Apowerful image for me in the post-Paris trauma was seeing the two Muslim men on the streets with signs describing their peaceful selves, and asking for and giving hugs. It just so struck a chord with me about how absolutely difficult it must be for so many people when we are all painted with the same brush of terrorist, and murderer. There are a billion Muslims in the world and a small percentage who are creating absolute havoc.
Stereotyping a whole group is done out of fear. When you think it through you realize it is so wrong; as an example we could say all white men would be considered rapists and cold-blooded murderers based on the horrible actions of convicted white men like Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton or Jeffrey Dahmer.
Seeing the look on the people’s faces as they shared hugs and tears reminded me of post-911 when New Yorkers were hugging each other more often. Perhaps many of us were impacted more by Paris, than the actions in Beirut or Afghanistan because we connect with it, we may have visited there, walked the streets, drank coffee at street- side cafes, attended concerts and soccer matches. I have visited there twice and hope to again.
This kind of violence is so scary because it is the coordination of one or two people with guns causing horror, like the men shooting up the schools or movie theatres in the U.S. or Canada. How do you control that? I do personally believe that in Canada and the U.K. gun control makes a difference.
In times of great stress, reaching out to others can be a very strong coping mechanism. We want to talk with others, be supported, held and comforted. We want to know we have a support system. We need social connections, and healthy busyness and outlets to temper our anxiety.
Healthy coping skills are needed all year round, for all ages, and perhaps more so in December.
I am very proud that we Canadians are going to be sponsoring families to come to Canada and we hope to be involved in that support.
So many of us came here from other countries and were given the opportunity of Canada. Like our hearts have a capacity for love, our country and individual communities have a great capacity for more neighbours.
Through Immigrant Services and the Social Planning Council, a committee is being formed to assist those who want to help. The Anglican and United Church are sponsoring families and probably more.
Yesterday I saw on social media that a man who is a Syrian refugee living in Germany for the past few months cooks a meal each week to give to the homeless. He uses his own dollars to provide the food and feeds upwards of 100. The act of kindness that brought him to Germany is being paid forward.
We will see this many times over around the world as the families engage with their communities, find work, attend school, become involved and part of their community.
If you are looking for ways to support families locally at this time, the Vernon Women’s Transition House is looking for sponsors, Howard House and the Mission could use support. Habitat for Humanity is looking for help and you can buy a gift of a “door” or a “window” to give to someone instead of more stuff they may not need that will help build homes for three families.
I read somewhere that gratitude is the best way to find happiness, I think kindness is also an alternate route.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.