Be forewarned. I’m a whole lot tired and a little bit grumpy.
I’ve just finished watching the clip of Trump with only a fabric mask on, contagious with COVID, driving around in his sealed SUV and exposing Secret Service agents for a photo op.
Like that wasn’t bad enough, he releases a video saying: “I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the REAL school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read a book’ school. And I get it.”
We don’t always “get” something until it happens to us, but COME ON. Scientists have been telling us about COVID since February, and there are some things that we should TOTALLY learn from books and not experience, and getting a viral infection that can kill you is one of them.
So I’m not letting DJT off the hook. But today is a day where I feel a huge amount of guilt for not really “getting” the tragedy of cancer until my closest cousin died of it just over a year ago.
Of course, we have had cancer in our family like almost every other family out there, but it was random and not rampant. So when Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer and had treatment, I assumed that like so many other women, that she would survive it.
She did not. Just short of her 49th birthday, the world lost a teacher, mother, colleague, mentor, athlete, friend….a list just doesn’t do it justice. Today, I ran 10km for her in the CIBC Run for a Cure. As the paper pinny says, “I am always running for Lisa.”
Do I get what cancer does to families now? I sure do.
Do I pay more attention to the challenges and suffering of people in other ways I’m not affected by? I sure try.
So what is it about human nature that makes us only pay attention to things when it impacts us directly? Why do we struggle to empathize or look from another point of view?
I know there is research on this. I know there are scientific reasons. But my Trump rant has put me over the word count already, so let me get in one more story instead.
This week in ELA, one of students brought up the topic of demonstrators tearing down statues in the USA. John A. Macdonald’s name also came up. As did arguments for keeping him right where he is in parks all across Canada.
This was my response.
Over my many years at our school, several students have passed away. I don’t know when it quite started, but each time our community was struck by tragedy, a mural was painted on the hallway walls. Each one was meaningful, and no doubt an important part of the healing process for the students who created them.
So when our school underwent a large renovation a few years ago, there was some backlash to the murals being painted over.
I could empathize with the alumni artists. Their pain was literally painted on the cinderblock. But they had graduated and moved on. They were not walking the halls every day as many of us continued to do.
Whenever I walked by one, I vividly remembered the night of the accident. Driving back from the city, it was only 2kms from our house and we detoured backroads to get home.
As I walked by another, I would think of the last conversation we had on a Friday afternoon, as best I remember, we were talking about band.
Yet another, the memories of teaching their sibling, every conversation a conscious effort to not say the wrong name, so striking were their similarities.
Those murals were a daily, painful reminder of those young lives lost.
And it was daily.
They were never just pictures painted on a wall for me as they were for all the students who came afterward, with no knowledge of those teens. And I don't think that the alumni artists had any idea of the effect it had on those of us left behind.
I still think of those students. Absolutely. I won't ever forget them.
But it is far less painful without daily visual reminders.
So although I really only associate John A. Macdonald with the ten dollar bill, the first PM and being an alcoholic, his infamous legacy is so much more particularly to Indigenous people. As much as I could walk by a statue of him and perhaps not even recognize his likeness, that is the privilege of not having felt the impact of his decisions impacting my existence to this day. And as he stands in a park somewhere, he is a painful daily visual reminder as well.
I hope that every lesson isn’t one that we have to experience ourselves. That we can learn lessons from books. From science.
From each other.
That we can see and acknowledge the concerns and suffering of people and support them. Be there for them.
I wish I could still be there for you coz. I’ll be running here for you instead. Miss you.
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