Archive for the ‘My Neighbour’ Category


What follows below is the latest letter I have written to Hon. David Eggen, the Minister of Education in Alberta. It is in regards to the casting aside of compassion towards the disabilities community within the education system. It is about families that mourn, staff that mourn, and the inability of the system to step outside of their own prejudices to respond as they would to any school community in mourning. It is solution focused. I encourage all to write the Hon. Eggen (education.minister@gov.ab.ca ) to call out and begin to work to eliminate the last acceptable passive/active hate within our educational community. My words follow, mine only, but I am sure others have their own stories, solutions (or best practices that may exist that are working for true belonging) to share with a rather responsive education minister, unlike previous years and administrations where I have heard nothing. I will keep you dear reader, up to date as possible on this struggle for belonging that should not need to be, because it is 2018.

Today’s e-mail:

Dear Hon. Eggen,

I write you today as a weary parent. Weary of the battle for my child, and his education community of supports to receive equity in care and compassion by the educational system.  I was encouraged to write you once more due to the systematic Ableism (used to be called Eugenics, that is persons with disabilities and those in their lives had less value in inherent personhood, and we should just accept their demise). This came about, as there is a practice when a child with disabilities passes away within the education system that appropriate grief and mental health supports are not brought in for the staff and the other children. The response given is that “they do not comprehend” for the child, and to the staff “it is part of the job, they die” (probably nicer words used for staff, but having served in various non-profits I can see it being that blunt). The attitude is that death is to be expected, and not taken in as deeply as when a “typical child” passes away.

What is missed is that children no matter what professionals say are empathetic, and feel deeper than we ever will. They are more accepting of belonging, and know long before we do when their friend’s spot in the class will be empty. I cannot count the number of friends my son has lost in his short 6 years (grade 1 to 6) within the public-school system in Calgary, but I know the depth of his sorrow, he has soaked through many shirts of mine with his tears, and beaten on my chest in his anger.

The standard practice we have long fought against is the form letter. We worked with the local school to at least personalize the letter to share whom the child was in community, and supposed to receive a phone call if they are in the classroom from the principal (though it can appear favouritism by family on whom is contacted is played). But it leaves the families receiving notification, and then with very little extra-funding helping their child wrestle through loss and complexity, knowing  the staff are wrestling through their own grief with little administrative support, plus wrestling through our own fear and loss within the community of medically complex children.

I write with a four-fold practice for Alberta Education to remedy ableism that has been accepted down the line:

1)      Training and equipping of administration, trustees and school staff outside of those providing services (and those who provide) to ensure the erasure of passive ableism, and generationally held eugenic beliefs towards the community. We have practice for this with TRC and GSA’s. Time to break the last hate group down and expose it.

2)      The families of the student who passes needs to be provided (and have readily available within schools, like medical clinics) resources for the loss. I do not care what anyone says, it is not normal for a child to pre-decease their parent.

3)      When a child passes, staff need to be cared for. This is Principals, Maintenance, Administration, Teaching, Aides and volunteers within the school. It is not acceptable to say death distance is professionalism, when you build a community of belonging- the loss is felt and help needs to be brought in within best practice principles of debrief within the first 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and follow up protocols for staff that continue to struggle.

4)      Information for grief support to the families of friends needs to be distributed with notification, and I would say the school needs to host a form of celebration for the community member, so the children know that their friend belonged in the world and is not some coded statistic. Also along with this celebration, the same debrief needs to be used to provide grief support for the children, no matter how complex their communication or medical conditions are. They are aware of loss.

Why is this important? We are a scrapper family when it comes to rights, I am on multiple records for many battles to ensure full dignity and human rights for all citizens. To have to fight within a system to prove my son is cognitive enough so he can “earn” a spot to be on a wait-list for grief support if his behaviours around grieving become unmanageable is inhumane. It says to the family, the community, and most importantly to my son: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN ENOUGH for us to care about.

That is quite frankly wrong, and disregards so much of our human, charter and constitutional rights. Many good changes are happening to put students and frontline staff first within our education system of Alberta finally. I implore you to remember all children and staff/volunteers deserve the same care when a classmate/student passes, regardless of what society and professionals deem. All staff in the system also deserve the same level of care. Public Education is community, and as community we learn, grow and celebrate together, we also mourn together. Let us remember that.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ty Ragan

To close, my Facebook post from late June 6, 2018 when I was informed by an Ableist I had no right to anger at another white envelope:

Parents imagine at least once a month being informed that your child has had a friend pass away in their class. Then imagine there being no grief supports sent in for the kids or staff for coping, and the only communications is a letter home… when you ask why I am angry about people not seeing my boy as fully person–this is his reality. He cries on me. Screams why God takes his friends. Talks about how his buddy’s mummas, daddy,s and sibs can keep going…the emptiness. Our children belong, the world says they don’t because the world doesn’t want to have to explain how to heal from a once full chair, now being empty. The world, doesn’t know what to do with a child who asks where’s my buddy? Why do all my friends die on me. Instead they tell me that I have to prove my son comprehends life and death, and then they will think of aid. Is this the world we want? Where compassion and healing is an earned right? So yes I am angry. And yes we need to discuss Ableism (what used to be called Eugenics) openly, and call it out. To my religious friends, if you are not then you have failed. To my other friends, I am tired of a world that says earn your spot. I am tired of a world that says a child’s tears are okay because they don’t understand. I am tired of a world that tells those that walk with them, to accept it as part of the job. NO! We grieve, as we live, in community. I am weary, but I will be damned if I will accept this world as it is. Our children deserve better

 

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Read huffpost article here.

The above article opens a conversation that should not have to be opened. It should not have to be opened because our Puritan-ableist beliefs should no longer exist. Guess what world— Human beings are sexual beings. Shocker I know. And guess what else? The Differently Abled (or the preferred descriptor of the individual) exist upon the sexual spectrum. For those having a hard time to comprehend…it is like life with what our ableist world defines as “typical”… or for a better analogy in my world– the Archie Comics Universe. The ol’ Riverdale gang where everyone exists and is accepted for who they are.

Guess what that means? Some people want to be intimate. Some want to be touched. Some don’t. Some want a life partner (who is same or different gender), some want to date two people at once (and the two are ok with it–not saying anything Betty-Archie-Veronica). Some, like Jughead, just want a cheeseburger…but guess what…no one looks shocked at them. Some are non-binary, some are trans-gendered, some a cis. Some are heterosexual, LGBTQ2+, some are somewhere on the spectrum…some are also the less talked about Asexual.

Guess what though? We as a world cannot impose what makes us comfortable.

We are all in the beautiful rainbow family of God, and that means that folks will date and fall in love regardless of the labels imposed by society. Between consenting adults that is called healthy relationships and sexuality. So please understand the terms: healthy, equitable, equal, consenting… all must be in play.

That means it is our societies responsibility to equip with the same knowledge we do others. Healthy sexual education in public and private schools; teaching of consent, body ownership. Believing abuse allegations and fully investigating. Yes #MEtoo, #Churchtoo, #Timesup, exists within community members, and usually at higher rates because the predators know that communication and believable are more easily questioned when the victim is viewed as “less than” by society.

Once you shatter the “less than” to “part of” and that everyone belongs and is fully who they are as they are then something wonderful happens. Communication difficulties break down. One learns the subtly of the non-verbal communication. One becomes observant of very subtle body reactions, and is able to see if something has changed in even the most cerebral of persons. The community, begins to address vocally and globally that abuse of any kind, against anyone is not acceptable and punishable. The abuser is the one who is held accountable, the victim is no longer traumatized.

True healing and reconciliation happens, because there is no longer a group that can be abused for we are all part of this together. We are neighbours.

It begins with affirming full person-hood, and yes, that includes the very human sexuality.

We are all whole and complete.

Just the way we are.


There is still one group that folks can dump on, and take out hate on without being called to account each time. I know it may sound shocking, but it is true. How do I know? There has been very few to no apologies for historic atrocities birthed out of religious beliefs that grew into eugenic government policies. Rarely are they mentioned when speaking of the Stalin era and Nazi Holocausts, even though millions were experimented on before the final solution was given to them—backed by both atheists and theists.

History also speaks of forced sterilizations, pushes for aborting (and infanticide). Shame that it is because of sin (personal or family). Abusive institutionalization that if it was war hospitals would have violated the Geneva Convention. Before that, cast outside the city, into the garbage dumps.

Vastly overlooked, very few knew this past week was Accessibility Week, which culminates on Sunday June 3 with Disability Pride.

So misunderstood that the monotheistic faiths spoke of “healing” as a means so they could belong and be welcomed again. Yet, it was Jesus who showed that it was us who had created the false separation:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

-Gospel of John (New International Version) 9:1-7

Many will see this lived teaching of Brother Jesus (amongst his other healing) as a call that there is something deficient within the person, yet that is not what is happening. The people asking the question (as those today) are the blind ones, it was only by the act of removing their neighbours blindness could they see the belonging.

Yet we fixate on the “otherness” and the “not like usness”. We may clean up language, but there is still a world filled with saying you do not belong:

  • R-Word use excuse “yeah but I mean it in the medical way.” FTS—only the most backward practitioner still uses it is a diagnostic with terms such as global delay, developmental delay available. You are the Neanderthal that still assumes other racists-prejudice language is okay and excusable.
  • Environmental push to end the plastic straw and literally attacking the community when they point out the need. You are exclusionary, and laying the plank work for eugenic beliefs of less than to exist—you are the one asking who sinned…
  • The “I am just running in” and taking up the accessible (permit only) parking stall—while ignoring the idling vehicle with the permit…for those who know the show New Girl, this is the type of thing that would get Schmidt to put money in the jar.
  • The School Board Superintendent that states the only reason a parent is stressed over busing is because they chose not to end a pregnancy.
  • The tsking church member at children for making noise, but then excuses the child with Autism (yes treating different is the same thing).
  • Or be the tsking church member stating “they do not belong here.” (or the one in the pulpit kicking them out for making a joyful noise).
  • Or the person that believes they need healing and so will invade personal space without consent to lay hands on for prayer
  • Or refuse to pray when they have an operation, because if they pass it is God’s will.
  • Shaming community/family into always grieving the “should’ve/would’ve/could’ve of a life.
  • Complaining that budgets can’t be made because of “those people with disabilities”
  • Being the City of Calgary and ranking sidewalks, bike paths, public paths, and public cut outs and public transit stops as low priority so mobility device users are left as shut ins during winter.
  • Event planners that have no way for full inclusion.
  • Are the agency that toss a new staff into changing an incontinent client, without taking into account that is a very intimate work and perhaps even if you do not believe the person is cognitively aware, still deserves respect.
  • Argue over what a living wage pension is for someone that cannot work, but finds meaning in volunteering.
  • Strips universal pharma care when they become a senior
  • Share the “short bus” or “window licking” meme jokes on social media and wonder why there is outrage.
  • Speak of vaccines being the cause—when if there is not proper vaccinations lives are at risk.
  • Showing up for support work sick because well, a little cold or flu won’t be harmful to the compromised immune system.
  • Grief and mental health support are not necessary because they don’t understand…
  • Shaming individuals for weakness because of equipment or pharmaceutical needs.

And yes the list can go on for ever… and I am sure many readers can add their own stories. It is when you remain in the unenlightened, not letting the Mystery churn, that these points are where you live. You completely miss what Jesus meant by the glory revealed. That is, that the they could see what was told about the beauty of God in creation:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind (humanity) in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

-Genesis (NIV) 1:26

The introductory poem to the texts of the Hebrew Bible does not rhyme words as in English. It rhymes ideas, concepts to show the true interconnectedness of the created cosmos. Not to answer the how it happened question, but the WHY? Why did this come together like this? For us to live, and grow and as Day 6 reflects, humanity in all its forms are reflections of the Holy Mystery. We must release the fear/hatred/prejudice that sees difference as less than. Jesus was asked who sinned…No one was his response. The person reflects the beauty of the cosmic spark of life. To truly show that everyone belongs, and that with allowing for authentic belonging, life needs to be done differently. We need to be like the child.

That is open to all as neighbour-friend. No labels. Just knowing what needs to be done to the building, civic design, laws, legislation, policies, governmental money entitlements, universalizing health care and pharmacare. The example laid out in the gospel, that was the 6th day of ancient Hebrew poetry. We are all here for a reason. We take all forms. We are here to support one another, where one has an ability, another has a weakness. We are all different. Really it is the underlying ethos of many belief systems (religious or not) that are put aside. We are neighbours, individuals (and possibly ourselves) who experience life as a person with a disability-differently abled- complex needs- special needs—choose the term the person uses to identify themselves with (as with gender, it is not hard folks).

As the circle is danced wider, we as humans cannot rationalize not having a scapegoat. Sadly, that scapegoat can still be seen as the differently abled (as my son chooses to identify) or myself with a rather unique brain mapping that confounds most outside of my own brain. Yet we can still be looked down upon, still pushed and pointed at.

What is wrong with you?

Is the new sneered question. One asked many times of my son in religious settings. Though he was fully embraced by those I had served who themselves were marginalized, his passion for loving others was encouraged and so was his curiosity.

What is wrong with you? Has the world’s most simple answer:

NOTHING.

If you cannot experience that, then perhaps the question needs to be, what is blocking you from fully being present in community with your neighbour? What is stopping you from being apart, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu phrased it, the rainbow family of God?

We are apart of the beautiful rainbow family that is humanity, with celebrating and living into our diversity we are stronger.


43 The apostles were doing many miracles and signs, and everyone felt great respect for God. 44 All the believers were together and shared everything. 45 They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. 46 The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts. 47 They praised God and were liked by all the people. Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers.

-Acts 2: 43-47 (New Century Version)

Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the Christianities. The time when the Holy Spirit (Ghost/Breath) swept through the people. It was the moment that even those who had journeyed, worked and served with Brother Jesus truly felt the Holy Mystery come alive in them. That piece of cosmic dust, intrinsic soul self aflame.

When they heard this noise, a crowd came together. They were all surprised, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were completely amazed at this. They said, “Look! Aren’t all these people that we hear speaking from Galilee? Then how is it possible that we each hear them in our own languages? We are from different places

-Acts 2:6-8 (NCV)

The time when a middle-class fisherman from Galilee and his brethren stood in metropolitan and mutli-cultural town square. Where those that feared inclusion, and belonging still rattled the chains on segregation and fear. What came through though in the first act of this mysterious Spirit?

Understanding.

Profound act of kindness, love and belonging. Dropping one’s walls. In this story, the most dramatic way possible, the shattering of linguistic walls so the story of all encompassing love and hope could be heard. The idea of what Empire had been built upon- personal wealth, personal power, certain individuals seen as people and others as property—Empire values, where everything is a commodity, and the only value is the one of your own independent self, and corporate responsibilities and rights were not a priority.

          Think of how badly the Christianities have inverted the Pentecost message?

Acts of Apostles 2, New Century Version

The act of understanding allows for something more profound in the counter movement to power. The power, that the religious and political authorities clung to and tried to discredit.

Belonging

We belong because the labels that separate us are not real. They are arbitrarily given based on politics, geography, socio-economics, culture, religion, etc. Some may be helpful to find ways to fully include us in society (i.e. supports for those with disabilities), but only if they are used to discover inclusion and belonging. Sadly, we function too much like the religious and political authorities of 2000 years ago and since. The labels are used to build fear and segregation, active/passive eugenics. The inevitable outcome is hatred. Or to be the anti-thesis of the Jesus community four letters: H-A-T-E.

Pentecost was the celebration of the disenfranchised, marginalized and silenced voice of society speaking out of joy, peace, hope and faith. Speaking out that rattled the bell for justice and shattered bonds. For the intrinsic value of you, heard the intrinsic value in me (and vice-versa). It showed there was a multitude of ways to be community, to be me and to be you. None of these were a threat.

Pentecost if fully embraced, should have shattered the chains that bound the world. Instead we use it as an opiate to pacify the masses tied to a religious traditionalism that fears the true message. This was apparent with how shocked and viral Bishop Curry’s homily at the Royal Wedding was. He spoke like the followers on Pentecost. He was heard. The most offensive four letter word of the human language was once again proclaimed loudly, and was once again debated and attempted to be sidelined.

That word:

L-O-V-E.

So if Pentecost doesn’t begin the dialogue of inclusion, understanding and belonging for all in your community…then the Spirit has not blown through. What has blown through is the rigidity holding the structure of oppression together.

Are you ready for the breath?


I was gladdened a few weeks ago when the newest affordable housing complex in Calgary broke ground that the government corrected the service provider gently on the use of terms. It was deemed by the service provider as “permanent supportive housing” yet the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), when announcing pointed to it as “permanent housing with supports”. Many will think this is just semantics b.s. that does not amount to anything but hair splitting. But it matters for the terms lead to the conditions which lead to the ability to create healthy communities through an interconnection of healthy interdependent citizens and their homes. It is the terms and conditions which outline the corporate and personal responsibilities for all stake holders.

Despite the long battle the City Council of Calgary had over secondary suites, and folks attempting to justify who their neighbours should be through red tape, let us be honest—we all have good or not so good neighbours—it has nothing to do with how they live (rent/own) but rather other life events that have shaped their personality. (and yes I am gladly awaiting new neighbours with secondary suites, and lane-way/mini housing). This is the hitch, and why words matter when describing housing (or as one round table for the federal government on housing in Calgary phrased it with member of Parliament (for Calgary Centre and at that time Cabinet Minister) Kent Hehr, spectrum of homes which is not just rental, but ownership).

I look to my own neighborhood. It is a mash up of group homes; long term care; seniors residence; affordable housing (which is a spectrum from near market; percentage off market to geared to income) rentals; family and friends couch surfing; shared accommodations; at one point I am sure folks residing in hotels; market rentals; condos; townhouses and houses (owned/rented).   As noted in rental there is different ways rents can be figured in; same with seniors or assisted living facilities or group homes, ½ way houses; Supportive Roommates (supported independent/interdependent living), sober housing and harm reduction (sometimes sadly becomes harm acceptance). All rolled up for singles; couples; roomies; and families (sometimes fur family allowable, sometimes not). As well, home ownership which can be straight through Canadian Mortgage; Habitat for Humanity style ownership or Affordable Homes (or perhaps another way I have not heard of yet).

These ways have a qualifying mechanism which can be as simple as credit/debt ratios to sweat equity to income levels to medical and/or care provisions. Each, depending on where they fall on the spectrum; have rules, regulations and laws that govern contractual obligations, complaint mechanisms, accountability tools, acts and levels of government that may or may not oversee, whom to seek out for conflict resolution or mediation. Essentially it lays out in computer terms for apps the terms and conditions. That is what are the rights and responsibilities for the owner/service providers/landlord/tenant/owner while building a healthy home, and when the need arises through positive or negative means—transitions out of that home to the next.

The contractual obligations before signing, while signed and at dissolution.

This is why I applaud the NDP (New Democratic Party) government in their subtle caring way for reminding us of that. In this example Permanent Supportive Housing falls under a legislative licensing act in Alberta which has a ministry; specific protocols of provision (i.e. housekeeping and/or meals); and a very specific anonymous tip line for complaints to protect the resident. This aids the tenant and the staff of the facility. For it lets the staff know their rights and responsibilities, also for the tenant, it allows their rights and responsibilities to be clearly understood and known by not only them but their circles of support (professionals paid to be in their lives, and social supports ala family, friends and chosen family).

The terms and conditions allows one when seeking a home, whether it is moving from one tenancy to the next, or into care or out of shelter to understand that what they are needing/looking/qualify for…is what is being offered by the operator and/or property.

Seek clarity, on what specifically the terms and conditions are.

More precisely, seek clarity on what this means for the rights and responsibilities of all involved in the contractual arrangement.

By knowing this. By being informed. It allows for a healthy home to flourish for the individual, couple, roomies or family…and by proxy be a healthy piece of the puzzle for the growth of healthy communities in truly living out the understanding of being and knowing neighbour.

Ty Ragan Psy.D. has worked many decades as a community builder in many styles of housing  for what many would term vulnerable populations, but are always someone’s neighbour seeking a healthy home.


A reader asked me to consider the question of including/welcoming the misfit. It should’ve been an easy question because that seems the whole underlying principle of “My Neighbour”. Yet we do need to pause and ask, what is meant by the term misfit?

What is a misfit?
Oxford dictionary defines misfit as:
NOUN
• 1A person whose behaviour or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way.
‘a motley collection of social misfits’
Synonyms: nonconformist, oddball, maverick, individualist, square peg in a round hole.

Canada in and of itself has been built as a collective of nations. A multiplicity of cultures, religions, ideologies and peoples from around the world, making their community in its inherent diversity one mosaic of many. Our binding principles are the Constitution Act 1982 (the re-patriated British North America Act 1867), the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982. Upheld by the Constitutional promise of Peace, Order and Good Governance with the final word resting with the Supreme Court of Canada. All this is precipitated on the ideal of personal freedoms and collective rights. One of the things that was foreseen by our founding fathers, was the idea of a global village, hence the provision of freedom of movement (i.e. provinces are not the land they are, but the citizens) which allows free movement for the citizenry. One of the challenges is how powers were broken up between levels of governance. In that which the Federal (or then Dominion) government did not want to deal with, was granted to the provinces/territories. Hence the patchwork of public education across our nation.
In other words, Canada is a collection of misfits. We as a collective have forgotten this in our rush to rugged individualism, and commodification of the human being. To answer the question posed will take a few posts, this one is to look at a corporate/communal response that may aid in belonging and inclusion. I look to the idea of public schools. Alberta’s system is a mess. I can already here those who use the Separate (Catholic) and private systems gearing up their arguments. Trying to point to money savings or charter/speciality schools. Or my personal favourite threat from a private school user parent—I will send my kids to your public school. Okay, I think we can handle it.
See public schools were designed constitutionally to allow for a benchmark. A starting point for every citizen to be guaranteed a certain level of education needed to pursue a good life. Yes we have capped that off in Canada to be K-12 (yes I realize with the decline in public schools, technical and university degrees have become more the norm that should be funded up to). What I am proposing is a system that is fiscally responsible, increases the critical thinking, global citizenry, and good citizenry of the students. It also alleviates the idea of misfit, for it is a system that allows a student to grow/explore who they are.
By collapsing all funding into one streamlined system of schools that I would dub “Public Generalist” would set a standard. Yes academic achievement, social and emotional IQ would also be part of achievement benchmarks. This would include healthy school-life balance. It would look at core curriculums including the humanities and STEM, but also the holistic person with shop classes, home economics, health, world religions, world views, Canadian History, Indigenous studies, Language classes (we are officially bilingual, but I would say once entering junior high perhaps an expansion into an indigenous language option, and in high school a few others); also the fine arts (choir, band, art, creative writing, drama). These should be courses available, or through community partnerships brought into schools through elders, and student practicums from the disciplines running lunch hour or after school clubs; physical education (structured with proper teachers) needs to be apart of it as well. All these things feed into a critical thinking person, and also acknowledge TRC points I believe because it looks a the holistic person. It allows room for exploration, growth, understanding and discovery of who you are on this journey. I would also encourage clubs can be open to other points of view, if the students want it, the volunteer can pass the screening it should be allowed. We had parallel religious clubs running in my schools (believe a Sikh, Christian and Muslim); model parliament which allowed for creation of political parties. There was science Olympics and fairs; entrepreneurship programs. Plus the sports teams.
None of this was determined by our socio-economics. This was apart of public education.
I would build into the front-end a before and after school program to make life more affordable for families, which can be done in partnership with local groups (Boys & Girls Clubs, Youth drop ins; religious communities, 4-H, other service clubs looking for new mission/visions). The public school can easily become the community hub for older and newer communities. When there is a decrease in enrollment due to aging demographics why can’t some space be created that is not in use for seniors’ clubs? The list can go on.
What happens when this begins to happen the focus of public education becomes the focus of functional, healthy citizenry celebrating the unity in our beautiful diversity? Misfit no longer exists, they are simply part of the community.
That is a global solution, one that would take the drive of policy, government, but also of the adults realizing what has been lost in our education and community systems. One that instead of using the grieving of loss/change to drive further entrenchment, segregation and means survival tests goes… screw that noise…we built forward on what was built by previous generations why are we allowing our children/grand children to suffer, lets create something that builds on the legacy left us, instead of constantly destroying based on the almighty dollar.
But is there willingness to see each other as persons of value?


I had the privilege several weeks ago to be a guest on Light News Radio where we discussed a multitude of topics, as I phrased it after, the old data banks haven’t had such a work out for awhile. Yet the heart of the show was the discussion of moving beyond inclusion to belonging. For regular readers, you know I have been in the midst of re-discovering how my brain works, and the journey continues. The show had two times when there was dead time:

  • The shameless self-promotion. For those who know me, have taken courses from me, or been apart of groups/programs I have run know that this is just simple uncomfortable for myself. Some may call it humility, I simply put it out as the things that I have been blessed to be apart of, congealed together in the right moments with those the Holy Mystery intended to be apart of it. I have several books and articles across the last 33 years that share the experience, pieces I have aided have become political party policy, and sometimes pieces of legislation and laws. But the best is when someone who thought they had no place to belong finally find that safe zone to grow into the authentic them from. One friend keeps reminding me when we meet for spiritual coaching/direction “If you could get self-promotion you would be bigger that Wayne Dyer.” I simply laugh it off, just cause we’re bald doesn’t mean anything. But I do thank Deirdre on the radio for the highest compliment I can be paid, “you walk your talk.”
  • Your journey: this is the question when you can literally if you are listening close enough you can hear me having one of my neuro-glitches, thank you Dr. J and Deirdre for carrying the conversation until I came around. What was missed though is what I would like to share now. I have been blessed to find belonging in the midst of change. I live in the same house I was brought home from the hospital from, my family bought it from my folks, and yes it was the first house built on the block. I love where I live. NE Calgary is the world outside your door step. We are a midst of the socio-economic classes, spiritualities, we have shared accommodations, renters (market, affordable and Calgary Housing Company) and homeowners (and guess what, how one pays for their home does not entail if they are a good neighbour) and cultures that make the mosaic of the human race beautiful (98.5% non-western European descent, did a study on it in seminary circa 2006 when I was a Franciscan serving an Anglican parish). Our communities were built before Calgary forgot what planning entailed so we are well resourced with a hospital, malls, grocery stores, schools (public and separate, and all grades); the highest numbers of churches per capita with the lowest percentage of residents that are Christian (circa 2006-7 data). Like any community there has been places that have accepted us, and scorned us. My daughter got the fun in her pre-school years to explain Good Friday as “we are going to the church that baptized Daddy and killed Jesus” (as I was the first baby on a baptismal roll) to her being able to be the second generation to attend a Presbyterian Vacation Bible School in our community (it is one of the little churches that could). It is a place where I was able to be at the cornerstone laying ceremony for Canada’s largest Mosque. Where we learned as students to be a good citizen means to constructively query those in power, and hold to account for what needs to happen. Through actions of my family and neighbours learn how to support one another. It is where as we raise my son, we know that there are enough oldsters around to watch out for him (and my daughter) and enough newbies his smile and laughter had ingratiated him to them they will watch out for him.

This community had multiple religions in my Alliance Church pre-school as a child, and allowed for curiosity, open exploration of other understandings of religion and the world. We accepted openly refugees (the Vietnamese boat people) and lived out the mosaic ideal of Multi-Culturalism. I remember my elementary school spear heading the first special needs class room for the CBE, and y’know what those 3 kids were just part of our community.

It is a place from my vantage point where I mourn the entrenchment and extremist hate I see once again resurfacing in my country, for there will be those that will miss the beauty of a world where there is no other, only a family member we have not met. It is where my family openly discussed differing political viewpoints; shared the importance of acceptance, of women’s rights, where my Nan shared the story of her gay cousin who took his life and how that was wrong over someone for how God made them. Hearing my Grandma Ragan having tossed American troops from her Montreal diner for their racism. My Grandpa Joe winning a humanitarian of the year award. My Granddad and Nan, hearing how their home was the safe home in their community, a sanctuary for the loving parents no matter who you were.

The type of home my parents made for my brother and I and our friends. My brother was more social than I, but our home was open. It was the safe place, and yes our friends no matter our age referred them as “my brother’s name or Ty’s” Mum & Dad. That is the lesson of belonging. As my family grew into the space there are many things and those stories by those we have called friend are there’s to share. My family simply saw our neighbour, and opened ourselves up to friendship, and sometimes became the family that is not made with blood and DNA.

The lived journey is what brought me to understand belonging. The messy process that is missed in data sets, codifications, and labels. It is what lead me down many educational paths to get the skills necessary when presented with new situations and challenges. When I speak of the question “who is my neighbour?” it is about creating a space beyond accessibility, inclusion and affirmation.

It is creating a home of belonging where you feel open to drop by, pop in, share a meal or a cuppa. Whether it is just needing a place to be, or explore a book or a movie, chat, games, let the kids be kids…or simply abide until the pain passes or to share the joy. That is the journey of belonging and the heart understanding I bring to the pathway.

The Radio Show