Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Hope at the End of the Year that Was

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 18 / 17

Zack Gross

By all accounts, 2017 has been a heck of a year.  Mr. Trump was inaugurated as US President in January (it seems like he’s been there longer!), and from that has followed a turbulent year of tweets, twists and turns that has put our world in jeopardy of international war, of economic recession and of communal hatred.

It’s also been a year to face past crimes of colonial exploitation (if not genocidal acts) against Indigenous peoples throughout our history (and history around the world – not just us), and sexual exploitation of women and men by more powerful figures, that mirrors the ills of colonialism. 

My more resigned friends tell me that “it is what it is.”  My more optimistic friends tell me that it might all be for the good, to confront these demons in our present and in our past and to ultimately reap the benefit of “bounce-back” social change.

In an article in this space a year ago, I said that the last thing to leave Pandora’s Box was Hope.  Hope is a good thing if we are prepared to take action as “glocal” (local and global) citizens and do something about the challenges that face us in our communities and in our world.  Hope is a bad thing to rely on if we are going to sit idly by and think that hoping is enough.

Examples of hope in action are not hard to find, especially at the holiday season.  Radio and television coverage, in newspaper articles and on-line, one can see many heartfelt community programs focusing on offering winter clothing or food hampers to those who can’t afford them, and mountains of toys for kids whose families aren’t able to provide.  Family tragedies such as house fires and car crashes also seem to gain greater attention from local groups at this time of year.

Meanwhile, globally, we might take a moment to consider people whose scale of poverty, conflict and violation of human rights may dwarf what we deal with here in Canada, whether it is the Rohingya in Burma and Bangladesh, the victims of civil war in the Congo, or victims of storms like Irma in the Caribbean.  We may decide to “buy a goat” through a faith-based organization or support a clinic through a medical NGO.

But there are day-to-day stories of hope that we don’t really celebrate that bring out the best in people or give people a foundation to build a better life, a better neighbourhood or a better world.  I had the opportunity to visit a school and a food bank this week where hope through action is alive.  The names and locations don’t matter because what happens in these two places is being replicated around our province, our country and globally.

The school I visited has a large number of Indigenous students and is in a remote location.  I walked in the front door and was immediately greeted in a very friendly manner by members of staff, indeed greeted by the teacher who was hosting me with a friendly hug in the front hall!  I spoke to the students about being active young citizens and conscientious consumers and they asked good questions and weren’t afraid to make eye contact with me. 

Many of these kinds are poor and know little of the world outside their town.  A percentage are “in care” and many are dealing with the issues we hear about in the news.  The teacher is passionate to be of service to them and to support them in coping with or bettering their situation.  After we met with two classes, he asked me about burn-out and maintaining belief.

A couple of days previous, I’d attended a meeting at a food bank in a different town.  The discussion was around helping a particular family whose home had burned down, as well as maintaining daily service in the community throughout the holidays even though staff needed time off to be with their families. 

We talked about fundraising and about Christmas hampers and about the needs at this time of year among people who faced unemployment, disabilities, old age infirmities, and addictions.  We joked with a staff member who refused to take time off even though she had lots coming to her.

Hope lives in our schools, in our volunteer org
anizations, in our hospitals and care homes, and elsewhere in our busy world.  Let us appreciate it and support it at this time of year, and throughout the year.  And let us find a way to be a part of it.

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis Project and now co-ordinates outreach for Fair Trade Manitoba.

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