I have always loved the words of the holiday season – peace, love, hope and joy.
Every year, at this is the time of the season, we are inspired to think of others and how we can put our good wishes of peace, love, hope and joy into tangible action.
Ursula Franklin taught us that peace is not just the absence of war, but also the presence of social justice and security from fear and intimidation. In Toronto-St. Paul’s, we need to protect all members of our diverse community by identifying and calling out racism and discrimination whenever and wherever it takes place. As June Callwood said: “If you are an observer to an injustice, you are indeed a participant.” We need to commit to being true participants in reconciliation and anti-racism.
Last year, for Canada 150, we celebrated the “Outstanding Neighbours” in Toronto-St. Paul’s who – through leadership and everyday acts of kindness and friendship – make our community stronger. This is truly what Jane Jacobs meant by “neighbourliness”. The 2016 Census revealed that in nearly half of the households in our community, there is just one person living alone. We need to follow the example of our Outstanding Neighbours and be intentional about reaching out and helping to build community.
The holiday season is often very difficult for those struggling with poverty or suffering from depression. We need to reach out to those who are feeling hopeless, copeless, or worthless. At this time of year it is even more important to support our churches and synagogues and organizations like Na-Me-Res and Wychwood Open Door – groups that work so hard every day to give people hope, help them cope and feel worthwhile.
At this time of year, we find joy in the lights, the tastes, and the laughter of the season. The holidays create a break from the stresses of our everyday lives. We need to make sure we take time with our friends and families. We all can find joy in the natural beauty that is the hallmark of Toronto-St. Paul’s. We are refreshed by a brisk walk on the Beltline or in our ravines. Artists have also provided our communities with more joy – as we appreciate the Indigenous murals that teach us, or the murals in “Feel Good Lane” that touch our hearts or make us smile.
As we light the menorah or turn on our Christmas lights, or as we hear the wonderful music of the holidays, let us take the time to pause and reflect upon the role we can each play for a happier and healthier New Year.