I keep a gratitude journal and every morning I follow the prompts and fill in the blanks.
Reflecting on Canada Day, it struck me how often in the past three years of pandemics, political upheaval and protests, I have written: I am grateful to be Canadian.
I was reminded of this recently, when my daughter and I enjoyed a weekend in downtown Toronto. We had theatre tickets, splurged on a nice hotel, a little shopping and took in the sights and sounds the big city offered on the official Pride weekend. It was amazing.
Toronto represents what I believe is great about Canada, but it also exposes us to the reality of what needs to change.
It’s all there; the fabric of cultures, languages, faiths and identities. Diversity is a beautiful thing. Yet there is a sense of community that holds people together.
There is also the constant reminder of mental health and addiction, homelessness and poverty, lack of supports and affordable housing.
Climate change? Um. With traffic congestion and the constant construction, it feels insurmountable.
My daughter and I enjoyed people-watching to see the kaleidoscope of cultures. We saw the gathering of the Ukrainian flash mob at City Hall, celebrating their “Constitution Day” ahead of the June 28th anniversary, filming the event to be watched by the people in Kyiv. It’s amazing to see the pride and resilience of those people and the support they received.
Signs of love and acceptance were everywhere. Business towers displayed rainbow hearts, shops and restaurants were decorated in Pride flags.
We took in the Friday night party on Church Street and it was amazing to see inclusivity without bounds.
Love is love. It’s not any more complicated than that.
We had many great moments, but one that reminded me of the character of the majority of Canadians I know, or want to know, happened on the train ride home.
A mother with three young children boarded the train. They were Muslim and English wasn’t the mother’s first language. She was unsure if they had boarded the right train. Her only way to communicate their destination with her fellow passengers was by the word “Hamilton” printed on a piece of paper.
One of the gentlemen on the train tried to explain the route, but she didn’t understand. Still, he tried. He was kind.
A female passenger, hearing this, drew a map on the back of her crossword puzzle, explaining the stops until the station to transfer to the bus to Hamilton. She spoke to the woman’s son who translated her explanation to his mother.
Kindness. It’s not any more complicated than that.
When my daughter and I stood up to depart the train, struggling to balance our bags and ourselves as the train zoomed to our stop, we were laughing at each other.
The mother and her children smiled up at us. The mother held my gaze long enough to express without words an understanding of what it is to love our children and these simple moments.
A smile speaks without barriers.
That’s my Canada.