There is a kind of whirligig tempo to the last week that surrounds us with sandblasted acceleration that everyone, me included, is thinking about. Of course it is our Canadian federal election i’m talking about. My social media feeds are filled with prognostications of who won the debate, who will win the election, what the foibles of each party and leader are, that in the end leave us feeling more than a little weary. But there were some issues that have been occupying my mind that I hoped would be addressed.
During the debates there was only one leader who brought up the social issues we face. Try to guess her name. Go on, I know you can figure it out. That’s right, Elizabeth May was the person to say what about poverty? What about health care? What about inequality? That was good to hear, even if for only a few very brief moments, as I’ve been thinking a lot about it in the last week. The rest acknowledged it as an after thought perhaps. I’m not blaming the other participants but rather pointing out an important missing space in the national conversation; much like Elizabeth May will be a missing space in the conversation enforced by the ridiculous “rules“ of the upcoming debates.
This, by the way, is not an endorsement of Ms. May. No. Rather it is to point something out something that I feel needs some closer examination. Her missing, as much as the important issues of social wellbeing are to the national conversation, needs some looking at. What does it say about the bastions of journalism if we can’t talk about the issues that leave many of our fellow Canadians further and further behind? What does it say about them if we ignore a key person and a raft of key issues on the cutting room floor? What does it say about us?
Last weekend I was celebrating my birthday and was at a local grocery store to pick up a few supplies with my family. We parked and while traversing the parking lot a man, sitting on the curb, asked if I had any spare change. I did and gave it to him. I went inside to get him a bottle of water as it was hot, returned, and gave it to him. I was just walking away and he asked “Hey, you a Habs fan?” I have been a Habs fan since I first moved to Canada, Lefleur being my hero, and told him so. He said, ”Knew it the moment I saw you. Hold on a sec I’ve got something for you.” He digs in his bag and comes out with a loonie celebrating the Canadiens. I told him i couldn’t take his money but he insisted and I accepted it with the generosity of spirit in which it was given. True generosity on my birthday from a man who did not seem to have the means to spare much. But he did and he shared what he had with me. I thanked him, shook his hand, and went on my way.
That moment has stayed with me all week as the election increased its tempo to a fevered pitch. He had very little but wanted to share something with me. A little generosity in a parking lot from someone who didn’t know me but wanted to share what he had. Within the context of our national, provincial, and local conversations his act seems to be a one-way proposition
given how little he had and how much so many of us have. In terms of the elections, this man and the many more like him are at best a postscript for the choosing of those who will represent us.
And on social media I see more and more pronounced judgements by many who look down upon anyone who is using our inadequate safety net; saying that they’re tired of these people and their unwillingness to work. So easy to say these things, so easy to throw a judgement out in public, so easy to click “Like.” Not so easy to look deeper and understand these problems, to see their complexity, and to try to then do something meaningful about it. Much easier to cast a judgement and move on to the next item on your Facebook feed.
in the end perhaps we can take a lesson from the man in the parking lot and his generosity of spirit. Perhaps those of us with the means, and the willingness to use our vote and voice can perhaps try to raise our own generosity of spirit to match this man’s. Perhaps with this we could filing some important gaps in the conversation going on right now. Perhaps this is an opportunity to do something a little different and change the focus. After all, it takes such little generosity on our part and provides such important opportunities for those in need.