your hearth as well. Thank the people in your community making a difference-the change-makers, the artists, the people working quietly day in and out to make it a better place to live. We don’t need leaders to bring us together,we can do it ourselves. All it takes is the will to do better.
And thank you, each of you, for contributing to the conversation. I wish you the very best this Thanksgiving!