John Lennon reminded us in Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy): “Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.”
‘Life’ happened with news of the death of Alexander Martinez – an adult student attending a college night course that I taught.
Alexander was a real gentleman and a genuine person. Originally from El Salvador, he told us, in a class presentation, how he had been a 3rd year law student who was forced to leave school to make a living.
His life was a series of stories, with victories and losses but, being forced down, he came to succeed later. As he talked (needlessly apologizing for his command of English) I was able to see the picture of a man who was ‘worthy of his suffering’– choosing not to give in to defeat. I wondered how it was that a man like Alexander could find it so difficult to get meaningful employment in Canada. Was it his English? It certainly wasn’t his ability to communicate.
Nor was it for lack of effort as two years earlier, he worked hard on completing another of my business courses. The night I passed on the sad news of his sudden death to his classmates, we were consoled in the memory of the spontaneous group exercise we did for him after his class presentation. We conducted a “brainstorming” session to develop ideas that would help him gain employment. We listed these on large board sheets which we all signed, along with our best wishes. Later, I glanced over to see Alexander re-reading those sheets. He seemed moved that we took the time to care.
Perhaps, that’s why a large majority of Canadians have decided to welcome these hardworking refugees – from places like Syria – to our shores. We know that we all began as newcomers and there’s no seniority with citizenship. There are short-term costs. But, how many would trade places with people having no future?
And, overcrowding fears seem overrated. For example, Germany with a large foreign-born population – that has accepted more than a million migrants since the Syrian crisis began – has a recent total immigration ratio of about 1% per population. Yet, to listen to some, you’d think it was 100%.
“I’m gonna soak up the sun/ Gonna tell everyone to lighten up”
– Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow
That doesn’t mean, as in Canada, it’s been easy integrating refugees; but, you can see indications of acceptance everywhere… that the will is there to do so. For example, brightly coloured lawn signs (church-initiated from America) can be seen today sprouting up in Canada – proudly proclaiming one message in three languages: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad we’re you’re our neighbour.”
If that’s what Canada is all about, it’d be nice to show it with a deeper empathy and understanding.
So, good-bye Alexander. And, on behalf of your classmates, thank you for choosing Canada! Your life decision has helped reaffirm ours.
“ I see friends shaking hands/ Saying, “How do you do?” /They’re really saying, “I love you” .