On being … wholehearted

By Ingrid Sapona

In October Canada elected a new government. One of the promises the new Prime Minister made during his campaign was that his government would resettle 10,000 refugees before the year’s end. Since his election, however, the logistics of the endeavour have resulted in the timeframe being extended a bit.

But, the project is clearly underway and a couple of weeks ago the government announced that two Canadian transport planes would soon be dispatched to bring over the first planeloads. Then, last week it was confirmed that the first group would arrive on Thursday evening in Toronto, with the Prime Minister and Premier of Ontario on hand at the airport when it touched down.

I’m a supporter of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially those related to the refugees, but my initial thought was that it was a bit over the top for him to meet the plane. I thought the gesture was more for our benefit than the benefit of the refugees. After all, besides the fact that they wouldn’t necessarily recognize him, I figure the refugees’ main concern would be simply feeling they were safe and that they could begin their new life.

Then, Thursday morning, as I turned to read the Toronto Star, I saw the banner headline written in huge white type against a red background: Welcome to Canada. Just below the headline was a huge photo featuring the silhouette of a casually dressed person joyfully running with a Canadian flag waving above his head. As if the banner and photo weren’t surprising enough, at the bottom of the front page was an equally rare site: a front-page editorial.

The simplicity (it was under 300 words) and elegance of the editorial moved me to tears. There was no grandstanding, no self-congratulations (not a hint of “aren’t we a wonderful country to let you come here”). Instead, it was an open-armed hug – the kind you give your favourite uncle who you haven’t seen in a long time.

The editorial acknowledged the cruel injustices and nightmares the refugees have faced, as well as the difficult decision they made to leave their homes and many loved ones behind. It also expressed the honour Canadians feel at the refugees’ choice of Canada as the place they will make their new life. And, it reassured them that they are entitled to all the rights and protections that each of us holds dear.

It also offered lighthearted advice about getting through our cold winters by embracing winter sports, for example. And it poked fun at some of our uniquely Canadian idioms and customs, like ending sentences with “eh?”, and making Timmy’s runs for coffee. And, perhaps most significantly, it ended with a single word: Welcome.

Besides moving me to tears, and making me proud and honoured to live in Canada, it really made me think about what it really means to open one’s heart to others. It’s easy to forget that gestures can speak as loudly as words, and that good deeds done grudgingly or in a lukewarm manner are not nearly as powerful and life affirming as those done with an open heart.

Looking at it in that light, I now realize what a powerful signal the Prime Minister’s actions and the newspaper’s editorial sent – and not just to those who arrived that day. These actions remind us all of how important it is to ensure that our words and commitments are embodied in our every action.

My wish for you this holiday season and throughout the New Year is this: I hope you discover the power and joy of doing things with a truly open heart.

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Ingrid and the Toronto Star editorial moved me to tears as well. I had missed it and thank you for including the link. Happy holidays! Betty

10:47 AM  

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