I typically use this forum to provide advice or tips having to do with issues related to my field of expertise – social work. I have blogged about parenting, and bullying and infertility and anxiety. Or I write about topics which are trending in the news or about recurring themes that I see in my practice.
Usually my blogs encompass some sort of advice as to how we can help ourselves or our children or others who are struggling.
Today’s blog, however is slightly more personal.
It is about an internal struggle. Nothing to do with my children or work or my family life. It is about facing my own fears.
Let me explain.
This past weekend, I attended a rock concert at the Rogers Centre in Toronto with some friends. I bought the tickets several months ago. We were excited to see the band, excited to spend time together, excited to relive our youth a little bit. What better way than to dance and sing along to songs we cherished in our late teens?
Since buying those tickets, there has been increased upheaval in the world and a number of terrorist attacks. The attacks are also on softer targets than ever. The nightclub shooting in Orlando. The bombing in the Istanbul airport. The shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. And this past week, the brutal driving rampage over innocent civilians enjoying Bastille Day in Nice, France.
So is it naïve of me to think that a terrorist attack could never happen here in Toronto?
Of course it could. And unfortunately I am sure that at some point it will.
The band that played had chosen Toronto as the only Canadian venue for the duration of this tour. As a result, thousands of people made the pilgrimage to Toronto from other Canadian cities. The concert was sold out. The place would be packed and crowded. There would not be an empty seat in the house.
You see, growing up, I did a lot travelling. The advice that was given was to never be alone. “Stick with crowds,” my parents would say. “There is strength in numbers.”
But is this actually true?
I feel as though such advice no longer applies. Strength in numbers? Isn’t it the big numbers and the large crowds that attract terrorism?
Somehow I got it into my head that attending this concert, for me, would be too risky. And for the first time in my life, I was afraid to go. I have a husband and three children who need me. How can I go to an event where the chances are so high that something terrible could happen?
These thoughts flooded my mind for days leading up to the concert. I shared them with my husband and no one else. And then I found it within myself to snap out of this ridiculous mode of thinking.
Was I going to allow fear to dictate my life and the choices I make? Of course not. It is against everything I stand for and everything I try to teach my clients.
So I decided to go. I got on the subway, and I went to the concert. We met for dinner. We stood in the long security line to enter the venue. There were hoards of people. But the vibe was amazing. And all of downtown Toronto was buzzing. And we all had a blast.
The show did not finish until after 1 a.m. And by that time I had already forgotten about my thoughts and fears.
So what did I learn about myself this past weekend?
I tried to implement what I recommend to my clients and what I try to implement with my own kids; if something makes you uncomfortable or fearful, it must not be avoided or ignored. But rather, it should be more of a motivation to step out of your comfort zone and face it.
Did I consider not going to the concert for just a little second? Absolutely.
Did I avoid going to this concert? Absolutely not.
Would I ever not go? Absolutely not.
Was I a little bit fearful? Definitely at first.
But I was able to relax once the show got started and I forgot about these fears.
And I am so glad that I did.
There is a lot of evil in this world. And life can be dangerous sometimes. So, the last thing I would ever want to do is avoid those things which bring me such pleasure. After all, isn’t this pleasure what we are striving for?
Being born and raised in Canada, I have grown up in a culture of tolerance and am aware that there are many types of people in our society. We are surrounded by differences in ethnicities, cultures and races, genders and levels of ability. Nothing really phases me. People are who they are.
But not everyone feels this sense of ease. Our sense of comfort largely depends on our level of exposure to people who are different from ourselves. The more we are around differences, the more we learn to appreciate instead of fear them.
I am so proud to live in a city that is so open to diversity. One that not only is open to it, but one that embraces it. Since the mass shooting that took place in a gay nightclub in Orlando several weeks ago, celebrating diversity, for me anyway, has become that much more significant.
I have always been amazed by the enormity of the celebration that takes place for Pride in Toronto. But this year blew me away. Seeing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching at the Pride Parade this past weekend spoke volumes about the feelings of inclusiveness that we all want to see being spread around the country.
So why do we need to encourage tolerance in our children?
We want our children to grow up to be open to learning from different cultures, or from people who are different from them. I truly believe that learning tolerance and inclusiveness starts at home.
Parents need to model the behaviour they would like to see in their children. Children who grow up hearing racist or homophobic comments will learn that it’s ok to make them. After all, if Mom and Dad say it, it must be ok. Right? Wrong. Children need to be brought up understanding that the world is made of a lot of different types of people. And no one type is better than an other.
So how can parents help instil tolerance in their children?
#1 – Parents should examine their own behaviour, and evaluate whether or not they feel they are sending the right message to their children. Parents need to be mindful that children pick up on cues, body language, and subtle messages. Are our messages respectful? Are we being inclusive? Are we modeling the type of behaviours and attitudes that we wish to see in our children?
#2 – Children are inquisitive. They notice the differences between people and it’s ok to discuss these differences, as long as it is done in a factual way.
In our home, we are constantly discussing the differences between types of people, our backgrounds and our beliefs. Our family alone is comprised of many different cultural and racial backgrounds. And I love that my children are exposed to these differences, and realize that we all love and we are all the same, regardless of what we look like or where we come from.
#3 – Parents need to teach their children about pride in who they are, while teaching them to recognize that people come in all different forms, colours, shapes and sizes. Similarly, all people have the right to choose who they want to love. And there is no one right way to love, or one type of person that is more worthy of love than another.
#4 – We need to understand that if our children are happy, and are being raised in a home where they feel accepted for being themselves, they are much more likely to adopt the same open-mindedness toward others.
Unfortunately, far too many people in this world are not tolerant of others who are different from them. Whether the differences are racial, religious or political or are differences in sexual orientation or identification, this world is comprised of people from diverse backgrounds with diverse beliefs. We need to celebrate these differences instead of judging them, and we must teach our children to do the same.
By teaching our children to love and respect others who are different from them, we are simultaneously conveying the same message that we too, will love them and accept them regardless of whom they choose to love.
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