Once a star

by lulujane on April 28, 2016

Over the last few months I was remotely aware of a student at a local high school who seemed destined for greatness because of his prowess on the basketball court. Because he was an immigrant, he was housed with the basketball coach, someone in our community who has a strong and successful reputation for coaching teen aged boys in the sport. Even though Nicola came to the school  identified as a seventeen year old, he appeared larger and stronger than someone this age, had a deeper voice, and even  a bit of gray in his beard. Given that he was only seventeen and relatively new to the sport, he was accomplishing great things on the school team and it was thought that he would likely have an opportunity to play professionally some day.

In an attempt to obtain a visa to enter the United States to play with his team, it was revealed that instead of seventeen, he was actually thirty years old.  In high school sports I understand that the maximum age to participate is twenty-one. Newspaper reports indicate that he was well liked by his team mates, that he was a good guy. Now he is being held in detention, with the strong likelihood of being returned to his home country.

Without paying attention to all of the detail in the case, this made me feel really grateful to be Canadian.  I have done nothing to earn my right to live in this wonderful country and the freedoms I enjoy. I am not alone when I say we take this for granted. And why, really, am I more entitled than someone else to be here?   Many of us have heard the phrase ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’.  I cannot imagine being a mother in a foreign country where there is limited opportunity,with me and my family experiencing hunger and deprivation of the necessities of life, in danger every day and living in fear.  I would want the best for my children.  The fact that people are driven to the extremes of deception and danger speak to the cold reality of their lives in their homeland.

I know there are rules, and their must be rules.  I also believe there must be compassion and understanding and sincere gratitude for the luck of the draw of being born in Canada.

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Cash for Life

by lulujane on April 28, 2016

I am a grateful recipient of Canada’s Old Age Security which is dependably deposited into my bank account each month, without fail.  Often in the newspaper, on the radio or television news I read about persons who are not happy with their OAS and complain what benefits they believe other demographics (i.e. immigrants/First Nations people) receive that they do not enjoy.

Today is my sister-in-law’s 65th birthday.  I took time to deliver her card and gift this morning and mentioned that one of the good things about turning sixty-five was the cheque she will receive each month.  She responded with “my brother Mike calls OAS Cash for Life”.

If someone won a lottery in Cash for Life which would provide this amount of income each month, consistently and reliably, until death they do part, I imagine this would be a source of great happiness and might even be accompanied by excited telephone calls and  shouts of delight.  Heck, there might even be expressions of gratitude. A Cash for Life win would be nothing to just take for granted.

Years ago I worked at a law firm where I got generous Christmas bonus cheques which made me happy. One year, a person new to the firm received her first bonus cheque and was delighted.  She was so happy that she mistakenly revealed the amount to others.  She had only been there a few months, and yet proportionately, to some other bonus recipients, it felt to them that she didn’t deserve the large sum.  Gossip floated around, and even though most people were originally happy with their windfall, all of a sudden they were unhappy because they made comparisons with the good fortune of another.  This was a big lesson for me.  What I get, I should be happy for, and also happy for what others receive independent of me.

I am grateful for my Cash for Life.

 

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Shiny shoes

by lulujane on April 28, 2016

As a very young child there was a shoemaker shop a couple of blocks from where I lived. When I walked by I loved hearing the sound of the machinery that drove the belts, and I have memory of the smell of leather, shoe polish and glue that drifted out an opening door.

When shoes were taken for repair, as shoddy as they may have looked when handed over to the master in the black, brown and oxblood polish stained apron, even if the repair was a small one, they were returned to the owner shining like the sun, restored to their former brilliance.

Last week I took a pair of shoes to a local shoe repair shop, leaving them to have a heel replaced. When I returned to pick them up, the finish on the leather was as dull as when I dropped them off. While I realize that I did not pay for a spit polish, and the heels were expertly done, I was surprised that I felt a level of disappointment.

Many craftsman see the finished product they present as a reflection of themselves, their art, and go above and beyond what is expected to show what they can do. This makes ‘them’ shine.

When my shoes didn’t shine it gave me pause, and in a negative way, speaking about myself, I made a judgment about my perception of the level of care I received, even though the work I paid for was performed in a professional way.

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Little things can really be big miracles

by lulujane on October 6, 2015

April 2008 (59)Today I feel called to write.  Once in a while I have these little aha moments that give me a small sense of bigger picture. This is a typical day of running errands and spending quality time with my dear friend Carol.

After lunch I delivered her to her hairdresser’s shop where she is scheduled for a perm and then headed home northward on Dougall Avenue, exiting onto the eastbound E. C. Rose Expressway.  Pleasantly passing the driving time I was listening intently to CD14, the last in a series of an audio book. This is a time when everything comes together.

My exit is the Jefferson North ramp that winds down sharply in a semi circular path and then onto the straightaway.  Just past my first traffic light I noticed a car parked on the shoulder with tail lights flashing.  A woman who looked in distress was walking near the car and shaking her arms and hands as if to calm them.  I drove by. Yes, I drove by and I remember thinking that if she needs help someone will be sure to stop and assist her. It ended up that this person was me.

My conscience got the best of me and a couple of blocks further down the road I decided to turn around.  I pulled into the roadway close to where her car was parked, turned off the ignition and walked toward her.  I asked if she was all right.

She asked if I could see her brake marks on the exit ramp.  Coming off the expressway her brakes had failed, totally.  As I talked with her, she seemed in shock.  She appeared distressed and her hands were shaking.  I reminded her that she was safe, that physically she was all right, and it was her mind that was racing about the ‘what if’.  I asked if I could touch her, and when she nodded her agreement I placed my right hand on her left shoulder and held it there.

I commended her by saying that she didn’t panic, and that her skill in driving and keeping her head about her in an emergency brought her car to where it was now, parked safely at the side of a busy road.  She thanked me for that and shared that in the past she had done some race driving. Peeking in the car window I noticed that even in the panic she had put her handbrake on.

Then she put her hands together in prayer fashion and raised them toward her face.  With her head tilted back she looked skyward and I heard her words “Thank you Linda”.  I took a bit of a deep breath and told her “My name is Linda”.  And then she told me her story.

Her best friend was Linda.  Linda died about seven years ago of lung cancer. Today was Linda’s birthday and she, with other family members were planning a party of celebration for her today. She was thanking her friend Linda for bringing her to safety today.

She made an offhand comment that maybe we should exchange telephone numbers, but I didn’t respond as I don’t think our meeting was about that.

When I first approached the scene she told he she had called her husband to assist, and he should be with her shortly. My newfound friend asked me three separate times for a hug, and each time I held her firmly to comfort her.

I told her that I had just come from church where I delivered a film saying “I am Linda …. and I Love You.” After we shared our Linda stories she looked calmer and more stable. She said “I am okay now … it’s okay for you to go.”.  I could see that she was much better, we waved, and I went on my way.

Blessed am I for the experience of it all.

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Little Gift from Mom

by lulujane on June 1, 2015

IMG_0734(1)Last week I looked, really looked at the key ring that keeps my house key and my car keys secure. It has been there for a long time, likely over fifteen years, the white plastic whistle that my mother gave to me and each of my three sisters.  I refer to her as ‘mom’, and she always signed her cards ‘Mum”. My mother was born in 1921 and passed away on June 10, 1996 at the age of 75, and some time before that she gifted us with the whistles.

From her perspective, they were ‘rape whistles’ …. something we would have at hand to sound an alert if we needed to.

On Saturday I asked my sister Joyce if she remembered getting a whistle, and she didn’t. By email yesterday I messaged my other two sisters with the subject line “Do you remember…?”.  My youngest sister Dawn remembered, but doesn’t know where hers might be. In her response she commented “that was another way she was trying to keep us safe”, our mother.  Eldest sister Brenda had hers for a long time but doesn’t have it now and can’t remember what happened to it.

A few years ago my son Cary noticed it, and without skipping a beat  told me it was a Fox40, the first whistle manufactured that was made without a ball/pea.  Holding it close he read the faded fine print and sure enough, it was a whistle designed after its originator, a fellow Canadian, Ron Foxcroft, of Hamilton, Ontario.

In its place on my keyring it is dirty and thankfully I have had no need to use it.  Just another thing that I have taken for granted, held in my hand where I touch it every day, connecting with my mother and the setting of her intention to keep me safe.

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I met a man today

by lulujane on January 11, 2014

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This morning as I was taking my recyclables to an outdoor receptacle  a man wearing thick glasses approached. Holding onto the handlebars of his adult tricycle he guided it toward the dumpsters.  He offered to lift the lids of the containers so that I could easily unload my paper, cardboard and containers and when doing so, he had his antennae up for bottles and cans.

He couldn’t believe that people throw away their returnable bottles and cans as he sees the value in them.    This gentleman told me that he is on a disability pension for a vision related issue and proudly shared that he usually earns about $300 a month for his work.

In a way I am like him.  I see the value in the simple things, and even although I don’t need the money I had a hard time thinking about thoughtlessly discarding my bottles into a bin.   I had about eight bottles in my garage that had been collecting dust and mentioned this to him.  He followed me the short distance to home and excitedly accepted my humble offering.  Each bottle was carefully placed and arranged in the large, cardboard lined carrier already holding neatly packed bottles in different sizes and shapes.

Over the years I have noticed a few people on bikes with large carriers laden with treasures of the day.  And I haven’t given it much thought – until today.  Even though this fellow is on a disability pension he likely gets up each day and makes his rounds searching for the booty that allows him a more comfortable financial situation. He isn’t standing on a corner with his hand out, or presenting himself on an expressway exit wearing a sign telling us he is a victim.  I see him as an empowered person with a personal mission to do what he must to take care of himself.

On the day we met it was snowy, slushy and wet; not an easy day to be navigating our streets and roads on a bicycle, yet he was engaging in his job as if it were sunny and clear. The inclement weather didn’t stop him. He had a job to do. He enjoyed what he was doing and was proud of the revenue it generated for him.

The way I see it, so much about life is all about Attitude.

I was impressed.

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Silly me

by lulujane on February 4, 2013

When browsing my newspaper’s comic section last week I came across a storyline that made me laugh…..

Remote

It made me laugh because I am remembering the day I returned home from shopping, bags in one hand and my car keys in the other, pushing on the power lock button in an attempt to open my front door.

Oh well!  I laughed then, and I laugh now.

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Not taken for granted

by lulujane on January 30, 2013

10abcToday my sister had a prescription for a knee brace, hopefully to remedy the ongoing pain caused by osteo arthritis.  As I sat in the store watching, waiting for her to be fitted, I listened to other customers whose first questions were `how much is it` and `am I covered`. (Punctuation here is an ongoing problem for me as there is a glitch in the program, so forgive lack of question marks or correct punctuation.)

I live in a city in which  many individuals and families, sometimes generations of families, have been employed and supported by the auto industry, in some instances from cradle to grave.  Unions have fought strongly for benefit packages for their members.  Even although I was always a salaried employee, working for an employer not connected with the auto industry, my wages and benefits were influenced by comparison with what was earned in the auto sector.  Because of that I have retired with a generous benefit package; a comfortable pension, prescription drugs for a thirty-five cent co-pay, ongoing dental coverage, etc.  Even although my employer is paying for it, I have no hesitation in acknowledging that were it not for the union demands and sacrifices over the years I would not have this.

Back to the fitting shop experience today, within the period of a couple of hours my sister had a prescription from her doctor (thanks to free medical care), was fitted for an appliance, and walked out the door pain free, at no financial cost to her for the $790 brace that she wore out the door.

I often wonder how many of us really appreciate this.  A few years ago when I was in Florida I overheard someone say `they must be Canadian….  they want everything for free`.  Is that what we have become…. a nation of  people whose expectation is one of entitlement that they shouldn`t have to pay for anything.  I hope not!

My belief is that a business similar to the one we visited today wouldn`t function or be as  profitable in another community away from the production lines that nudge the cars and vans out in rapid succession. My sense is that the great majority of people in our province, in our country must go without because they don`t have have the good fortune that we have.

On occasion I have written letters to my former employer expressing gratitude for the benefits I enjoy, which serve to provide me with financial peace of mind in my day-to-day life.  That might sound goofy to some people but to me, it is important that I not take gifts, blessings or benefits for granted.  It is important for me to not only feel grateful, but to express it.

In good conscience, how could I not

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A turn of phrase

by lulujane on September 22, 2012

1hThe other day as I was leaving my son’s home he was encouraging his 2 1/2 yr old daughter, my granddaughter, to kiss me goodbye’.  In the moment, she was reluctant and he kept encouraging her participation in the ritual.  Personally, I believe that if children are willing to give a goodbye kiss we can relish the moment, and if they are choosing to resist the suggestion”oh well, I’ll catch it later”.

All of a sudden my granddaughter, wearing a long sleeved white pullover, scowled and started rubbing her right elbow, pushing her sleeve from her wrist and up toward her elbow.  I looked at my son to ask what was the matter.  He said “well, think about it, what did you just say to her”?

I couldn’t think of anything I said that would give her a sore arm and after he coached me toward the answer I remembered saying “I’m not going to twist her arm to get a goodbye kiss.”

Perhaps in reading my comment it may sound a bit cold, but it wasn’t.  I just don’t believe in making a child kiss someone because they are told.

I was speaking in metaphor and my brilliant granddaughter was taking it literally, wondering if I was going to twist her arm. I have many bright grandchildren in my life, but at this time in my life I have  opportunity to spend more time with and observe this lovely child.

I continue to be amazed at how children interpret language and communicate and am reminded to be careful every day with the words I choose to speak.

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Acts of empowerment

by lulujane on September 21, 2012

Untitled-31Sometimes my acts of kindness are an immediate, almost unconscious reaction to a situation that presents itself.  Other times I choose to ignore what appears to be an obvious request for help, and I question and judge myself about this.

As an example, at the bottom of an exit ramp to the major thoroughfare in our city, a man in blue jeans often plants himself at the bottom of the decline.  He carries a sign that says he is out of work and needs help to feed his children.    As I stop, a prisoner in his space, caught at a red light, he runs his fingers along each line as if he were a primary grade teacher coaching an early reader along to make sure they understand. Somehow I feel offended by this.

There is also a slender woman I have observed over the past few years who has chosen to alternate between two high traffic stop light areas.  I can`t even remember if she carries a sign.  I see her sporadically but have never felt charitable enough in those moments to make a donation to her cause.  And like with the man carrying the sign, I question why I feel no need to respond to their request.  I find that I don`t even want to make eye contact with them.  Do I doubt the legitimacy of their situation?  What is it in me that makes me feel so uncomfortable when I see them, but not so uneasy that I open my wallet to them?

Yesterday after a bit of shopping for a few hours in a hurried and harried state  I was feeling the need to have something to eat.  I went to the McDonald`s drive-thru and ordered a Junior Chicken Sandwich at a cost of $1.39.  Since I discovered the Junior Chicken Sandwich early this summer it has frequently been a quick way to quell my hunger and satisfy the responsibility I have to myself to eat when I am hungry, even if I am racing around.

Again, on a busy street and in a left turning lane I encountered a red light.  I was in rush mode and felt anxious while I was doing my best to be patient waiting for the light to change. With at least one eye on the light I reached across to my passenger seat to free my sandwich from the paper bag, and fiddled with the paper wrapping.  Just as I was about to take my first bite I noticed something, or should I say someone?

On the median beside me, beneath the street light and leaning against the pole I noticed a thin young man whose sign told me that he was hungry.  I looked at the sandwich and looked back at him.  I knocked on my window to get his attention, then rolled it down, re-wrapped the sandwich, placed it back into the bag and handed it to him.

He responded in an unexpected way. He took the bag and quickly scooted off the median, following the crosswalk to the safety of the sidewalk, excitedly fumbling in the bag for something to eat.

Tonight I was reading excerpts from a book by Carolyn Myss called Invisible Acts of Power.   Through simple things we can empower others.  It can simply be the offering of the right words at the right time, a hug that will keep someone going, taking time to listen to someone talk or quietly holding space to allow someone to cry.  I am thinking that this past week, for this young man, it was me giving him this inexpensive little chicken sandwich when his need was great.

I have no doubt that if I had tossed a financial gift to the man or the woman stationed at red traffic lights in hopes of a handout, the recipients wouldn`t have appreciated it nearly as much as the recipient of my sandwich, nor would I have  such a feeling of gratitude and joy about following my instincts in making this choice.

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