On a recent ferry ride to Vancouver Island I sat outside on the deck looking out over an angry, dark sky. The usually beautiful Gulf Islands looked particularly lonely on this dreary “wet coast” day. It had been raining all week and I felt more than anything the need to have the sun shine on my pale face. Not long after passing the narrows at Galiano Island the sun broke through the dense bank of clouds and I took the photo above. That momentary miracle of light lifted my spirits and soothed my soul.
I thought of this photo today as I planned to reflect on a difficult week in the world around us. The music world lost a friend this week in the passing of singer/song-writer Leonard Cohen. While I’m not one of the many who loved his gravelly voice, I absolutely adored his way with words. So many of his songs laid bare the loneliness wrapped in redemption which can represent the human condition in challenging weeks such as this one. One of my most favourite songs is called “Anthem” which reminds us that our world is rarely perfect but in its imperfection often can be found light, and that light can bring hope. He writes:
I think this is a message of compassion for those of us struggling with the other event that shook our world this week, the Presidential election in the United States. Not unlike many, I was stunned and disappointed in the candidate chosen to lead one of our world’s largest “super powers” for the next four years, as his world view is the antithesis of my own and many I know. I awoke on Wednesday to a world worried about what message this vote sends. Like so many I wondered how this result could possibly have happened, and worried about what our future might hold.
Luckily, I found a wonderful piece of writing from Travis Crowder, a Grade 7 teacher at East Alexander Middle School in Hiddenite, North Carolina that sheds some light on the path ahead. In this piece, called Love: Post-Election Thoughts by Travis Crowder, he writes about his immediate response of disbelief, and worry for his students. What is the best way to respond, to sooth and to grow? Crowder turned to the power of books to enlighten and surround his students with models of compassion and resiliency. Such classics as Elie Wiesel’s Night, or I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson now line the front of his classroom. Crowder writes:
“I will fill my classroom with books that show the beauty of the world through colourful characters, broken characters, struggling characters, uncertain characters, poor characters, different characters, gay characters, questioning characters, African-American characters, Muslim characters, and Mexican characters. I will encourage my students to write about how the things that make them different are the things that will bind them to the world, because it is in our differences that we find forgiveness, mutual understanding, perseverance and love.”
I was heartened by Travis’ approach and I know many an educator who will follow in his footsteps to help spread a message of tolerance and hope with today’s students who will become tomorrow’s voters. There is always hope!
I would like to end today’s post with another wonderful piece that crossed my path this week. It is an emotional, uplifting version of Leonard Cohen’s classic Hallelujah sung by Rufus Wainwright and the wonderful folks at Choir, Choir, Choir. Not long ago I had the good fortune to participate in singing with Choir, Choir, Choir and although my singing should remain firmly in the shower or in my car…alone…, I experienced the power and joy of many voices lifted in song. I felt uplifted. Part of something bigger. I had a voice to share. It was compelling and soul-saving. And hope-filled.