Comforting Words: Universal Language: Pain and Hope

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Universal Language: Pain and Hope

He was not the first or even the most petulant child I have ever seen. His behaviour, however, was a powerful lesson for me this morning, one that is relevant to race relations and Black History Month.

Each morning as I sit on the bus on the way to work, the drama of human life unfolds in myriad of ways, presenting me with material for my musings and/or lessons for my own learning and development. This Thursday morning was no different, with several mothers embarking on the bus with a little boy or girl who is either eager to get to school or still too sleepy to care.

Unlike on the public transportation in my country of origin, Jamaica, the seats just rear of the driver are designated for elderly persons, those with physical challenges or mothers with small children. For the most part, those not fitting these descriptions will vacate these seats when needed by such passengers and this morning most of the men and younger women on Route #43 did just that.

At the third stop after I got on, a mother came on the almost full bus with an eager little boy in tow. He looked about five years old and it was clear that he was in a take-charge mood. First, he insisted that his mother lift him so that he could insert the ticket into the depository. Then, as several passengers had vacated seats for the Asian mother and her son, she gratefully moved him towards the nearest before the bus was again in motion.

“Mr Eager,” I will call him, however, wanted none of that, preferring to remain standing barely able to hang on to the rails over his tiny frame. His mother prodded him to get into the seat but he refused, pushing backwards into her. Knowing that at any moment the driver could hit the brake and her little one would careen into the lower front boards of the bus; she picked him up and planted him in the seat.

The drama that unfolded was both amusing and insightful, as the temperament of this five year old soon became obvious, as he sprang out of the seat and dashed towards the driver’s seat.

Now, Edmonton is fast becoming a very multicultural city, with people from all over the world and the Aboriginal peoples creating an interesting and diverse mosaic of cultures and languages. Sitting on a bus, one can hear so many different languages and accents but as I, an English-speaking immigrant from the Caribbean, watched this Asian mother and her son, as I heard her voice and tone, I recognized the language she spoke.

The universal language of motherhood requires no formal training or audiotapes. It is a tongue that every mother (and father for that matter) recognizes. It is one so accentuated with love and concern for the well being of the offspring that its tone will be pained.

Watching and listening to this mother, I understood every word she was saying to her child as he kicked and screamed at her, wanting to have his own way, completely unaware of the potential danger of his desired action.

I understood the language as I spoke it the evening before to my 18 (going 28) year old daughter, who I fear is jeopardizing her chance at higher education by not dedicating herself to her studies the way I think fit.

It was also the language I used this morning as I clicked on a Yahoo! News item about “Job Market unkind to Canada-born minorities.” Reading the article describing the racial discrimination that Canadian-born and educated people of colour face, my voice quivered with pain and anguish as I raged at a society still blinded by ignorance.

The anxiety of the Asian mother to protect her child was mine, albeit my child is well on her way to womanhood. The pain that she expressed, in a foreign language to my ear but a universal one to my heart, as her son kicked and screamed at her, is a feeling I share as I wonder whether my admonishment to my daughter was in vain.

“What’s the point of encouraging a child to do good in school, when according to this article people of colour in Canada are concentrated in low level sales and clerical jobs?,”
I thought. “When is racism going to stop?” I screamed.

Unknowingly, this petulant five year old boy took me to such raw emotions this morning. Reflecting on what he demonstrated, I realized that the Universe is our Mother and she, like the Asian mother, cries to us, asking and prodding us into right action. However, like the little boy (and my daughter), we have free will and a right to choose how we wish to learn and so we go right ahead with our self-determined course of action.

After several attempts to get him to sit in the seat, the mother on the bus gave up and it was amusing to watch the little trooper hanging on to the rails for dear life – with his mother close enough to catch him should he lose his grip.

Some people in this country, Canada, and many others around the world are like that five year old – petulant and wanting to do things their own way, even though those ways cause hurt and pain to others.

The Universe is watching and waiting for them to realize that all her children were created in Her image and likeness.

She, Mother Universe, like the Asian mother this morning, is wiping the tears of people of colour all over Edmonton, Canada and the world who are bumping into societies’ stubbornness and determination to keep ‘the others’ out.

From a place of pain and hope,




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