Monday, November 3, 2014

The Chair

I was an outpatient at a very busy physiotherapy clinic.   There were many patients in the room, each attended by a therapist.  An elderly Asian lady was brought into the large room.  Behind her was her elderly husband.  Both appeared to be recent immigrants and did not speak or understand English well.  Clinic staff were directing the husband to wait for his wife outside the treatment space but he did not want to leave.  Finally the staff gave up and left the old man standing near a wall watching his wife's treatment with interest. 

My therapist excused herself and quietly went to another room to get a chair for the old man.  He hesitated and finally with her encouragement he sat down.  The therapist later commented to me that rules can't apply to all persons at all times. She was appropriately sensitive to the old couples' needs. 

Our society is rule-driven to create more efficiency in everything we do: Take a number! Park only here!  Wait in line! Give your message after the beep! Citizens to the right, Foreigners to the left! Raise your hands!  The rules seem to drive so many human interactions that the person gets lost in the cause of efficiency. 

We lose so much when we forget our obligations to each other as people.  The possibility for kindness in these human interactions are diminished by the strict applications of these rules.

Multifaith Leaders Mark Loss

Last month, two soldiers in uniform were killed by men who declared themselves soldiers of Islam.  The Toronto Area Interfaith Council held a memorial service in a beautiful dark church in downtown Toronto.  This was held before the actual funeral of the soldiers and feelings were raw.  None of us knew if another soldier would be targeted in the near future.

We were from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.  We talked and prayed and sang about our feelings to each other.  The temptation to blame other adherents of the faith of the killers was never taken up.  Here in Canada we stress individual guilt rather than group guilt but we knew that blaming the faith group would be tempting in our general society if it happened again.  We are challenged  by these murders because these soldiers were killed because they represented our whole country to the killers.

The loss of these soldiers affected all our communities.  These soldiers represented Canada for us and their loss could affect our sense of safety in our society.

We each mourned the soldiers in the language of our own faith and our common language of English.  We trusted each other.  Mourning together was offering kindness to each other.