I walked down the stairs and approached the crumbling basement of what looked like a house, but was really a store. What drew me to it was the big 50%-off sign with a stupid yellow smiley face and I impulsively stepped in. The room was dark, dank, dusty, musty and cluttered, but that had never stopped me before. I called “Hello” and I saw a young man with a navy-blue checkered shirt sitting in the corner, hunched over his phone. He was probably doing that thing young people do nowadays, I think it’s called texting or something. I am amazed by all the things they can do on their phones. We never would have even imagined this when I was a child.
Sitting in the Pilgrim Reception Centre on day four or five, we enjoy the company of Mr. M. He is 75 years old and frail of body, with two piercing eyes sheltered under two prominent Persian eyebrows. “We have been on pilgrimage five times,” says his wife proudly. You would never tell by the carefulness of their steps or the fervent tone of their prayers. “Each time is special,” he tells me. But this time may be his last time, and maybe that is why we are drawn to him. “Tell me stories,” I ask, and he willingly obliges, at the prison, at the cemetery where he cries over Mr. Taherzadeh’s grave. On day four or five, he shares wisdom of his own. I listen because I respect him now, this servant who chose to be in the English group over the Persian group. “I like you three,” he says as he offers us tea and oranges. In your eyes I see the fire of the love of God. This is what is beautiful, this is life.” We eat some biscuits and smile, although he is serious. “You know,” he says, “sometimes you may look at a person, maybe a man,” he says with a glance in my direction, “and they may have very beautiful eyes—beautiful like a cat. But without the fire of the love of God they are empty, just like a cat.” The pilgrims move all around us, signalling the break is over. On to the next activity, the next holy site, I can no longer remember. I do remember his words as I leave the pilgrim house, the holy land and as I meet others along the way. How could I forget the words delivered from two eyes of brilliant fire.
A group of youth between 11 and 14 years gather in the McQueston neighbourhood of Hamilton every week to discuss the conditions of their neighbourhood and ways to contribute to its advancement. The group began with a few individuals who decided that all of their friends from the neighborhood should have the benefit of these sorts of discussions and that they too would benefit from hearing from their peers. The group now engages 30 youth from the neighbourhood and continues to grow.
At the end of September, the youth dedicated a weekend to serving their neighbourhood together. One of the evenings focused on nurturing their artistic abilities. In a workshop on the spoken word, a discussion about how young females are viewed gave way to an inspiring discussion of how they wish to be viewed. This spoken-word piece was created that evening.
A group of youth from three neighbourhoods in the west end of Toronto gathered one February weekend to reflect on how they could contribute to the spiritual and material advancement of their community, particularly by nurturing the younger generation. Together they studied materials that provided them with spiritual insights, knowledge, skills and concepts to empower them as they began to walk a path of service. The weekend had an artistic component, and a number of the youth, inspired by their study, chose to participate in a writing workshop. They decided to write on the theme of sacrifice. Each youth, many of them first-time writers, wrote a poem. The poems were shared together as a collective work. This is their piece.
This is the sound
The sound of my beating heart
Faster and faster
The fire is burning
What should I do now?
There he is again
My heart feels this sharp pain
I must stop this now
A bird flutters by,
The smell of roses fill my nostrils
Mama’s pie is in the oven
My heart stops beating like a train
Mama comes over and whispers in my ear
“I love you more than anything in this world”
All is calm, the sun comes out
My eyes close
All is well
We ebb and we flow
pulled by a force beyond our own volition
and we are carried by it
drawn as we were in the beginning
in that glimpse of dawn on the horizon
that led us to these shores
and we wade in far past the warnings of the wise
playing with those moments
where the undertow becomes too strong
for our weak grasp to prevent
and we find ourselves dragged under
scraped against the bottom
fighting for air
yet still unwilling to break away from that current
knowing that it draws us towards
that glimpse of dawn against the gloom
and that once we learn to stop fighting
once we see that the ocean is rich
with the oxygen and life
we learn how to open new eyes
to breathe with new lungs
until we become as one
with that life force
neither pulled by it
but rather part of all we once fought
I knew it was going to be a great day, just by the taste of the coffee. I had long-since established that the best coffee only tastes as good as the drinker feels, and, today, nestled on the couch by the fire with the windows frosted over in the morning sun, I felt good. It had already been three days since the blizzard. The power was still out, but this cottage had been built not to need it.
As I drained the cup, the door burst open. A blast of freezing air, a flurry of flakes, and the shadowy outline of a Sasquatch appeared in the frame, grinning broadly. The figure trudged across the room, leaving a trail of snowy footprints, and dumped a load of wood on the hearth to dry in the heat. Shortly, the air warmed, the flakes melted and the Sasquatch removed his numerous layers of woollen clothing to reveal his tousled hair and cold-rosened cheeks. Eitan gratefully reached for the mug I held out to him, billowing steam visible in the sunlight that streamed in from the cloudless, piercing blue sky outside.
Yes, I thought to myself; the coffee tastes good today.
I think people are like colours. I don’t mean their personalities, like a firey red temper or a glowing yellow disposition. I mean how people interact. Your eyes contain cones for seeing colour, but it turns out you have a lot more cones for seeing some colours than others. That’s why red always stands out, and blue doesn’t. In fact, if you fixate on a blue object for long enough, it’ll start to fade into the background. Just like people.
Try it. Go to a party and just watch. The red people will stand out to you right away, that’s what they do. Then you’ll notice the yellows, greens, and purples–they’re the ones that are socializing without drawing their own crowds.
The hard ones to spot are the blues. You have to look carefully. It’s like trying to see what you can’t see, or at least what you’ve been trained to ignore. They may be the hardest to find, but I think the blues are the most interesting. Even though it seems like they’re hiding, they’re usually the ones who have the least to hide. The reds and the yellows are hiding in plain sight, like a benign frog with flashy colours hoping to thwart predators that will mistake it as poisonous. But the blues have no motive to masquerade. Besides, who would want to be the person sitting alone at a party? Blues act the way they do, not because they’re trying to hide who they are, but because they can’t help who they are.
If ever there has been a word more confused than me, I should be happy to make his acquaintance.
I hear many voices speak of the green movement. This is strange to me. I am not going anywhere. I saw a lady with a black grocery bag the other day. On its side was written “I am a green bag.”
‘Are you?’ I thought. ‘My dear compatriot, I think you’re confused. Have you become so passive as to let these big folk call you something you are not? Perhaps you were once green, and then fell into a puddle of oil, and that is why you are now black. Or perhaps the same thing is happening to “green” as happened to “oil”. The purses of the big folk changed the course of what we once were.
There was a time when I was the flowing field, bending in the wind. Evergreen, I was the pine, the only memory of summer amid the winter snows. As the seasons changed, still you saw me. As the rolling ages passed I stood, a bastion of life.
Yesterday I realized that someone had changed my meaning for me. I don’t know who I am exactly, but I know that I’m not me.
Bundled up inside of our hearts are threads of many colours. Pinks and oranges, yellow and fire red, purple, greens to match every shade of leaf you have ever seen and not seen, slate grey and snow white. All of these threads are wound on tiny spools that are set in motion the moment we are born. Slowly they turn their gears in silent revolution and the thread pours out of our mouths and through our finger tips and from the soles of our feet. With each step a thread spins out and joins the others, tying itself into the pattern of our life.