John Lennon reminded us in Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy): “Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.” ‘Life’ happened with news of the death of Alexander Martinez – an adult student attending a college night course that I taught.
Alexander was a real gentleman and a genuine person. Originally from El Salvador, he told us, in a recent class presentation, how he had been a 3rd year law student who was forced to leave school to make a living.
His life was a series of stories, with victories and losses but, being forced down, he came to succeed later. As he talked (needlessly apologizing for his command of English) I was able to see the picture of a man who was ‘worthy of his suffering’– choosing to not give in to defeat.
I wondered how it was that a man like Alexander could find it so difficult to obtain meaningful employment in Canada. Was it his English? It certainly wasn’t his ability to communicate. Nor, was it for lack of effort, as two years earlier, he worked hard on completing another of my college courses.
The night I passed on the sad news of his sudden death to his fellow classmates, we were consoled in the memory of the spontaneous group exercise we did for him after his class presentation. We conducted a “brainstorming” session to develop ideas that would help him. We listed these on large board sheets that we all signed, along with our best wishes. Later, I glanced over to see Alexander re-reading those sheets. He seemed moved that we took the time to care.
Perhaps, that’s why the vast majority of Canadians have decided to welcome these hardworking refugees – from places like Syria – to our shores. We know that we all began as newcomers and there’s no seniority with citizenship. There are short-term costs. But, how many would trade places with people having no future?
And, overcrowding fears seem overly exaggerated. For example, Germany – that has accepted more than a million refugees since the Syrian crisis started – has an approximate immigration ratio of about 1% per their population. To listen to some, you’d think it was 100%.
“I’m goanna soak up the sun
Gonna tell everyone / To lighten up”
Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow
That doesn’t mean, as in Canada, it’s been easy integrating refugees to better understand our culture; but, you can see indications of acceptance, everywhere… that there’s a will to do so. Brightly coloured welcoming lawn signs can be seen sprouting up – proudly proclaiming an American church-initiated message, in three languages: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
If that’s what Canada is really all about, maybe we could accept them with renewed empathy and understanding.
So, goodbye Alexander. And, on behalf of your classmates, thank you for choosing Canada! Your life decision has helped reaffirm ours.
“I see friends shaking hands/ Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying, “I love you”
Welcome sign – by Fred Parry
Guest Author Bio
Fred Parry lives in Southern Ontario. He is a lover of people and a collector of stories, music, wisdom, and grandchildren. His newspaper column, Music in Me, can be found in ‘The New Hamburg Independent’ Metroland Media. His book, ‘The Music In Me’ (2013) Friesen Press is Available from Amazon and Indigo / Chapters.
Blog / Website: www.fredparry.ca