Today’s guest blogger does not need much introduction — if you know me, if you have been reading here, you know how incredibly proud I am of my daughters — they are amazing.
When my daugthers travelled, they both kept a blog. Alexis has intermittently kept hers going — and has started a new one which I shared from a couple of weeks ago – How I survived myself. This is from her original How I survived myself blog — and she has given me permission to repost it here. It’s about the power of a hug to make a connection, to make a difference.
Thank you Alexis for being a song in my heart that never stops singing the sweet beautiful notes of love that connect our hearts, forever and a day.
My Secret Canada
by Alexis McDonald
The other night on my commute home, I spent the hour long trip talking with a young man visiting here from Mexico City to improve his English. After asking what bus he needed to take, he asked me if I was Canadian. “Yup.” I said casually. “Wow.” He replied with a look of awe. He explained to me he had been here one week and was so amazed by this country. By its beauty, its people, and its order. “My country” he said, as sadness crossed his face, “my country is not like this.”
He went on to tell me about the corruption, the poverty, the fear that robs his countrymen of their joy. I asked him if he planned on staying in Canada. He shook his head. “No, I want to be a journalist. I want to share the stories of my people. I want to open the worlds eyes, how do you say…?” He stopped, searching for the right words, “Bring peace?” I nodded in understanding. “And the food is better there.” He added with a smile.
We spent the rest of the ride talking about Canada, about Mexico, about music (we both agreed on everything but heavy metal), and about snow. He was going to Whistler in the morning. He had fears that his blood might freeze.
“Goodbye Fernando.” I called out as he departed. ‘Good luck with the snowboarding.” And in my heart I wished him luck with the peace too.
As I walked down the safe streets to my warm home with the ocean behind me and snow capped peaks before me, I could see the Canada that he sees.
But I see another Canada too. A secret Canada that Vanoc doesn’t want the world to see.
Sitting in Starbucks the next day I try to write words across the pages of my journal. I am angry. I have just read a story by my mother about a series of events back home in Calgary. A group of individuals, who happen to be homeless, gathered together to volunteer at a charity event. Their help was refused when the coordinator read their addresses as the Drop-In centre. I am angry. I am stunned. I am without words. Does a person lose their right to help when they lose their home? What kind of world is this when ones worth is determined by a street name? What kind of Canada?
The man next to me looks up from the Intro to Buddhism he has been reading and asks if he can ask me a question? I don’t point out that he just did and nod yes.
“Are you Canadian?” He inquires in his broken English. “I am” I say, half expecting “wow” to be his reply. Instead he motions to the street at the man sitting on the pavement with a cardboard sign and an upturned hat set on the ground before him. “Why are there so many homeless?”
Here, the sadness crosses my face,” I wish I knew the answer.” He shakes his head “It just seems like a pretty shitty job.” The irony of his earnest comment seems to escape him and he goes on, “Maybe he knows something we don’t. He is like a monk. Very quiet. Very still.”
“You mean, maybe he’s just meditating?” I smile.
“It is not like this where I am from. There are no homeless.”
Minoo goes on to tell me that he is from Korea, here, like Fernando, to learn English. He likes it here. But only when it’s raining. It is too quiet in the sun. We sit in silence for a moment looking at the people on the street pass the man praying for change. They walk by him, heads held high, a glance down only to avoid stepping right on him. He is invisible. A secret Canadian.
Minoo breaks the silence “Maybe he is searching too.” I glance from his book to his eyes, “Is that why you’re really here? To find meaning?”
“Your eyes are very brown.” He says, dodging my question. Again he says, “Very brown” as if it is something extraordinary. “Mine are black.” And I look into his dark eyes.
“Life’s got to mean more than just smoking weed and searching for pretty faces in a crowded bar.” He says, a silent pain lacing each word. “I think I’ll go to Australia next.”
“It’s very sunny there.” I point out and he laughs.
“Goodbye, Alexis from Canada.”
“Goodbye Minoo. Goodluck on your search.”
I gather my belongings and head out onto the street. The man is still there. “Hey do you have any change? He says without really looking at me. I stop. I want to say “I see you.” but I don’t have the words. I don’t have change either so instead I offer up the only thing I can think of to give. “I can’t help you in the finance department, but I have a hug if you want one.”
His face breaks into a smile. “Really?” He asks incredulously. “Yeah, I’ll take one.”
And I wrap my arms around his worn coat and for a moment we are both just two Canadians standing heart to heart.