Fear and Hope

I made the mistake of watching the video. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about: it involves tiki torches and chanting.

And while I’m not an American citizen, I felt real, visceral fear while watching the video. I imagined what it felt like to be surrounded by a horde of people, holding a sign like a shield and knowing all too well how these types of situations often end.

Early this year, Nazi imagery popped up in our city like a noxious weed. The community rallied together, but it became impossible for anyone to try to deny that racism exists here.

It is terrifying to think that the type of hate that was so apparent during the Second World War is showing itself so openly again. While I have an incredible amount of privilege, like so many others I also have intergenerational trauma embedded in my family history. The story of racism – of being put in animal pens and having fishing boats and transistor radios seized, of being interned – is as real as the slant of my eyes. It’s forever intertwined with my hard-to-pronounce last name. I’ve heard many others speak of how these images are impacting them physically, reminding them of their parents and their grandparents. Making them afraid for their children.

When I graduated from high school, I told people I wanted to change the world. People laughed at me: “How funny and idealistic! How naive!” But when I worked in social services, I trained hundreds of volunteers. These volunteers were often young women who wanted to be social workers, police or corrections officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs. There was a retired VPD officer, a woman who had spent thirty years working in customer service, mothers and grandmothers. I had the opportunity to talk to these women about intersectionality and harm-reduction. I got to share my passion and compassion. And they taught me about their experiences, the things they knew, what they felt strongly about. They gave generously of their time, working with marginalized and vulnerable women. Many have gone on to be community leaders and have professional careers. These women have started families and businesses.

Do you laugh at me now if I tell that I believe that this is changing the world? Talking with our friends, family, neighbours, customers, supervisors, and volunteers. Sharing a vision of a world shaped towards compassion and inclusion. It may seem like this hate has emerged from nowhere like a tidal wave, but really it was small pebbles thrown into a pond, creating ripples that radiated outwards. And we need to turn the tide back by throwing in our own pebbles, creating even bigger ripples of inclusion and acceptance.

I am afraid. But the fear hasn’t paralyzed me.

I will continue to work on issues that I believe make a difference – truth and reconciliation, inclusion and equity, public spaces and public services. I will continue to speak loudly when I see injustice, when I hear words that contain ripples of hate. I will take care of myself by spending time with animals, eating green veggies, taking deep belly breathes. I know it’s hard to keep going, but I see the work so many people are doing in New Westminster, in Canada, and in our global community.

If you feel the need to act now, residents are gathering on Thursday at Moody Park for an Open Mic against Racism starting at 7pm. Let’s gather together to show our support and stand against hatred.

And if anyone needs a hug, Gus will be happy to oblige. He gives great hugs.

City of Small Havens

We live in trying times. Even though I’m more connected with my local community than ever before, my otherness keeps increasing. It’s the media, politics, economics, and the many -isms that falter but just won’t die. I fortunately am not directly affected by the international spectacle currently unfolding, but the resulting injustices along with the reactions to them that I see (especially the negative ones), replay constantly in my mind.

I feel helpless. I get incredibly frustrated, angry, jealous, and then I despair. When I’m feeling really low, I go to inclusive spaces that are welcoming, providing respite from the dark clouds I imagine gathering on the horizon. These places sustain me, allow me to regroup, to rise up another day. I’m lucky I can name three such spots right off the bat, all in New Westminster. Disclaimer – none of these places know that I love them this hard or that I decided to write about them.

How to recover from a long weekend ☝🏼

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  1. Old Crow Coffee – 655 Front Street

I’ve heard the coffee at Old Crow is exemplary, but I cannot confirm that myself. The tea I’ve had here is the perfect temperature and brew, but what really blows me away is how sheltered I feel. I’m already at a disadvantage being a furtive tea-drinker in a coffee shop, but the atmosphere at Old Crow makes me feel like I’m part of the rainbow of their tapestry. The pared-down space, their accommodation of the needs of patrons with two or four-legged companions, how unhurried yet deliberate the pace inside is, it’s like an insulating bubble from the world outside. I savour my time at Old Crow; it’s a bit of a hidden gem out on Front Street but every time I’ve gone inside, my instant regret is the amount of time I’ve let lapse between my visits.

These guys make some of the best sandwiches in town #newwest #leosfavorite

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  1. Greens and Beans Deli – 143 East Columbia Street

The feeling of belonging at Green’s and Beans is of a decidedly different nature than Old Crow. When I first started going here, I was incredibly intimidated. I’d be fumbling for my glasses and the Jeopardy theme would be playing, and finally I’d order one or three of a panicked-pick of a sandwich. Eventually I found my groove and my favourite sandwich, and relaxed enough to actually appreciate this place.

It’s unassuming, open early and some Fridays they make burgers. Their soups are divine. Leona, the owner, makes them from scratch and she probably has a dresser full of heirloom recipes somewhere. Her Thai-inspired chicken soup is worth fighting over; I’m sure people do, once the batch runs out but I’ve been lucky not to go there too late in the day. There’s also a scalloped potato soup, that has hits all the right comfort food notes, that has cured me of the blues more than once. I had a rough pregnancy last year, and a bad grief-inducing experience the year before, and Leona’s food, her ability to know when to play transit music and when to give peoples space to float by, really makes this place exceptional. Too often, I have felt like a faceless untethered nobody looking for a warm lunch, and that feeling evaporates when I’m at Greens and Beans. They know their clientele here, often by name, and they know their sandwiches.

I’m serious about the Jeopardy music though. Keep your glasses handy.

  1. Royal Columbian Hospital – 330 East Columbia Street

A hospital is not normally a place to recommend as a haven. In exceptional circumstances, however, if you do find yourself here, RCH, in my experience, is the most welcoming and inclusive hospital in the Lower Mainland.

A few years back, my father got incredibly sick. Once we had confirmed his diagnosis, he lived barely past the few months medical literature predicted he would. In the process of navigating the health care system during his illness, I got to sit and steep in a few different hospitals. The best one was RCH.

Don’t get me wrong, the standard of care in all the hospitals we visited was very high. Something about RCH sets it apart. I keep thinking back critically to my experience, and part of what makes RCH so good at what they do is the diversity of their staff itself. The doctors, nurses and social workers come from a large spectrum of backgrounds, and they connected from a place of compassion and respect regardless of who or what they perceived us to be. We weren’t just inconveniently ill strangers being ushered through a system; we were people going through a scary and tough time and they provided us the information, the tools and the support to come to terms with what was happening. Their ability to see us and embrace us as one of their own community, mattered a lot to us, and really makes a difference during a stressful hospital experience.

 

As I write this, bad news come to us from within our province’s borders as well as outside it. These are indeed trying times, but I feel so incredibly fortunate to be weathering this strange year in the inclusive supportive corners of this city, our city, New Westminster, the city of small havens.