Friday, 28 October 2011

occupy hope

I used to think that I was someone who had a good understanding of what was going on in my community. I used to think that I was connected to issues and concerns. Maybe on a national level and provincial level I am connected, or think I am based on what is getting reported in popular media. In all my thinking that I'm aware and connected I can admit that I've been wrong.

I find it hard to put into words my thoughts at this moment. I want to say that "this week afforded me the opportunity to see a new", but then I become bothered by the idea that it is an opportunity for me to relearn, the fact that I'm learning from someones painful experience. might I say it this way: this week has provided for me a real reminder of the world that we live in, how much division exists between the rich and the poor, how much opportunity there is to work for something more than myself".

I have been in two systems this week. the educational system and the judicial system. I have seen people working to make these systems better. I have seen people working to satisfy their selfish desires through the system. I have seen people try to understand these systems. I have seen brokenness and pride and stubbornness, really in the most simplified way of putting it, a bunch of broken people just trying to make it through.

I believe that much of this is causing me reflection, causing me to write because I think about what I'm doing with my time and talents. I'm thinking about the next degree I want to do. I'm thinking about all those people that give of themselves for others. this isn't a pity party. it is honest writing about these moments, right now and holding myself to accountability.

I hear comments on the radio program I listen to as I wake up in the early morning. I hear people say about those occupying (insert city name here) how much of a waste of time it is and the fact that nothing can come of their sitting in streets and waving signs. It makes me think of all the times in which there have been moments where people have banded together to change the course of history because they wanted for more.

It's been a while since I've felt sadness that makes my heart hurt the way it has hurt this week. Yet, in these moments of sadness there is a reminder that comes in the form of a teacher who chooses to show up to their classroom even though it will be chaos in motion and seem as though there is no purpose. there is a reminder that comes in the form of a family member who supports and cares, even when the sanctions and penalties are given out. there is a reminder that comes from people saying they won't accept others having less than what they have, and that they will fight for justice, even for those who can't fight for themselves.

and I am reminded that as Elie Weisel said  "Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings". i reflect on the gift of time and talent and passion and hope. i refocus again, and with the sadness that I feel, get excited about what I can do here, in my community to occupy hope.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Oh. Canada.

(this is the start of a post that I was writing in June of 2009 when I was travelling Europe). I have walked miles and miles over the last days. I have seen palaces where royalty lives. I have seen cathedrals where many worship. I have seen beautiful farmland where men and woman work the land. I have seen almost pure white sandy beaches where people sell their talents. I have climbed summits. I have heard voices of young children sing as though we were amongst angles. I have watched the sun set in numerous different countries and while each of these experiences was a moment to remember, none of them were close to home, close to what Canada has to offer.

CANADA. it's not hard to see how this country becomes part of the very fabric of our everyday living. some say it is our pioneering spirit. some say it is the diversity we share. some say it is the freedom we know. some say its our love for social change. some say its the passion we have. I say it is all of this and so much more. It is what we can't put a name to. It is the vast prairie sky that beckons us to dream big. It is the reminder of our smallness when we conquer the summit of a mountain on the west coast. It is taste of the work of our farmers when we eat from our land. It is the feel of the ocean on our face when pulling in lobster and fish nets. It is the curiosity that deepens watching the tide come in and out on the east coast. It is the chimes that ring from the clock tower on the hill reminding us of the grandeur of the moments we have lived,  here in CANADA.

Today, I had another opportunity to hear a MP speak. I try to hear as many politicians and community leaders speak. I might not agree with all of them, but it helps me to reflect on why I choose to be for and why I choose to be against certain ideas, certain policies. While at times I wasn't completely taken with this MP, I was encouraged to hear him speak to bigger themes and ideas for our Canada. It was between various questions that  I got to thinking about the times that I've watched leadership races for the various parties, usually on the CBC.  I got to thinking about why this stuff interests me. It does help that for a good amount of the time our country is cold, so being inside watching a leadership race doesn't really count as a wasted day when you are told to say inside. Being connected to politics it about something more than myself. It is about all of those people who have conquered something more. It is about the progress that we continue to have opportunity to carve out for future generations. It is about the expectation to be more for those countries who can't be more for themselves right now.

Agnes Macphail once said "Patriotism is not dying for one's country, it is living for one's country, and for humanity. Perhaps that is not as romantic, but it's better" and this is the way my heart beats right now. I want to hear us speak of this country with passion and connection. I want us to be compassionate and focused on growing the community around us where we celebrate each other and work together and dream big dreams. I want it to be the place where exploration and the potential for limitless boundaries exist. I want this for you and for me.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

restoring our systems

There’s a lady on the other side of the radio whose husband’s crime of rape and assault against two women have left her to endure the consequences. The security and trust that was her stability came crashing down around her as she was told that her then husband confessed to two violent crimes against two women. Her name is Shannon. She is from Ontario. She was a teacher, a connected community member and a wife. She was happy, planning to have a family and in a matter of moments her life changed.
Shannon so calmly explains about how her position at school was taken away, how she became a widow, how her family was forced to reconcile perspective and how she was forces out of her community.
It’s her voice that captures my attention more than anything else. She is calm, honest and exhibits compassion as she speaks. She is honest about her story and she speaks to issues that we as a caring compassionate society should be committed to. She shares from her heart how she aches for those women. She shares how she has been a victim of the system. She challenges us to consider the systems we are living in and how we can work change them, to make them effective.
She shares about having dialogue with her then husband in jail and how that played a role in her healing. She shares about how much of a struggle it was for her to go when so many people would say that “for you to visit must mean that you still love him”. I am moved by her ability to respond by saying “of course I loved him and I went to visit was to get closure and to hold him accountability”.
She speaks to rehabilitation. She challenges us to consider those who we are releasing back into community, and asking the question if we have rebuilt trust. We need to really understand what are going on in our prisons.  Shannon goes on to state that some of the people we are putting in jail, are learning to become better criminals.
As I’m listening to this interview, this story being shared, I have just been brought to tears as Shannon shares about moments of reconciliation and forgiveness. More specifically she shares about victim impact statement day in court. She shares about powerful, life changing moments happening in the cold, institutionalized wall of the court system. She expresses how these moments in court were so of the most real, healing, sacred moments. Then, at the end of the day the judge said “you go to jail” and “the rest of you go home” and how for her, that was more harmful than the 2 years of the whole court case.
I should stop writing because I don’t come close to even articulating the powerful message that Shannon is sharing about forgiveness, about hope and about needing to change the systems we live in. I know that I’ve always been different. One of those people that see life as only I can. Today, listening to Shannon share her story refocused me to hear what beats in my heart. It was for me, a reminder that our systems are merely a challenge that we have to change, an opportunity for us to see and call out of ourselves a higher commitment to care and compassion.
I’ll post the interview when it goes up but for now here is some information on Shannon:

Friday, 7 October 2011

freedom expressed.

in the form of
piece of paper

to values
to hope
to fears
to change

in the form of
the future

in the form of

to those unable to
or consider
or approach
the future

piece of paper
expressing your,
expressing my,
expressing our

Monday, 3 October 2011


I've always wanted to work for and raise awareness of the challenge of poverty here in our Canada. When I first lived in Kingston, I remember biking downtown to stand at City Hall with The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who to this day continue to host a silent vigil at City Hall to remind us this is something we need to be aware of. I remember starting to hear about a number of programs that are run to feed children before they go to school, and to provide food and support after school. I am conscious of the number of people that continue to feel afraid and embarrassed to ask for help because we've created, you and I, we have created space that makes it hard to ask for help. We have set tiers in this society that places value on status and wealth and we have forgotten that we should be investing in human capital, especially the young.

I walk the streets of this city and meet people like Ron and Andre who because of some hard times, a couple bad decisions and the loss of jobs find themselves calling the streets home. I share conversation with them, a good breakfast meal and hear of some of the other places they have called home. I hear them tell me about jobs they have had, where they have gone to school, the families they miss and hope to reconnect with, and the fact that they are ashamed. I hear a lot of families talk about how they are one paycheck away from being homeless or unable to buy food.

As we anticipate the upcoming election I am struck with the fact that there are so many important issues relating to poverty that we are not talking about. Moreover, these are issues that we have rarely heard our candidates talk about. In doing some research for my city, I found a briefing paper published on Feb 1, 2011 from the Kingston Community Roundtable on Poverty Reduction

In the section on Job Security and Economic Recovery there are some really eye-opening facts that we need to be aware of. We know that part-time employment is on the rise, and in fact growing more quickly that full time work. This information we find in the latest Labour Survey results from Statistics Canada. We also know that "An unemployment rate that rose from 6.5% to 8.1% from early 2010, coupled with an alarming, and ongoing, trend toward part time and temporary work, dictates that the 2011 budget should focus on job creation. We need to be able to provide secure full time employment for Ontarians"

Ontario already has a highly competitive corporate tax system. We do not need to reduce Corporate Income Tax. We will already collect less from corporate profits due to the recession. Government investment and spending on physical infrastructure, an educated workforce and quality programs such as health care have a stronger economic impact than tax cuts. Also, our corporate tax rates are already competitive. The 2010 Competitive Alternatives study by KPMG showed that Canada has lower overall corporate taxes than any of our key competitors except Mexico.

We also know that the income gap between the top and bottom 10% of Ontario has been steadily widening over the past three decades. The top 10% now enjoys incomes 75 times higher than the bottom 10%. The current provincial income tax system, with a maximum rate at less than $75,000 in annual income, aggravates rather than alleviates the growing inequity. Introducing levels of taxation for annual incomes of $100,000, $150,000 and $250,000 respectively would generate new tax revenue in the order of a billion dollars a year. This would mean an honest shift towards reducing the ever widening income gap. summary: take from the rich and share with the poor.

My hope is in my writing to draw attention and not condemnation. My hope is to challenge us to ask ourselves what we are working for in our society. My hope is that maybe asking questions that make you defensive, might give pause for some reflection on this issue. My hope is that this becomes a conversation about how each of us has a responsibility as citizens to care for those around us. My hope as well is that if you feel this conversation is stupid and nothing that you should give your time to, that somehow it will be something that you reflect and consider as you go about your days, even as you walk by some of those lovely, talented people who just need us to fight for them.

there is no conclusion to this post. I wish there could be, but for now, I hope that it may raise awareness and cause us to consider what matters to us as we get ready to vote this week.