After hearing much divisiveness in opinion about Canada sponsoring Syrian refugees versus taking care of veterans or housing the homeless, I have only one thing to say: “We’re all just people.”
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to witness one of the very small challenges a refugee family faces.
While grocery shopping at Superstore, I was politely approached by a man, his wife, and infant son. In halting English the man did his best to ask me how to find an item. I was standing in the store’s pharmacy, next to hand soap. His wife showed me their hand soap, then using gestures, and with limited English, tried to explain what they were looking for.
The man was about to give up when I said, “Please try again.” After a minute or two, it became apparent they were looking for dish soap. The man asked, “What aisle, please?” It was my first time in the store, so I didn’t know, but I recalled seeing dish soap on the very far side of the huge store.
Although I was ready to go to the check-out stand, rather than sending them on a wild goose chase, I told the family to follow me and together we’d find the dish doap. On the way to the aisle, the man apologized for his limited English skills. I asked if they were new to Canada. Indeed they were, and had come from Syria. I smiled and said, “Welcome to Canada!”
Once we found the dish soap, they asked what brand works best, and then thanked me profusely for my help.
Can you imagine being in a foreign country and being frustrated by your inability to find something as basic as dish soap, and having difficulty even describing your needs to anyone?
Compared to what the family must have faced in their journey to Canada, this may have been a small issue. But the thing is that it took me no more than five minutes to help this family and to make them feel welcome in this great country I was blessed to be born in.
Less than 80 years ago, my grandparents were refugees, with limited English. My mom is a first-generation Canadian. Her two oldest brothers were born in the Ukraine and arrived here as child refugees with my grandparents. The family became proud Canadian citizens and eventually both uncles became veterans of the Canadian Forces, having served in WW2. Please remember this: “We’re all just people.” Be kind to one another and take time to pay it forward.