Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

December 7, 2015

The words are grim. "France is at war," said the country's President Francois Hollande.

That declaration is also understandable. Terrorists had just slaughtered 130 people. People sitting in a café. People gathered in celebration at a restaurant. People at a concert. People on the street. People the cowardly murderers did not know. Innocents.

No words can describe such a massacre.

The western world is already staggered by photos, stories, statements from besieged politicians trying to deal with refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

It would be so easy to take that final step into despair. That means one gives up hope. Hope is one of the most precious words in my suitcase.

Once, in a desperate time, angels - God's messengers - sent this wee motto into my consciousness: "You could be five minutes away from a miracle."

Well, I wasn't. But maybe the miracle was that I kept on going, kept on swimming through the morass of cruelty.

Throughout this litany of global madness, beacons of hope shattered the darkness. These shards of humanity are the actions of those who do not surrender to the agony of despair.

One Toronto couple - Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian - had planned and saved for their wedding for months. But the sight of Aylan Kurdi's's body lying on Turkey's shores changed their wedding plans. Instead of the sumptuous celebration, the couple donated money to help a Syrian refugee family.

The compassionate couple exchanged their vows in a civil ceremony at

Toronto's City Hall. They also asked their guests to donate money to the Syrian crisis instead of giving them wedding gifts.

Yousefian is reported to have said, "Our decision is a reflection of the very values that Canadians hold so dear."

Canada shares those valiant values with many.

Perhaps if anyone had reason for despair it is journalist Antoine Leiris. His wife Helene was one of those shot to death on that infamous Paris evening. Antoine, left to raise their 17-month-old son Melvil, instead wrote a missive to his wife's murderers.

He acknowledged Helene was the love of his life. He told the cowards that every bullet they lodged into Helene's body was a bullet into God's body. Then he vowed they would not get what they wanted - his hatred.

"I will not give you this gift (of) hate. It would yield to the same ignorance that made you what you are."

Albertans too are responding, not despairing. Many are joining groups to gather resources to bring a struggling family into our country's safety.

Some of their stories make it into the media. Kirk and Neena Hardman, like the Toronto couple, had been saving for something special. Their plan for their $5,000 was to revamp their Calgary kitchen - replace the counters and cupboards. Instead, that $5,000 will be added to Groups of Five, a federal government program.

As Kirk said, it's the right thing to do.

The staff and owners at the Highlevel Diner know it is the right thing to do too.

When owner Kim Franklin suggested to her staff that they help a Syrian refugee family, they eagerly agreed.

So one day, they donated all their tips for a shift and the diners tipped generously to contribute to the fund. Franklin's group Bayt Al'Amal (Arabic for House of Hope) has raised more than $20,000 of the $35,000 to 40,000 needed to sustain a refugee family for one year.

Certainly one can be aware of the need to keep our own citizens safe, not become the target of imported terrorists.

But those in the know point out the multi-stage security screening these people go through before they reach Canada. Surely the sight of that dear dead child's body lying on the shore vanquishes paranoia.

As Franklin so poignantly said "You have to let your humanity supersede your fear."

DISPELLING DESPAIR

It brings to mind the group of women in Glenora who, knowing there are homeless people facing the city's brutal winter, did something that dispels despair. They bought thick wool fight-the-cold socks. Then they baked big potatoes. Once cooked, the women split the potatoes and sprinkled salt on the steaming, fluffy insides.

They wrapped the potatoes in tinfoil and tucked them in the new socks.

The women drove to the inner city and gave the socks to shivering men on the street. "It gave them warmth two times - warm food, warm feet," said one woman. It also gave the homeless men hope.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)