Friday, October 24, 2014

My Barber's Story

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Just yesterday, my barber shared a story about one of his three boys, the one who plays hockey. I’ve never met his boys but I have a son so I can relate. I don’t know what compelled him to tell me the story because we are not exactly what one might typically define as friends. When I say that, I intend no disrespect whatsoever. I would be happy to be friends if our paths crossed more than once every six weeks for twenty minutes or so while, quite expertly, he cuts my hair. These are just the circumstances, the details. I believe everyone we encounter is a potential friend. I’m na├»ve this way but I don’t care. Given these circumstances, I was surprised by his story because it turned out to be about disillusionment, about heartbreak. Like all Canadians right now, maybe he was feeling a little fragile. When someone, basically a stranger, tells a story like that, it seems to me that it’s so very important I pay attention and listen.

As I mentioned, his son (not yet a teenager) plays hockey and is old enough now to attend tournaments in different communities. Only once, explained his Dad (and not since) did he ever allow his son permission to travel without him to a hockey tournament overnight with a family he trusted. But it was a mistake. His son returned and told his Dad that the kids spent hours in the hotel room by themselves while the family he trusted to supervise his son spent the evening in the bar getting drunk, one of them passing out later in the hotel room. Like his own father, my barber explained that alcohol has never touched his lips. He would never have acted this way, “My wife and I are Muslim.” And then he said,

“It seems to me that when you are caring for someone else’s kid you should be even more careful and cautious about that child’s well-being.”

Listening carefully, I let that sink in and agreed. Who could argue with that?

After I paid my barber and left, I reflected on what he said and listened to the radio news: “increasing exploitation and radicalization of our youth targeted by extremists…in their search for identity, acceptance and purpose, socially isolated, disenchanted young men turn to extremism…the stereotype of a terrorist as a foreigner striking out from a disadvantaged country is fading…”

Writing this, I’m still thinking about my barber, his kids, my kids, our community, our country. His story is my story too. Call me hokey but I bet that goes for every parent out there. Dads and sons and daughters and Moms all over Canada (all of us, everywhere) playing hockey, or soccer, or playing music, whatever, watching out for their own children, watching out for their neighbours’kids too. It’s simple really but perhaps the most important thing. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things one should never outgrow:

whatever these things are.

I call them sprongies. I had forgotten about these spring-loaded toys until I discovered this Halloween-inspired example at the local Subway. Instant reminders of my childhood, whose day wouldn't be made instantly better by a sprongy or two?

Hmm. I think my inner child might be a dimwit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The most? The best?

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A 17-year-old won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I'm still thinking about that. 

Anyone discouraged by the today’s youth, think about that. Any discouraged youth, think about what you can actually accomplish.

And why did Malala Yousafzai win the Nobel Peace Prize?

1.      Was it because she is a girl?
2.      Was it because she is Pakistani?
3. Was it because her father encouraged her to go to school despite the danger, especially for girls?
4. Was it because she publicly criticized the Taliban for trying to prevent girls from attending school?
5. Was it because a Taliban gunman barged onto her bus one day and threatened to shoot everyone unless she identified herself?
6. Was it because she said I am Malala and was then shot in the head?
7. Was it because she recovered and explained to the world that what extremists fear most seems to be one girl with a book?
8. Was it because she had no desire for revenge, nor is she against anyone; instead she simply wants all children to have access to education including the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists?
9. Was it because leaders and organizations all over the world were inspired to support her cause?
10. Or was it because she says, “one child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world”?

Boiled down, the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize is simple: the prize goes to “whoever has done the most or the best work” to uphold and promote peace. Yet it's so incredibly vague to say, "do your best." Best must be defined. Enter Malala. Her most? Her best? It was her attitude. It sparked, it inspired, it elevated. 

Friends: it’s our attitude. That’s it right there. Define it and it will make the most and the best difference to everyone and everything, even yourself. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Is it, question mark?"

Walking down the street the other day, I was chatting with my cell phone when I looked up to discover some people with quizzical looks. But everyone does this, right?

Several times each day, I talk to my phone. For a writer, for any sort of creative, for anyone hoping to remember something, this is ideal. Thinking is productive. Thinking aloud is even more productive when those thoughts can be captured. That’s why I’ve trained my phone (or maybe it’s trained me?) to listen while I share my ideas and think aloud. I’ve programmed it to record, type and even repeat back to me what I’ve said. While driving, while walking, while at work, my phone is required to listen to me and take notes.

Mostly, I record this information privately. But then I forgot. And some boundaries became blurred. The tipping point occurred recently when I was in the midst of a real-life, in person, conversation with someone and this happened:

Me: “What do you mean, question mark?”
The other person: “What?”
Me: “Um, (clearing my throat) what do you mean?”

You see, when I speak to my phone it will even record my preferred punctuation so when I want it to record a question I end said question with “question mark.”

I should probably get out more.

It's probably true. My iPhone might own me. But I’m not like all those others; I’m not obsessed. Maybe you’ve heard of “nomophobia” (fear of no mobile phone)? That’s not me, is it, question mark?

Hmm. Maybe the saying is true: “life was much simpler when apple was just a fruit.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wordfuse (World Events Edition)

(noun) The opposite of mob mentality.

Undoubtedly, when there's enough broken glass, when the looting is over, when the threats go silent, when the same mistakes have been made again again, there is always a peaceful majority, a moral mob who will clean up the debris and they will also work one hundred ways to help their communities heal. Ways that are unselfish. Ways not motivated by greed. Or revenge. Ways that ripple.

Sure, it's fair to ask whose morality? But don't we all know what's truly right? Peace, love, respect for each other, for all. With that in mind, and despite all the complexities that could probably punch holes in my idealism here, it seems simple to me that whether we like it or not, there are really only two ways to be in life: you can help or you can hinder.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Dear Hotel Marketing Team,

Huh? What does this mean? And why is sledgehammer in parenthesis? And why 86-ft exactly? Despite using the word radius, I'm questioning your math. And maybe just say we apologize for the inconvenience instead of attempting a playful tone because this notice only enhances the level of annoying here. Better yet, here's an idea: scrap the dorky signs and offer a discount instead.
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