I’ve been thinking about Paris. And Beruit. And the state of the world generally, like many of you. I thought about it until I had something to say, and then I thought about it some more. This is an unsolvable problem, but I think that travel can help.
We found out about Paris, and then we found out about Beruit. We’re not immune to the bias that has been laid bare time and time again. It’s not right, but the outpouring of love and concern for Paris is not wrong either.
That refugees are the first targets in the search for answers, that bigotry and ignorance grow unchecked in the aftermath of tragedy at the same time as an outbreak of love and support and solidarity breaks my heart.
There are terrible things going on in this world, and many of us sheltered in the “western world” can’t even imagine the desperation that makes people flee their home and heritage into the vast darkness of the unknown. And yet, in Canada, with the exception of Native Peoples, we are all descendants of immigrants fleeing war, famine, persecution and lack of opportunity.
I made the reverse journey. I came back to the country where my grandparents were born, not for any of these reasons, but for the adventure. I have only the faintest idea of what challenges confront our world’s refugees when they land in a new country.
When I think about what they face, it seems insurmountable. They are much stronger and braver than I could ever be, and they have so much hope and capacity for sacrifice.
I can see that many of us are conflicted. What happened in Paris touched many people and perhaps it opened as many minds and hearts as it closed.
The only answer I have is to travel. We especially cared about Paris because we’ve been there, and if the billions of pictures shared on social media are any indication, you’ve been there too. We especially care about continued unrest in Egypt because we’ve been there. We especially care about the worst drought to hit Ethiopia in decades because we’ve been there.
If you can't travel, view the world through a traveller's glasses. The traveller's spirit is a powerful thing, full of anticipation, wonder, exploration and promise. A traveller is full of hope.
Can’t, or won't ever, travel to (insert any place here)? Indulge me, pretend you will. Learn more about it, where it is, what makes it special, and where you can try the food locally. What would you do, what would you see, where would you stay? Talk to people about it. Read the news, but also look for opportunities to make a connection. Soon it will become more than a paragraph buried in the newspaper that no one reads; suddenly it will steal a piece of your heart, and never give it back.
Strive, always, to have an open mind and an open heart. Have compassion. Care about people. Learn their stories. This world seems like a very big place, but in fact it's very small and belongs to us all.