Unlike Them

Last night, during a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Florida Panthers, Maxi Domi of Montreal tried to goad Aaron Ekblad into a fight.  As they tussled, Max punched Aaron with his glove on.  But Ekblad didn’t want to fight.  Then Domi whipped off the glove and smashed him in the face with his bare fist.  Aaron was bleeding and left the game for concussion testing.  Max was ejected, and today was suspended for five games.

The culture of hockey has always included fighting.  The general expectation is that you stand up for yourself, that you fight if provoked.  But here comes a fellow who doesn’t want to play that game.  He wants to play hockey.

What does it take to create a paradigm shift?  Well, a few brave souls for one thing.  I don’t know of another sport where fighting is acceptable, where assaulting another human being is seen by many as “being a man”.  Congratulations, Aaron.  By saying no to violence, you’re beginning to create a new groove in the sport, one that will deepen as more courageous athletes join you.

Speaking of shifts, a couple of days ago, the teacher I volunteer with presented the kids with little plastic boxes for the books they’re reading.  His first question was “Who wants a pink one?”  As well as a few girls, six boys put up their hands.  I wonder how many of them would have done that 20 years ago.  (Zero)

Who are other pioneers of change in our world?

1. Women who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by men, e.g. police officers, plumbers and professional coaches

2. Men who opt for careers in areas traditionally dominated by women, e.g. hairstylists, primary school teachers and ballet dancers

3.  Men who cry

4.  Women who demand to be heard

5.  Kids who have ideas for bettering our world and speak of them assertively

6.  Elders who dive into sports

7.  Folks with a physical handicap who get out there and make things happen

8.  Religious leaders who see God in other faiths

9.  Politicians who applaud the good ideas coming from members of other parties

10.  Those of us who think of all of us

Come on down, you movers and groovers!

 

Handed

It’s time for standardized Grade 3 and 6 testing in Ontario.  EQAO stands for “Education Quality and Accountability Office”.  The kids are far more creative that that, however.  How about “Evil Questions Attacking Ontario”?  I like that better.

Today I was assisting a young man who needed the Math questions read to him.  “Jeremy” tried so hard on every single page.  Often the student needs to show his work and I watched Jeremy sort out his thinking on the page.  While he was writing, there wasn’t anything to do.  So I decided to watch his hand.

He holds a pencil pretty much like I do and was quite deft in his strokes.  But I was fascinated … he was lefthanded.  I had never before watched a lefty do his or her thing.

I thought of my left hand and how its fine motor ability is not much at all.  Any previous attempts to use the beast merely produced a series of illegible scrawls.  So here was a kid who needed some help, easily doing something that I didn’t have a hope of matching.  Hmm …

I consider myself a smart person, sensitive to other people’s needs, funny in my better moments.  But look at Jeremy go.  He’s no better or worse than me.  We both have strengths and weaknesses.  And actually the whole comparing thing is a waste of time.

Jeremy is thoroughly Jeremy
Bruce is thoroughly Bruce
And Planet Earth is delighted to have us both

Live Big

I went out to the movies tonight.  I saw “Chavela”, a documentary about a singer.  Sounds basic but it was intense.

“She not only slept with women, but also sang love songs about them, wore trousers, smoked cigars, drank heavily, carried a loaded pistol and credited her recovery from polio to shamans.”  All of this was shocking to Mexican society in the first half of the 20th century.  I’m not gay, I don’t like smoking, I drink only a bit and I abhor violence.  But I like the shaman stuff.

As a kid, Chavela wasn’t loved much by her Costa Rican parents.  They hid her when guests came by.  When she was 7, the minister of a local church said “You can’t bring her in here.  Get her out.”  In her early teens, Chavela had enough.  She ran away to Mexico City and started singing in the streets.  And what courage will I show in my approaching 70’s?

“Every word that rolls off her tongue is suffused with pure emotion.  Anyone can listen to her, know what she is feeling, and feel it with her.”  I saw this in the film.  Her voice was not pure.  But her soul ran through every word.

“I became obsessed with her ability to draw people in.  I was fascinated by her lightness and ease, her masculinity.”  Well, I also want to draw people in, and sometimes I do.

“Chavela Vargas turned abandon and desolation into a cathedral within which we all fit,” Almodóvar wrote after her death.  “She emerged reconciled with the errors she had made and ready to make them again.”  Hey, I’ve made big mistakes too.  I like to think I’ve learned from them but some repeats have crawled back into my life.  Still, I will not live careful.  That’s withering.

“At age 81, ranchera singer Chavela Vargas officially came out as a lesbian.”  Perhaps I’ll officially come out as a chronicler of the world’s wisdom.  That’s the secret project I’ve worked on sporadically since 1987.  I’ve accumulated thousands of quotes that touch me to my toes.  (Shh.  Don’t tell anybody)

“I am proud that I do not owe anybody anything, and it is wonderful to feel free,” she said in 2009.  “Now I have the desire to lie down in death’s lap, and I am sure that will be quite beautiful.”  And what will my response be to my final days?  Maybe the physical pain will be great but I intend to go out laughing.

What do I want?

To love people deeply
To suck the juice out of life’s bones
To have others laugh around me
To look way into human eyes and celebrate what’s there
To flood the world

Make it so

Being Different

Yesterday’s Toronto Star had a story about a little girl who loves bugs.  Sophia is seven years old.  Grasshoppers, worms, ants and snails are also part of her repertoire.

Her family moved to Ontario last year and Sophia had high hopes for her new school.  On the first day, she carried a caterpillar around.  A classmate wasn’t impressed:

“You’re weird.  You shouldn’t be playing with bugs.”

And when Sophia brought another caterpillar in for show-and-tell , a boy crushed it underfoot.  This fall, Sophia is transferring to another school where hopefully she will be accepted for being herself.

I thought back to 2001, when I was assisting a blind student in her sixth grade classroom.  One day the topic was your favourite type of music and a girl whom I’ll call Jessica stood up.  “I like classical music.”  Groans, grimaces and knowing looks followed.  But Jessica wasn’t to be swayed.  She loved playing her cello.

Hello, dear Jessica and Sophia
Carry on loving what you love
The world needs you