While half of the world is seemingly losing its mind over Syrian refugees, Canadians are scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. A year ago, we elected a Prime Minister who promised not to control the influx of refugees, but to bring even more into the country. We rejoiced when he actually kept this promise.
For many people, refugees are a bit of an abstract concept. They’ve never met them, so they assume that they are somehow “different”. For residents of the neighbourhood I live in, there is nothing abstract about refugees. There is nothing scary about them either. They are not would-be terrorists who are trying to impose Shariah Law while they freeload off the government. They are real human beings who are trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing from war zones.
The corner of Toronto that I call home has a large transient population. Refugees come here to live while they are trying to find their feet in Canada. They are housed at one of the motels in the neighbourhood, and their children attend school with my son. When they have found a place to live and a job, they move out of my neighbourhood and into their new lives.
I have come to know a number of refugee families through my involvement with my son’s school. I don’t know all of their stories, but they have a look in their eyes that speaks volumes. It is a look unique to people who are trying to wrap their minds around the fact that for the first time ever, they don’t have to live their lives in fear. They can move beyond “survival mode” and actually start to find enjoyment in life. They can board a city bus without wondering if it will blow up. They have access to parks where they can go for walks and have picnics. Instead of running away from danger, they can just run.
Some of the refugee kids at my son’s school have discovered the joy of running through Kilometre Club, which happens every school morning during the spring, summer and fall. Kilometre Club is very simple in how it works: kids show up before school and run laps around the school yard. For every lap they complete, they receive a Popsicle stick. Five minutes before the morning bell is due to ring, we send out a kid for the last lap holding a fake scarecrow on a stick. When the scarecrow completes the lap, Kilometre Club is over for the day. The Popsicle sticks are collected and tallied, and the class that has the most Popsicle sticks at the end of the season wins a pizza lunch.
Kilometre Club has become a well-loved institution at the school because it is so inclusive. There is no sign-up and no expectation to go at a particular pace. Kids who want to run can run. Kids who want to walk can walk. For the refugee kids, it is a discovery that you can run without having to run away from something. You can run without being triggered by the “fight or flight” response. For these kids, it is a new world in which you can run just to feel free and alive.
I’m the one who hands out the Popsicle sticks and decides who will be the scarecrow for the day. In this role, I have gotten to know most of the kids at the school. I get to see the Canadian kids weaving the refugee kids into the fabric of their lives, welcoming and including them as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. I get to see the refugee kids slowly, slowly dropping their cloaks of fear as their lives mesh with the lives of those around them.
It is a beautiful thing, and one of the reasons I love being a Canadian.
Does your community welcome refugees? How do you encourage your kids to embrace diversity and acceptance?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Canada. Photo credit: Ani Bashar. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
On March 6, 2013, Canada lost a musical icon: Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Stompin’ Tom was a folk singer, known for his habit of tapping his foot while playing the guitar and singing. He damaged so many floors that he took to using a “stomping board” under his boot. Every now and then he’d auction one off for charity – one in 2011 went for $11,000!
Stompin’ Tom was only famous in Canada. If you’ve heard his music at all, you’d probably recognize his Hockey Song.
Even in Canada, Stompin’ Tom is only really part of the cultural identity in rural areas. The gleaming sky scrapers and bustling freeways of Toronto and Vancouver don’t have much in common with Stompin’ Tom’s folksy tunes these days.
So when Stompin’ Tom passed away, I didn’t have many fellow mourners with me in hip, urban Vancouver. The 65 year old kennel lady at my work and I exchanged a hug, while everyone else looked at us strangely. (more…)
The distraught mother presses her hands onto her daughter’s blood-soaked chest, pumping in a desperate attempt to keep her alive. She begs the girl, just fourteen years old, to “keep awake”.
Not far away, some people try to get their critically injured friend into a car so they can take him to hospital. He collapses onto the sidewalk, his life blood spilling from him.
All around, people are scrambling in a panicked attempt to escape. A pregnant woman is hurt in the stampede.
23 people are injured by gunshots, one of them just 22 months old.
A policeman sadly shakes his head at the mother, who has just suffered an unbearable loss.
The young man’s now lifeless body is covered with a blanket.
And collectively, the community starts to weep.
How can it be possible to explain the senseless act of gun violence that shattered a Toronto community just blocks away from where I live? What do you say to the two sets of parents who lost their children? How do you console their friends? How do you reassure the youth in this neighbourhood that they are safe from the gangs who have instigated this tragedy?
How do we stop this from happening? (more…)
I started running for the first time back in 1996, the same year I kicked a decade-long smoking habit. I knew that quitting smoking would never work unless I supported it with other healthy lifestyle habits. And so, my original goal, the first time I ventured out into the big wide world with running shoes on, was simply to get my butt off the couch and do some exercise.
Imagine my astonishment at discovering that I actually liked to run. By the end of the first month, I was not merely going out to run in order to get exercise and keep my weight down. I was running because I wanted to.
By the time I discovered that I was pregnant in 2003, I was a well-established part of the Toronto running scene. I participated in every event I could get my hands on, my life was all about race numbers and personal best times, and I was in the best shape of my life. I saw no reason why I couldn’t continue running throughout my pregnancy. (more…)
It’s the day after Mother’s Day on Monday for some countries of the world. Get ready to start off your week with some deep thoughts on motherhood by Veronica Samuels from New Jersey, USA. She will have you thinking in her post, “Catapulted by Mothers!”
Tuesday, join us for a flight to New Zealand with Karyn Van Der Zwet! Talk about topic changes. Get ready to talk about boobies! (And yes, you read that right.)
Wednesday, we head to the southern USA to hear from Maggie Ellison in South Carolina. She watches a child and has come across an obstacle to her own children’s summertime fun. This post is sure to get us all talking!
And on Thursday, our Scheduling Editor, Kirsten Jessiman of Toronto, Canada, is back to the blog from getting married!! We can’t wait to hear what she has to say!
Don’t forget to join in the discussion on Friday with our Friday Question led by Eva Fannon!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers of the world who are celebrating today!
— World Moms Blog
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