My husband Scott just returned from our favourite corner store, the Hasty Market (at Main and 16th) with some tasty new ginger beers. While the impressive selection of international soda pops, licorice and gummy candies is a real draw, it’s actually the shop attendant Ali who makes our day. He is truly the most joyous, humble, quiet and delightful man we know. He remembers peoples names, he kindly inquires about our day, explains how happy he was seeing Scott lead his class of students out in the streets, and shuts down the shop each day to pray.
Here’s a classic review from Yelp:
Ali is truly everything that Mr. Trump is not. And that’s what fuels me today… to be everything that Trump is not, and to live in a country that embraces people, the poor, the marginalized, the mentally ill, the everybody in a tangible and sincere way.
Today I was also given a special gift of hope. I am temporarily working at a different library for three weeks, to cover someone on holiday. I was delegated the task of hosting an ESL conversation circle, which essentially involves chatting with newcomers, reading an article, and addressing questions in the text. I decided to share a news story about the Survivor’s Totem Pole which was celebrated last Saturday with thousands of people, primarily First Nations’ peoples dressed in full regalia and drumming!
I was working last Saturday at Carnegie when part of the procession stopped all traffic at Main and Hastings to drum in the new totem pole. The Carnegie just vibrated, and everyone felt the power of community, and of healing. The pole was made by a woman carver named Bernie Williams and her assistants, and the cedar tree is over 900 years old and 27 feet high. Williams explains, “This pole is for everybody: it represents the resilience of everyone who has faced racism, colonialism, sexism, LGBTQ-bashing, gentrification, and more.” I love the word “resilience.”
The ESL circle also read some history of the significance of the totem pole, and I had the opportunity to explain the words “potlach,” “xenophobia,” “homophobia,” and “gentrification.” I didn’t intend it to be a political lesson, but the guests (from South America and China) were young and curious. I also got to do a pitch for the First Nations’ restaurant Salmon ‘n’ Bannock, explaining what bannock was. In the end, I just felt so hopeful. The world is vast and full of people who can make and create change for good.
I think of my parents in small town Ontario finding great fulfillment in hosting ESL classes with new immigrants from Syria and Ethiopia. They are creating meaningful friendships, supporting the children, making opportunities come true. I feel that that’s the only response we can take in opposition to the foolishness and ignorance happening in the United States. Respond with dignity, welcome the immigrant, serve the poor, be humble, be full of joy, and radiate the light like Ali!