TorontotheBetter Alternative Narratives: INSENSITIVITY

By Hector Bunyan

The queue wound its way around Dundas  street onto Bay.  Every loading bay was crowded with parents and children, suitcases , stuffed toys and gifts for the folks back home. Children were restive with anticipation. I could sense in the adults that state of being present and distant, here and there, here attending to the instrumental requirements of the immediate situation, and there, where the primal memories were birthed and patiently await one’s return. The family that shaped us is there: a parent or parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, childhood’s bedroom, toys, storybooks, the family photo-albums, the dog slowing with age and the cat that will no doubt surprise us with its own peculiar way of saying hello.

Until I had witnessed this crowded bus-depot on this Thanksgiving weekend, I would have described the immigrant as someone who migrated to Canada from another country.  On this day, I was compelled to expand my understanding of the immigrant to include someone who migrated to the big city from a small town with its one main street. What we shared in common were the memories we left behind, our vulnerability, and because of this vulnerability and  the objective to “make it” in the big city, we all learnt to quickly acquire a suit of armour behind which  we can hide our true self.

Because of what I had witnessed and experienced this Thanksgiving weekend, I could no longer allow myself the dishonesty of  labeling the so-called other   as my adversary.  Both she and I were engaged in a daily dance to hide the attributes that gave us our claim to humanity in order that the demands of survival would not injure our soul. 

Over time, I  learnt that this exercise of distancing ourselves from our authentic self would infect this  big  city with an insensitivity that at times could lead to casual displays of callousness. Every day we are challenged to take a leap of faith by removing the mask and destroying the suit of armour.  That’s the challenge  we are presented by the homeless in our midst, the mentally ill, and the scream for help we ignore at Two in the morning that leads to the discovery a few hours later of the frozen, lifeless body of a neighbour who was led into the winter night by dementia.



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Last updated: April 1, 2011
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