Looking For The Helpers.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers
I saw this post shared by a friend on my facebook feed tonight. There was a photo of the Mayor of my beloved hometown, who I am proud to say I helped vote in to his first term as Mayor of our great city. He also happens to be the current Mayor of the World, of one of the best cities in the world, with — I feel heart-proud to say — some of the loveliest people in the world. After reading that post, I cannot help but gush a little.
The post is regarding the current refugee crisis and is of a quote from Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the current Mayor of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Mayor Nenshi has been doing his best to keep the dialogue open about an often polarizing topic, and trying to ease the fears of those who are afraid. The thing is, we are all a little afraid, afraid of change, afraid of the unknown. But this fear should not keep us from the kindness that defines us, the willingness to be open, to help, to welcome. I believe Mayor Nenshi feels the same way.
He describes his recent experience at a community forum on refugees that he had, where anyone was welcome to come and speak, and for which he initially had some concerns. Considering the fact that our world is currently falling apart substantially more than usual, and there are still far too many people out there who are in denial about it and who often love to show up at such events to focus on problems rather than solutions, his concerns are not surprising.
Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Nov 20th 2015:
“I had a meeting this morning where we had a community forum on refugees. And I was a little bit nervous walking in because it was an open invitation, anybody could come, and I thought there might be some angry people or people with a lot of very difficult questions. And who was there were churches and synagogues and temples and mosques and grandmothers and volunteers and people from across the community, who were just asking the same question, which is by the way still by far the most common question I get, how can I help? And at one point a First Nations woman stood up. I only knew that because she said, I am a First Nations woman. I thought she was going to say, why are we having all this focus on these refugees when we have so many problems closer to home? And what she actually said was, I need some help. Because I need to understand how and when they’re coming because I want to make sure, and many of my First Nations colleagues, want to make sure that when these people come, we have an opportunity to have the elders there to drum them in and to do a smudge ceremony so we can welcome them to this land… I might have lost it at that point.”
Mayor Nenshi, I would have lost it, too.
This brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you, Mayor Nenshi. Thank you, community. Thank you, churches, temples, mosques (you have been getting a real bad rap lately, thank you for coming together to honour the best parts of your beliefs). Thank you neighbours, parents, grandmothers (grandmas are the best), friends, helpers.
But most of all, thank you ‘First Nations woman’, for showing us so beautifully and generously what humanity means, and grace.
I wish I had been there. This is the Canada I know.
Please hold on to these thoughts, friends. Please keep helping, locally and internationally. We need to work like that, for pretty much everything from now on, because these days local is international. Now, more than ever, our hearts are connected across this entire planet, and because home is where the heart is, everywhere is somebody’s home.
So let’s show everyone that Canada understands this, and lead by example, to a future of peace. You know that “world peace” we usually keep wishing for and singing about this time of year? It won’t happen by itself. We must make it so.
The point is, this situation is, in fact, extremely serious, frightening, horrifying and full of tragedy. It must stop. We need to do more. All of us. Together. And we can do it, and we can make a difference. But we need to work together, and simply do the right thing. To do other would be like saying, these awful things that we keep hearing about are ok, that this is ok. Or this. Or this. Or this. And most of us can agree on that, can’t we, that these things are so very, very far from being remotely OK. They are not acceptable. They are not what we are about, we as human beings, as parents, as siblings, as children, as friends, are they?
Isn’t it time to start chipping away there where it hurts the most? Because it hurts everywhere, there is no denying that. But ignoring the most painful spots, currently, will only make the others worse, too, in the long term. We need to realize that in this case, being humane is not just an emotional thing, it is a thing of survival, survival of our good conscience, survival of our self-worth as human beings, because these things happening are unimaginable horrors, happening to people like you and I, to children, to families, to couples and to friends, in enormous groups of biblical size, and there is no end in sight, and winter is coming, and it is getting worse, and worse every single moment. Time is of the essence if we are to make a real difference. People are beyond desperate, beyond terrified, getting exhausted, all the people, on all the sides, all the good people just wanting peace, just wanting their loved ones to be safe, just wanting to live. These are not just the refugees, there is a trail of sorrow stretching out across our Earth, and it is filled with those trying to survive, and those helping them to do so. The volunteers, the rescuers, the heroes. They need you. They need reinforcements. This community forum in my hometown, it showed me that they are out there, far and wide, there are more of them than we realize, they just need to keep speaking out, with loud voices, so everyone can hear. We are the helpers. We want to help.
A dear friend once gave me a beautiful gift, amongst my most treasured: a red, foldable, reusable bag with bold words in white, that cover one whole side. I still have it and use it, in spite it being tattered and worn. The words say, “The world needs more Canada.” Yes, it does. Let’s show that Canada, the one we love the most, the Canada we know the best. The Canada of glowing hearts, from far and wide.
Please keep them glowing, there is nothing without the glowing.
Thank you for reading. If you are in #YYC, give that Mayor of ours a high five for me, and a big hug, too, and one to all the helpers out there. You are awesome. Keep on keeping on, whether you are helping here or there, these people or those people. It’s a big job, in a big place and it’s not temporary. Let’s not fight about the details, let’s just get to work. So if you keep sweating the small stuff or making a mountain out of a molehill or you are just unable to think positively at all about just about anything, please make sure you are multi-tasking, and keeping up with that helping part, at least in some way for someone.
In whichever case, here are some great organizations that could use your help today. Please keep yourselves informed, follow some of them online, share their stories, send messages of support (they really appreciate it, I know because they’ve actually written back to say thank you for thanking them), donate, volunteer, let your local policy makers, governments and influencers know how you feel, talk to a former refugee, reach out to some of your new neighbours, make some new friends. Keep your hearts aglow.
As millions of Syrians continue to be displaced due to conflict in their home country, the Government of Canada will…www.calgary.ca
ADRA works within communities in more than 130 countries to bring long-term development programs and immediate…adra.org
Do you want to see how it all works? Are you curious about how we are able to send clowns all around the world to bring…www.clownswithoutborders.org
Be Ready! You can purchase Red Cross emergency preparedness kits and products online. In Your Community Contact the…www.redcross.ca