Archive for the ‘relationships’ Tag

Lenten Quote #2, 2019   Leave a comment

“Refugees are reasonable people in desperate circumstances.”

The Economist, February, 2016

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Symbolic gestures can make a difference   Leave a comment

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Take Responsibility

By Jim Taylor, published March 2, 2019

I wore a pink shirt last Wednesday. Pink is not my colour. It makes me look like cotton candy with a beard.

But Wednesday was anti-bullying day, so I wore pink.

It feels like a futile gesture. After all, what difference will it make if one old man wears a pink shirt for one day? School yard bullies won’t see it at all. Neither will patriarchal males in India and Africa who think of women as something inferior, to do with as they please. Nor will my pink shirt influence the behaviour of egocentric rulers in Riyadh or Moscow, Washington or Damascus.

Short answer — no difference at all.

Someone else’s problem

 So why bother?

 I hear that response often, when I get into discussions about the state of the world. Everyone agrees — okay, most people in my circles agree — that something needs to be done about wealth inequity, where the three richest Americans have more wealth than the 160 million citizens, 50 per cent of the country’s population, at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

And about climate change and melting glaciers before very valuable real estate in Florida disappears under the seas. And about court processes that turn chronic offenders loose because an overworked cop got the date wrong on a traffic ticket. The answer always seems to be, it’s too big for me to tackle. There’s nothing I can do.

Therefore, that’s what I’ll do. Nothing.

Guaranteed failure

Let’s turn the question around — what will doing nothing accomplish? The answer is also obvious. Nothing.

What you do may not make a difference. But what you don’t do definitely will make a difference.

You may not be able to rescue a child trapped in a burning house. But if you don’t try, you guarantee that child’s death.

Driving safely won’t eliminate accidents; there are other drivers on the road too. But not driving safely will surely increase accidents.

Treating people with respect will not eliminate conflict. But not treating people with respect will certainly increase conflict.

You may remember the oft-told story of a little girl going down the beach throwing stranded starfish into the sea. An observer told her she was wasting her effort. There were far too many starfish for her to throw into the ocean — they’d all die.

“This one won’t,” she replied, flinging another starfish into the waves.

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it,” Mahatma Gandhi advised the world.

Insignificant beginnings

The pink shirt movement itself is evidence that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Anti-bullying day started in Canada. With less than one per cent of the world’s population, Canada’s efforts can’t possibly be significant — the argument currently used by opponents of a carbon tax. After all, bullying is universal. Even chickens do it.

Yet 180 countries around the world now mark anti-bullying day in February.

Even more insignificantly, anti-bullying day started with just two high-school students in Nova Scotia. David Shepherd and Travis Price saw older kids bullying a younger student who wore a pink shirt at the opening day of school. So, on their own, they bought 50 pink T-shirts, and handed them out.

“I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,” Price, then 17, told the Globe and Mail. “Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.”

The spread of anti-bullying day confirms that symbolic acts can have a positive effect.

The worst result

 The U.S. calculates that one out of every four children will be bullied during adolescence. Bullying rarely stops after a single incident; 71 percent of bullied students continue to be bullied, with a strong correspondence between being bullied and suicide.

Again, Canada brought this reality to international attention.

Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old Canadian victim of cyberbullying, committed suicide in October 2012 at her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Shortly before her death, Todd posted a YouTube video that used hand-lettered flash cards to describe her experience.

The video went viral. More than 12 million people have seen it.

Just six months later, 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons attempted suicide in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Her parents switched off her life supportmachine in April 2013.

The two women’s suicides pushed cyberbullying into prominence. In 2012, Todd was the third-most Googled person in the world, surpassing even Hollywood stars. In 2013, 38 countries held vigils in her memory.

So wearing pink on anti-bullying day may seem like a futile gesture. But it affirms that doing something is better than doing nothing.

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Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved. To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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Dealing With Poverty   Leave a comment

Nelson Mandella said that poverty is not an accident.

Living in poverty also not a deliberate decision that people make.

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To tolerate the existence of poverty in affluent nations like Canada is a deliberate decision that has been made by those who have the power to make, or influence, governmental decisions. Although the House of Commons voted to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000, a report demonstrates that child poverty has actually increased in Canada. The report gathered Statistics Canada tax-filer data and found that child and family poverty has increased to 1,331,530 children in 2012 from 1,066,150 children in 1989. https://globalnews.ca/news/1685376/25-years-since-canada-vowed-to-end-child-poverty-where-are-we-now/

One means of moving toward the elimination of poverty is to implement a Basic Annual Income for all people. Here in Canada there was a trial of this idea that took place in Manitoba, and in Ontario. Unfortunately, the research in Ontario was cancelled by Doug Ford shortly after the Progressive Conservative Party won the provincial election on June 7, 2018. For more information on Ontario’s situation, check out:

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/change-gonna-come/2019/01/re-instating-basic-income-ontario-would-help-raise-children

Ontario’s cancellation of the research on Basic Income has adversely affected the hopes and dreams of many. One tragic story was reported in the Toronto Star:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/12/27/hamilton-couple-with-newborn-prepares-for-wind-down-of-basic-income.html

How we care for each other is a statement of our love for each other, and our commitment to a healthy community. Basic Annual Incomes are one way that we can, collectively,  help our neighbours who are less fortunate, and who are human beings just as I am a human being. Poverty is not an accident! We can, together, make a better world for all by sharing; collectively.

An unintentional parable   Leave a comment

This is a personal reflection written By Jim Taylor:

IMG_1896_2I was driving north, up the main highway. As I came down the hill into town, traffic slowed to a standstill. The truck ahead of me turned on its four-way flashers.

Something was happening, but I couldn’t see what. I peered through the gap between the vehicles ahead of me. And I saw a woman, walking backwards across the four lanes of traffic, beckoning to something or someone with her hands, encouraging them to come on.

Then I saw what she was encouraging. A pair of geese. Canada geese. Big birds. When they spread their wings and hiss, they can be terrifying. But these two waddled along following the woman. And right behind them came a pair of goslings, balls of fluff on toothpick legs. And finally, behind them all, came a man pushing a bicycle, making sure no one got left behind.

Or run over.

The whole cortege reached the far sidewalk. The geese vanished into the park. The man and woman gave each other high-fives, and went their separate ways. Traffic rolled again.

As I too drove on, it occurred to me that I had just seen a parable enacted, a parable of the way the world could be, and should be.

Jesus didn’t have Canada Geese or four-lane highways to talk about in his parables. But I think he would have described that scene as a sample of the kingdom of God.

The goslings trusted their parents enough to follow them into a totally foreign environment. The geese trusted the woman enough to follow her across the highway. The woman trusted the drivers enough to believe that no impatient driver would run her down.

 And it worked.

For that couple of minutes, no one roared over the sidewalk to save a few seconds. No one honked angrily. No one brandished middle-finger salutes. Everyone got where they were going, at most a couple of minutes late.

It’s a parable of the “kingdom” because all our relationships depend on trust. Every day, we commit hundreds of little acts of trust. So many, in fact, that we don’t even think of them as acts of trust — we take them for granted.

I trust that my breakfast cereal is safe to eat. That an oncoming driver will not suddenly swerve into my lane. That the radio news is not fabricated fiction. That the cash register at the grocery store will add my bill accurately. That the tree will stay upright, the bridge will hold, the sky will not fall.

At least, not today.

If I couldn’t trust these incidents, I’d be paralyzed. Afraid of everything. A nervous wreck, a human Chicken Little.

Trust keeps our society, our civilization, even our world, running smoothly.

We exist in a vast, universal, web of relationships. We are, in a sense, the sum of our relationships. When we can no longer trust those relationships, we lose a huge part of what we are. We are reduced to being an individual playing solitaire.

 That’s why breaches of trust are so serious. And that’s why little incidents that remind us how much trust matters, matter. Even if they bring traffic to a standstill.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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