War Resister

Kimberly Rivera is my friend and one who came to refer to me as sister (and I her). She fled to Canada as a War Resister, or “Conscientious Objector” five years ago. Today she was separated from her husband and four children having been ordered deported. She will more than likely spend time in jail.

Tonight the tears are flowing.

My plan this afternoon was to attend the peaceful demonstration in support of Kim in downtown Toronto. Instead I found myself gathered with a small group in the yard of a school where Kim said goodbye. I crawled under a play structure where her eldest was hiding to tell him I loved him. He had on a home-made cape and looked every bit a 10-year-old. One sad, amazingly stoic boy.

Tonight I want to set aside the politics of this.

Instead I want to re-imagine the day when all will be made right in this world. The day when people will “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.” (Isaiah). I want to cling to my faith that God’s kingdom is going to be fully ushered in and every tear will be dried.

Tonight I want to ask for peace. And mercy.

We are invited to be a people of forgiveness. The plank in my own eye is far bigger than the speck in yours. I want us to dare to choose a way that doesn’t involve picking up arms (using rifles or harsh words) to settle our disputes. I inwardly groan for something different.

Tonight I pray:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. (St. Francis)

Oh, my friends, pray for Kim and everyone close to her. And if you don’t pray, send healing thoughts. I know this situation incites strong feelings on all sides and is deeply complicated. Tonight though think of the woman whose longing is for peace, her husband, and the community she leaves behind.

Tonight think of the boy in the cape and his three siblings.

City Girl

When I tell people that I was born and raised in Toronto the response is more often than not the same. And it goes like this:

Long pause.

Head cocked to the side, “really?! From TO RON TO?”.

I often use the word “incredulous” to describe the reaction. From what I can gather this response is usually born out of the belief that no one is really from this city, everyone moves here. Though sadly I know it also rooted in the wonderment that I would choose to stay.

I do not think Toronto is the centre of Canada or the world. In fact, the thought has never crossed my mind. I’m sad and sorry every time I hear people talk about this notion. Quite simply, Toronto is my home. As such, I intend to love it.

There are many things that I love: I can eat dim sum for breakfast, a burger and fries for lunch and curry for supper; I can walk along the beach and yes, even swim in the water; I can take a subway, streetcar or bus; I can take a ferry to one of three islands; I can hear great music or see beautiful theatre pretty much whenever I’m able…

Much of what I love though is really not about the amenities. I live in a great neighbourhood where I know my neighbours. When I manage to lock myself out of the house (cough) I can call a number of families who have a spare key. I can walk through Parkdale and stop to talk with people I know on every block. While caring for the PNC plot in the community garden a fellow gardener/stranger offered to water our herbs and tomatoes whenever she noticed it might be getting a little dry. I have friends who live rough outside and friends who live in large old Toronto homes. I can wander the downtown core or have a picnic in a park.

Yesterday I walked out of a grocery store in the pouring rain with a large cardboard box of food. The bottom of the box went out. 12 cans of beans rolled every which way, a jar of balsamic vinegar smashed while a shard of its glass sliced open a bag of milk. What a mess. Suddenly eight people surrounded me to help. The store manager came out and replaced the damaged food- for free. An elderly gentleman walked up and said, “a lot of people sure came to your rescue!”. This is the stuff that naysayers say never happens in the city.

I know that Toronto is far from perfect. Not everyone is polite. It can get dirty. There is violence. Those are all very human conditions that exist everywhere, including in my own heart. As a result, I intend to remain here in order to seek the peace and prosperity of the city.

I’m staying put. Just call me a Torontonian.