This is the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and it’s a time of year that always reacquaints me with the concept of gratitude.
Today the table was overflowing with the fruits of the harvest… potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, salad, and of course, the turkey. It was hard to avoid overeating but somehow I managed to avoid the temptation of gluttony. I give thanks for the blessings in my life that allow me to prepare such a bountiful meal for my family and I do with remembrance of all of those who did without today. Those people are not just located in some far off continent. Right here, in my own reasonably prosperous little town, some people know hunger. The Food Bank, the Soup Kitchen, the Emergency Shelters for the homeless all exist for a reason – they service a desperate need in our community.
Today I had coffee with my teacher. I realize how blessed I am that my teacher is so close to me that I can literally stroll over to her house on a lovely Thanksgiving Monday to have a chat and a coffee. I think of all the junior teachers such as myself who travel many, many miles to do their studies and don’t have the opportunity to easily check back on the millions of details that arise.
Today, a police cruiser drove past me. I waved and the officer nodded her head back. I recall all the people around the world who live in fear of their police forces. It was a Thanksgiving weekend many years ago that I learned the nature of this fear. A man from some South American country had been arrested for impaired driving. I watched through the video monitors as he was brought into the cell block. His English wasn’t good – he could barely speak it at all, but even I could see from his body language that he was terrified and pleading. There was a dark stain on the front of his pants where he had wet his self in sheer terror of his arrest.
As fortune would have it, one of the police officers working that night grew up in a Spanish speaking household and he came into the booking area. I watched to see this police officer kneel beside the shaking and sobbing man, put his arm around his shoulder in order to comfort him. I could see the rest of the officers in the booking area looking very uncomfortable.
Later on, I got the rest of the story. The man came from a country where he had no reason to trust the police. They were the stuff of terror in his native land. When he had been arrested, he knew he was going to be executed. That’s what happened to poor men like him when they encountered the police. What he was pleading for, in the Spanish that none of the arresting officers understood, was that they would spare his sons. Apparently, he had reason to believe that not only was he going to be shot in this cavernous underground garage but also after they finished doing him in, they would seek out and murder his grade-school aged children.
It took them a very long time to calm him down enough to undergo the Breathalyzer test. It took forever to issue him the paperwork because the arresting officers had to start with the basics – innocent until proven guilty, due process, lawyer, rights of the accused, and no, we don’t shoot anyone for anything.
I don’t think anyone who worked that night will ever forget that Thanksgiving. It’s probably been 15 years and not one Thanksgiving has gone by that I haven’t remembered that man and give thanks I live in Canada and not some other places on this sorry-assed planet. I fear neither my police forces nor my military and pray for the day when all people live in that security.
Tomorrow, I go to the polls to cast my ballot for who will lead my government. I give thanks for living in a democracy. No, it’s not a perfect system. We could stand to clean up some of the cynicism and ‘politics as usual’. But whenever my disgust at some of the tactics overwhelms me, I think of the hundreds and thousands before me who died at the barricades, literally fighting to their deaths for the right to vote. Women have had the vote for less than 100 years in Canada. Universal suffrage in this country is just over 40 years old. All manner of people, one group or the other, have been barred from voting over the years. For all the problems, I’m grateful for the fact I will have my right to express my pleasure or displeasure at the tactics of the ruling party of the last 2-1/2 years and what I think of this premature call to the polls.
And lastly, perhaps because as soon as I post this, I need to go finalize tomorrow night’s practice, I’m thankful for my students. They are wonderful people who have joined me on this journey called Yoga. They come to class with a sense of adventure and openness that is beyond description. I am so blessed with their presence in class.
Happy Thanksgiving, even to my American readers although I know your holiday is still a month plus away.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,