On being … 2015 in A to Z

By Ingrid Sapona

Here’s my alphabetic review of 2015:

A is for asylum seekers – people seeking asylum are not leaving everything behind just because they want new opportunities. They are seeking protection from harm.

B is for border – Donald Trump wants a southern border, former candidate Scott Walker wanted a northern border. Does the U.S. really want to create Fortress America? Well, with all the guns in the U.S., I’m happy to be outside the U.S.’s borders.

C is for Constitution – I never thought I’d be in favour of amending the U.S. Constitution (the thought of opening that can of worms for something like banning flag burning just seemed ridiculous, not to mention dangerous, as I think it’s a pretty good document and I don’t trust politicians of today) – but, I think without a change to the second amendment, the U.S. will become so dangerous, there will be no turning back.

D is for disruptive – when did being disruptive become cool? I find it odd that everyone’s now trying to find a way to describe processes and products as disruptive. What ever happened to simply trying to make things useful?

E is for endless campaign season – the recent Canadian federal election, at 78 days, was the second longest in Canada’s history. Way too long for our taste. Why – or how – the U.S. puts up with an endless campaign season is beyond me.

F is for fleeing – people fleeing their homes are not migrating. They are seeking safety.

G is for gun – I’ve tried so many times to raise this issue with my American friends and they routinely simply change the subject. Change can’t happen without people being willing to say they want change.

H is for herbs – actually, fresh herbs. If I had one take-away from the boot camp my sisters and I did at the Culinary Institute of America it would be to splurge on fresh herbs – they can perk up the humblest dish.

I is for imogee – there is now an imodicon dictionary. I wonder if in 1000 years someone will need a Rosetta Stone-like cryptography tool to understand us.

J is for justice – I’ve always held the notion of justice in high esteem. Sadly, the term has become like beauty: subjective.

K is for kindness – a quality that the world could use more of.

L is for loudmouth – when I was growing up, being a loud mouth was something that got you in trouble. Hard to believe some think being a loudmouth is appropriate presidential behaviour.

M is for migrant – migrant is not another word for refugee, or for those seeking asylum, or for those fleeing violence. Migration implies looking for opportunity. Easy – and convenient – for many to gloss over the difference. How dare we?

N is for neighbor – my sister and I recently reconnected with a family that lived down the street from us. They were one of our favourite neighbors but, as is so often the case, all us kids moved away and made lives elsewhere. We’ve managed to keep up through Christmas letters, the occasional e-mail, and even noting new jobs and transitions via LinkedIn. But, there’s something about re-connecting in person that is so much nicer. As we chatted and reminisced, so many memories flooded back. I was amazed at how much we knew about each others’ lives back then – and how many shared experiences we had. To borrow a concept from the wine world – you could say that our street was our “terroir” – it definitely impacted our values and character. I wonder if folks get to know their neighbors as well as those on our street seemed to.   

O is for one – though we are all individuals, we must not think that our actions don’t matter or won’t make a difference. They do. Change can only happen when each of us takes responsibility and speaks up and takes action.  

P is for profound – earlier this year a friend of mine was telling me about the emotions she found herself dealing with when she was helping her daughter relocate to begin her career. I was very moved by my friend’s description of solace and wisdom she found in the writing of others who had gone through the same experience. My friend used the word profound to describe what she read – I love the thought that someone’s words can help in that way…

Q is for questions – why don’t journalists ask the right questions of candidates? For example,
why hasn’t anyone asked Mr. Trump if he will put all his business interests in a blind trust if he becomes president so he can avoid any kind of conflict of interest? Or why doesn’t anyone ask Ben Carson what he means every time he uses the phrase, “people know”? (I suppose it could be because I’m the only person who doesn’t know, but I find that hard to believe…)

R is for refugee – like asylum seekers, refugees are not simply seeking economic opportunities.

S is for sunny days – that’s what Justin Trudeau, Canada’s young, optimistic new Prime Minister promised on his overwhelming (and surprising) victory in October. Even though everyone knows in every life there’s some rain – it’s refreshing to have a leader giving voice to optimism.

T is for time – not only do days and years go fast, this November we marked the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. A decade, and yet, it seems like just yesterday.

U is for unethical – the news of VW’s emissions fraud was unethical and, sadly, just one example of corporate corruption.

V is for violence – I keep hoping that one of these years it will seem that the violence around the world is easing, but, sadly, it’s not… If anything, it is escalating. So many times this year the chant of Black Lives Matter could be heard echoing throughout the U.S. That is undeniably true. But the truth is, all lives matter – including those of refugees.

W is for Windows – Windows 10 came out this year and I recently made the switch thanks to Sandy, my computer guru. When I asked her why they skipped from Windows 8 to 10 she explained that since there was a Windows 95 and 98, they couldn’t be sure that there might not be some old code from those versions still hanging around. Kinda reminds me of the big kerfuffle around Y2K, eh?

X is for xtra time (at least if you’re a bad speller – or maybe a texter) – time flies faster and faster, it seems. Nothing we can do about that, I know. All the more reason to try to slow down in an effort to be present to every moment.

Y is for Yazidi – how sad that the only reason many of us in the west heard about this religious sect is because they’ve been targeted by ISIS.

Z is for Zuckerberg – in a touching post, complete with a sweet photo of the new family, the founder of Facebook and his wife made two big announcements recently: they had a daughter and they “gave away 99% of their Facebook shares”. The detail their posting glossed over is that the wealthy couple’s definition of “give” is not quite the same as yours and mine. Their “gift” isn’t a charitable donation; it’s a transfer of their shares to a new vehicle (a limited liability company). I’m sure the LLC will do all sorts of good works in the long run, but the announcement seemed a bit self-aggrandizing.  

There you have it – the words and thoughts that mark 2015 for me.

Here’s to 2016 and – I hope – a more up-beat list to draw on. Happy New Year!

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


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