Thursday, November 17th, 2016...4:06 am
Say Hi to Your Neighbour: a post-election piece
In light of recent events in the U.S., we wanted to use this week’s blog post to remind everyone in our immediate U of T family and beyond of their importance and their worth, and of the importance of community. When something happens that shakes a community to its very core, it can be hard to focus on the positive things that surround us because it’s so easy to become bogged down by the potential negativity that the future might hold. For the past week, I’ve found myself bogged down by that same negativity, and it wasn’t until I went to one of my classes today that I was able to shake some of it off by focusing on what’s important.
I’m currently taking a peacebuilding and education course, and today we talked about exactly what those things are that help promote peace, what things are most important to creating positive communities. Let me tell you.
Gender inclusion is important to peacebuilding, honouring history and memory is important to peacebuilding, celebrating differences is important to peacebuilding, building relationships that don’t involve power imbalances is important to peacebuilding, inclusive education is important to peacebuilding, finding commonalities across differences is important to peacebuilding, you are important to peacebuilding. Most of us didn’t get a say in what happened in the U.S. last week, but we do get to choose how we react to it, how we deal with it, how we rise from it. I never thought I would live in a day and age where a person who is so overtly divisive would be in such a great position of power in North America, but it did happen, and the only thing I can think to do in response is to be proudly, overtly, unapologetically united in the face of this division.
Of all the articles, books, web pages, and theses that I’ve read for that peacebuilding course, the thing that has stayed with me the most is the importance of relationships. Relationships between friends, between families, between communities, between students and teachers, between government bodies and grassroots organizations, between countries, between people. At a time when so many of the world’s communities are concerned by what the next few weeks, months, and years are going to bring, we need to remember that our greatest strength lies in our connections to each other. Our best hope for building peace is by strengthening our bonds of friendship, and finding commonality across divides.
In addition to the peacebuilding course, I’m also currently completing a teaching placement at an outdoor education centre, and the question we always ask students to think about is: “How do my daily choices affect my world?” I’d like to end this blog by asking you the same thing. Take all the time you need to process the truth of what might be coming our way, but once that’s done, it’s time to pick yourself up off the couch, open your front door, and say hi to your neighbour. It’s time to start cherishing the relationships we have, and to start strengthening our bonds across communities. I’m not saying that the next few years are going to be easy, but as one of my grade 5 students reminded me the morning after the election: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”