Tag Archives: Montreal

Adopting a learning mode: what it can look like

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Loving fellowship, mutual encouragement, and willingness to learn together are natural properties of any group of youth sincerely striving for the same ends…

There is a lot that we have to learn, every single day in our lives. Sometimes, when we make a mistake while trying to learn, we encounter honks, stares, and negative comments. But sometimes, those who happen to be present during our “learning moment” lend us a helping hand – and magic ensues.

A couple of years ago, at the end of a long day of work, I stepped into the bus that would take me home, as it has for many years. I recognized most of the faces around me, and many smiled at me as I took my usual spot. I slipped on headphones and started to relax as my hour-long bus ride began.

But a quarter of the way through, something went wrong. The young driver, clearly fresh out of “bus driving school”, had made a wrong turn. I took my headphones off and exchanged glances with the other passengers. As if by mutual agreement, an older gentleman stood up and headed up to the front of the bus.

“Son, are you aware that you tool a wrong turn?” he kindly said.
The poor young driver looked very stressed. “Yes, yes I am,” he said, a little defensively. “I never come to this side of town, I have no idea where I am!”
“Well I come from this side of town, and I wouldn’t know how to drive my way home,” the older gentleman said with a smile. He turned around to face me and the girl sitting beside me. “Maybe these lovely ladies could help us?”
“Don’t just show him the way; take him back and show him the right way,” a lady from the back called out. “Then he will know the route for his next run.”
“Is everyone OK with that?” asked the older gentlemen, who had somehow become the moderator of a bus-wide consultation on empowering a young person.
Everyone nodded.
“I do have to eat something tough,” said a middle-aged man. “I have a medical condition; I might get sick if I don’t.”

People rummaged through their bags and purses, and offered him an attractive selection from which he almonds. His offer to financially compensate the donor was gently turned down.

We guided the bus driver back to right before he made the wrong turn, and taught him how to make the right one. And when he turned the bus into the first major stop on the line, the entire bus cheered, most smiling, some laughing. The young driver, visibly distressed before, now looked much more relaxed and happy. He profusely thanked each passenger as they got off for their patience. He never made a mistake on his route ever again, and from then on, I always felt that his smile was warmer when he greeted one of us entering his bus.

Image credit: Chad Mauger

Reaching Over the Anger: Building on a Common Desire

Questions:  Adelaide, Australia

As a blogger, I have gone through many phases. A recent one was defined by anger at the various and unfortunately numerous forms of injustice that exist. Long-time readers have commented on it before, and it has led to many an interesting, if not heated, discussion.

While anger might light a fire in someone’s heart and inspire them to divest themselves of the apathy society encourages in us to get up and act, it also deprives us of such things as patience, wisdom, and tact. Quite unfortunately (and kind of ironically), these are the very sentiments we need to discuss how to deal with important issues. Action inspired by anger, therefore, can only do so much.

I have been reflecting a lot recently about the nature of the contribution of a blog such as mine to the processes of community-building happening in so many neighborhoods and villages around the world, especially since the House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad, a Holy Place precious to the millions of Baha’is in the world, and a beautiful historic Building precious to Iraqis, was razed to the ground earlier this year. Such an act could inspire anger, and no one would be faulted for feeling that way.

But what good would it have served?

When I received the news about the House in Baghdad, I couldn’t help but think about the Baha’i Holy Place in Montreal: what would I do if it was razed? While I would definitely feel angry, I know that screaming and shouting about it would not help. To be able to effectively resort to the means available to me, such as calling someone in City Hall to file a grievance, would require calm composure, something anger does not contribute to.

How does this sentiment translate in such situations as this letter from Mrs. Hall? I must say that the first time I read it, I was angry at a letter that deemed itself contributing to the betterment of society in such a judgmental way that contributed to the very problem it was meant to counter. Then I read it again, and again. And I realised that poor Mrs. Hall does not deserve my anger. She seems to have a kind heart, and is concerned for the well-being of her sons. How can I hold that against her?

As my anger dissipated, I was surprised to find in its place, something much more powerful: an indomitable determination to build on something great, to make it even better. In this case, to understand how Mrs. Hall’s letter is good, and then engage her (and all those who loved the letter unconditionally) in a conversation that will help iron out certain parts of her letter that are contradictory.

Because ultimately, we are all imperfect, and our contributions to the betterment of society, however well inspired, are imperfect. Instead of attacking each other out of anger, perhaps it is time to build on our common desire to contribute to the betterment of society by consulting on how to refine our contributions.

Image credit: Chad Mauger

Noticing the Glimmering of the Lesser Peace

I recently read an article, which talks about the relationship between poor housing conditions and the 25% of children in Montreal who suffer from lung disease, and suggests that the province of Quebec should invest not only in hospitals, but in home construction as well. Before, such articles would just make me so angry at the injustices happening even in a lovely city like Montreal. But this time, I saw glimmerings of the Lesser Peace and, albeit much more faintly, the beginning of the march towards the Most Great Peace.

Very simply put, the Lesser Peace is peace out of necessity; it is the day when all of the nations in the world will make a firm commitment to ensure peace, knowing that, due to the big strides in weapon development, a single war would cause massive casualties around the world. The Most Great Peace will come out of unity and love amongst the peoples of the world. We will go from edgy defensiveness but relative international security to being, well, one big happy family.

In the abovementioned article, there are clamours in a major metropolitan city in Canada to upgrade the housing of the poor. Currently, their housing is of such bad quality that the ensuing excessive humidity and related mould problems cause major lung problems in children.

The discourse is currently one of social justice and economics; it isn’t fair that children suffer the consequences of the economic hardships of the parents, all the more that their ensuing bad health becomes an economic burden for the entire population. And so, we are moving toward making a commitment to give them good housing. Doesn’t that remind you a little bit of the Lesser Peace?

But try as you might, social justice cannot be separated fully from love for humans. And so one day, perhaps this concern will grow into a love amongst the peoples of the world that would ensure this situation doesn’t even occur; all houses will be built as if for a family member, and so, although economically viable, a construction company will never even consider building something he wouldn’t let his closest of family and friends live in. By the same token, the concept of poverty as a barrier to basic health would be abhorrent to everyone, to the point that were a family to hit hardships, all their friends and neighbours would spontaneously arise to help them.

You might think that I am a naïve optimist, but you know what… I really do see glimmering of the Lesser Peace in the news, as well as the faint traces of the beginning of the march towards the Most Great Peace. And it is the best feeling ever to carry around as I continue trying to figure out how to contribute, however humbly, to building a new civilization.

Stevie Wonder’s real contribution to the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival

The Montreal Jazz Festival opened on Tuesday night with a free outdoor concert by Stevie Wonder, another Motown Records child prodigy.

He kicked off the over 2 hour long concert with a speech about Michael Jackson who, as we know, was his friend.

He talked about the legacy of Michael Jackson as being his music and his dancing; he talked about the often vicious rumours that have brought Michael Jackson down; he basically reminded us that Michael Jackson was, first and foremost, and human being, and we can each choose the way we interact with him.

Andrew Sullivan is right to be grieving the culture that created Michael Jackson and, ultimately, destroyed him – because it’s doing the same thing to everyone else.

I don’t know how many people actually listened to Stevie Wonder last night and heard the message: we should stop contributing to this mad culture which has already taken a lot from us.

To read more about the concert, go here, here, or here, or here.

Some clips:

And clips from the earlier sound check:

And who said one person can’t make a difference?

While (thankfully) the odds of this happening to a websurfer are low, they are still (unfortunately) higher than they used to be. Apathy being one of the reasons why no one seems to really care anymore, I found it important to share this news story with you in the hopes that we all remember the truth behind the apathy: one person really can make a difference.

From the CBC: Montreal Student sounds alarms over planned UK school attack

Winnipeg native spots ominous message posted on web forum

Posted on Friday, March 20th 2009

A student at Montreal’s Concordia University says he was proud to play a role in helping to stop a school attack in the United Kingdom this week.

J.P. Neufeld, a 21-year-old Winnipeg native, alerted authorities on Tuesday after he stumbled across a posting on a web forum from a student claiming he was going to burn down his school in Norfolk, England.

“You don’t make threats like that idly. Either it was a hoax or something he was going to go through with,” Neufeld told CBC News.

Neufeld saw the threat when he was scrolling through a forum on the technology website newgrounds.com.

“I saw this thread started by this guy. It didn’t seem serious at first. It said that today at 11:30 a.m. GMT I will commit violence and other forms of arson against my school [in Norfolk]. He had posted a picture of a gas can,” Neufeld told CBC News.

He quickly looked up the phone number for police in the area and gave them a call via an internet telephone service.

“I said, ‘Hi, I’m a guy from Canada. There is someone about to set fire to a school.’ At that point I didn’t know the name of the school or the guy. I gave the police the address of the thread,” said Neufeld.

Eventually, police and other contributors to the web forum tracked down information about a suspect and narrowed down the school.

In less than an hour, police made an arrest.

Read the rest of the story here.