Comforting Words: 11/2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Different Kind of Giving

I often do not have a clue what the topic of my next post will be. There is no list of ideas that I can just go to and retrieve a story. Life is the source of my posts – that of others, friends or strangers or my own.

With Christmas fast approaching, however, I thought for sure there would be a post wishing all my friends a happy holiday. The advertisements on the television and radio have been ramped up and now in any commercial break almost all the ads have a Christmas focus.

Given the much talked about recession and even potential of a depression in the economies of the world, Robert and I have more or less made the decision to limit our spending for the season. So the ads, while wonderful, have not found a receptive audience in my household of two (humans), except for one.

In the radio version of the ad a woman, later identified as a mother, can be heard giving instructions how to make the perfect bed out of the back seats of a SUV of some type. In the television version, a mother is seen putting her daughter to bed with a bedtime story and a kiss, promising her that when morning comes she will be ready for anything. She reaches up and turns off the light, then the camera zooms out and you see that they are in an SUV parked on a dark road.

Both mothers and their children are homeless this Christmas. By the images and the diction they are clearly not drug or some other type of addicts or floozies. You cannot tell whether they are married or living common-law with a man or a woman. However, it is clear that these are middle class women who had to choose between a home and abuse.

Probably these ads resonate with me because I have been there a couple times in my own journey and not so long ago. I think, however, they caused me to pause because I know for sure that this Christmas too many women will be making that choice.

If the ‘experts’ are correct and this recession sets in the people who will suffer the most will be women and children. This has always been the sad reality of the world we live in where the most vulnerable to homelessness and/or abuse are children, seniors and women – quite possibly in that order. In same-gender relationships, it is the partner who, as a friend of mine states, “Speaks the loudest and wield the biggest economic stick,” that keeps the house.

At our engagement party in September, Robert and I asked our many friends who celebrated with us not to give us any more gifts. Almost everyone in attendance had brought us something – in addition to the blessing of their presence. This was quite unexpected and we requested that no further gifting be done – at least not to us.

We asked our friends and well-wishers to make donations in our honour to charity organizations, specifically to women’s shelters. This is what I would also implore you to do this Christmas - give a different kind of gift.

Write a cheque or pack a box with some non-perishable food items or clothing – it does not have to be a large one – and take it to the local shelter providing a room for women, children, seniors, gays and lesbians who might have to make the choice between a home and abuse this Christmas.

Is that not what Christmas is about – a person being born in a manger as there was no room in the inn for his parents who were running away from a tyrant?

Whether you believe in the Christian story or not, did the story of this homeless child not change or impact many lives for over 2,000 years?

Think about it and write the cheque early to ensure that the next homeless child, woman, senior, gay or straight, has a room for at least a night. You never know whose life this person might change and it might not take 2,000 years.



Labels: ,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Come Wednesday

I have one of the best bosses there ever is and I have not had the pleasure of saying that very often in my working life.

He knows his stuff but is not pushy about it or feels a need to prove anything to anyone. We have had honest conversations about expectations on both sides. He is not the type to bank his compliments waiting for a special day to say “Good job!”

The thing I probably like about him most is his sense of humour. No, he is no jackass or clown but as I sit in my cozy office daily I can hear his deep throat laughter along the corridor. Laughter is an important part of our day given the environment in which we work and my boss encourages it.

His laugh was equally deep and honest a few weeks ago when I said to him, “M, I am either taking Tuesday or Wednesday off to watch and/or recover from my vigil.”

No questions were necessary as he knew exactly what I was talking about. Earlier in October he had jokingly threatened to call Immigration Canada and report me as a bogus Canadian citizen as I was more concerned about the US Election than the Canadian one.

Fun and joke aside, I am sure come Wednesday, November 5, whatever happens at the polls in the United States, I will be suffering from withdrawal. For the last several months, since the primaries, night and day has found me switching from CNN to MSNBC to follow Barack Obama’s progress.

Yes, I paid some attention to John McCain’s campaign, particularly when he named Sarah Palin as his running mate! Actually, I thought I would have had a coronary attack when I heard her speak at the Republican convention but that soon changed when Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live fame got a hold of that character.

As I have said before, my interest (one might say extreme interest) has as much to do with race as with hope.

It is important to say that even before it was clear that Obama was entering the race, my support of Hillary Clinton was tentative. In his days, Bill Clinton was an interesting President to me as an outsider looking on; however, he never captured my imagination. Neither did the possibility of a woman, namely Hillary Clinton and worse yet Sarah Palin, being the President of the so-called free world.

When I visit a church, the thing that grabs and keeps (or loses) my attention is the sermon. The music is also important but it is the inspirational words of the pastor that holds me. And by inspiration I am not referring to the Pollyanna philosophies.

The ability to speak to the realities of common folks - the joy, the struggles, the dreams and the sacrifices – in a way that calls us to keep on keeping on is what inspires me. As is often said, “To speak truth to power,” and to shine the light of hope on the many dark corners of our lives is inspiring to me.

It is my firm belief that words matter. Words can be creative or destructive. I know this for sure as I have had a few words come out of my own mouth that has done both. Words of others have brought me to the precipice and the words of others that brought me back.

I and many like me want leaders, whether they are preachers or politicians, teachers or doctors, bosses or spouses, who inspire us to become the best human beings we can be. And how else can they do that but through words?

Barack Obama does that for me – a non-American but a citizen of the world that his country influences in every way.

Does is race have anything to do with it? Yes and no.

Recent news of him having an aunt living illegally in the United States, his bi-racial upbringing, his father who went missing in action like so many black fathers (in the US and in Jamaica) has done are some of the ways his racial experiences intertwine with his politics.

For me politics is personal. Obama the politician in my view is shaped by Barack the bi-racial child raised by a single Caucasian mother, who struggled to keep food on the table, put herself and her children through school.

There is no doubt in my mind that many were the times that Obama’s mother would have had to “speak truth,” and whisper softly to her bi-racial child. She clearly spoke truth to power as she reportedly died fighting with the healthcare system and insurance companies.

This is not a quasi-biography of Obama’s life on my part. This is my story in many ways. It is the story of many around the world. A minority who is raised by a single parent, who is struggling economically but who knew that education is key and fought to the best of their ability for you to access it.

This is the story of African-Americans, Caribbean, African, Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, Native American and all people who were born without a spoon in their mouths – neither gold nor silver.

It is this common history and experience that glues me to the television. And there I will remain until the wee hours of Wednesday morning if necessary.

Does this mean Obama gets a free pass? No he does not. In fact, as always, the standard is even higher for him as a person of colour.

Of course he might fail to do all that he promises and proposes. Would that mean the people of the United States made a mistake in electing a black man? Many might say they did if he fails as a President but the more discerning will recognize that race has nothing to do with ability and competence – President George W. Bush proved that.

What the election of Barack Obama would mean to those of us looking on is that the United States is answering a higher call. In my opinion, this is the most important election in the history of the United States in recent times. A President Obama would signal to the world that the US is now ready to move beyond itself and truly lead the global village.

It is a pivotal time for not only race-relations in the United States but the relationship between that country and the rest of the world.

Come Wednesday, November 5, 2008 win, lose or draw, I will get my life back. On that day, I will return to the pool and lose the pounds that I gained biting my nails on my couch for the past several months. Then I will see my boss M on Thursday (LOL).

Bon chance Barack!

Labels: ,