Every year, the third Monday of January makes me stop to think. I’m hoping we can take a minute to do that together today in the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, especially fueled by some comments on our Facebook page.
You remember in grade school the teachers would make you stand in front of your entire class and do a speech? One year I chose Dr. King and I am so glad that I did. I learned some fundamentals about how to treat others for the rest of my life and his struggle to achieve that has stuck with me since the day I read about him. When you’re in grade four…you may not understand why your classmate has a different colour skin. But now, I believe we have a moral responsibility to remind those who don’t believe in Dr. King’s dream that we are all humans.
This weekend, City Councillor Mo Salih and I went shopping for some donations we could drop off for Syrian refugees at the Salam Donation Centre they have set up on York Street near the Western Fair. We stocked up on warm clothing and baby supplies, and spoke to some volunteers there sorting through piles and piles of donations from families of all different faith backgrounds who did a drop-off this weekend.
Actually, here’s a quote Mo shared on Facebook today:
We did a little video blog that was captioned with this line:
“800 Syrian Refugees will arrive in London by the end of February, what can we do to help?”
On that video, a couple of FM96 listeners were quick to comment.
“What should we do to help? They are already getting more assistance than our vets and other unfortunate souls, i.e. (homeless, students….etc)”
“What about shopping for our own families who are struggling, my god our country is so screwed up, let’s look after our own people first.”
While I realize the Veteran situation ALSO needs attention (of course! All homelessness needs more attention), the existing Canadian families who visit food banks every month need more attention, students with so much debt they can’t live need more attention and the list goes on…I am only one person and I try to help when and where I can. I try to clean out my closet once a season for a women’s shelter. I try to donate to the Food Bank as I can afford to. I try to put a little bit of effort into as many areas as I can.
The reality this week is we are about to welcome 800 people into this city who don’t know our country, 800 people who are scared and have next to nothing, who don’t know how simple things in the community work, who will need help adjusting to Canadian culture and Canadian climate. 800 people who have been living so close to war that their minds hold images we are lucky we didn’t have to see. Children that are not prepared to be outside in -19 with the items they have brought with them. Enough of this, “me before them.”
And true to our the one Canadian stereotype I enjoy that so many of us embrace, generosity is infectious in this country. Generosity to these people can also inspire generosity for other groups that these listeners are rallying for on Facebook. And back to Martin Luther King Jr now, back to his dream for his people written about America, but a dream we can apply to all people and in our country, a few words of his that have always stuck with me:
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
Canadians help their own OFTEN when they can afford to and no one is expecting anything from those who can’t. I live paycheck to paycheck with minimal savings and decided the feeling of a child not having hats and gloves and undergarments upon their arrival to London meant more to me this week, but that’s just me. I have Dr. King’s dream somewhere inside me and I think you do too.