Walk a mile

(Picture-Gambian Child)

An old adage, attributed by some to aboriginal Americans, says that before judging another person one should walk a mile in their shoes.

But, from comments, news releases and columns in all media the refugees of the world have not only been judged, but sentenced to a life of despair. I am not sure many of these people have walked a mile in similar circumstance, much less the vast distances many have had to trek to find a modicum of security.

My young Gambia friend, mentioned in my article “Unleashing the power of people”, traveled in excess of 7720km. from his home to find a safe haven in Germany. He did this not because he was angry, but because he was poor and he wanted a better life for his family.

Our mother with my oldest sister, like most war brides, made her journey to Newfoundland in 1946 from Ardrossan, Scotland via a troop ship out of Liverpool, England to Port Blandford. The culture shock of arriving to such a remote and desolate place in January must have been overwhelming to her.

Those who spew such disparaging words and abusive language towards those less fortunate, while ensconced in their comfortable life styles and self absorption apparently have no room for compassion, even for innocent and vulnerable children.

These people also advocate curtailment of social programs in our own society, branding recipients as lazy and shiftless unwilling to work, which statistics suggest otherwise. As a result, in Canada there is growing poverty, homeless people and hungry children; none of which can be attributed to refugees, nor will it.

To really appreciate, understand and feel the plight of the poor migrants and refugees one needs to be able to relate to the very frightening experience of their journey, of which so little is known – only what flashes on a screen.  How can one even imagine such hardship from a position of security and comfort?

Even the adage of walking a mile has little relevance to those who traveled thousands and have endured almost every known abuse, hardship and suffering.

Fortunately, in Canada there are still many people with compassion. People all across the country are offering their help and expressing their willingness to volunteer and assist in placing refugees. Most provinces have made provisions to accept more refugees than the federal government will bring.

Blame is so easy to allocate, just as some attribute the killings in Paris to refugees, and not the terrorist from whom the refugees are fleeing.

Understanding the difference between terrorists and refugees requires more than acceptance and posting of words and pictures on screens, it requires critical dialogue based on consideration and assessment of evidence and thought; not to mention feelings.

If it were possible to transport everyone to the beaches where these refugees are landing, to hear, touch and sense the plight of these distraught people, it would be much different than seeing it flash on a screen.  To share the grief and sadness of those who have watched their families drown, killed or perish may even be more compelling.

Humans are spiritual beings at their core and the lack of spiritual expression and understanding is one of the greatest challenges of our times. It doesn’t come from books, screens or even churches, but from human interaction and meaningful engagement.

To create spiritual understanding requires a much deeper and human approach. It requires moving beyond our fears and reaching into human compassion, which requires one to reach deep within their soul; a scary thought for many.

Having lived in and walked the streets of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the world, touched people who needed consolation, held tiny babies crying in hunger and pain, and lending a hand to those in need has provided an understanding of how privileged my life has been.

The benefit of sharing a kindness and the feelings returned for the help received has made me appreciate what is important in life and how precious is our own gift of life.

Being fortunate enough to help someone in need has taught me the value of giving. The gift of an expression of appreciation from one with nothing else to give is a blessing beyond comprehension.

I feel sad for all those with such biases and coldness towards all those in need, for they will never experience the true gift of giving nor receiving; the basis of all spiritual wealth.

Their material wealth may buy them things, but the warmth of human compassion shared with someone in need and the reciprocal expression of appreciation is wealth beyond human value.

Never doubt the warmth of human compassion and its benefit to your life. It has been the message of prophets and poets since the dawn of humanity. This is the spiritual love of their teachings, which most humans search for all their lives. It costs nothing, but its rewards are beyond value.

Written by Bill Pardy

November 27th, 2015

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