Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

The princess had a school assignment: To prepare a three-minute speech about a topic she considered the most important issue facing the world today.

“Everyone’s going to be talking about the environment,” she said, while thumping a sprawl of papers on the kitchen table. “I want to talk about something else.”

Of course there are lots of others things to talk about, but what would resonate with an 11-year-old, her classmates and a teacher?

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Good morning, everyone: Before I begin, I would like you to do something. You don’t need to close your eyes but please think of someone living in poverty somewhere in the world. 

Look at the person, look at their surroundings, where they live, how they’re dressed, what they have to eat.

My fellow classmates and teachers.  I have a concern that is very near to my heart and I would like to share it with you. It has to do with people who are living in poverty. 

Please, let us return to the person you have imagined, living in poverty somewhere in the world.

I will guess that the person in your imagination is not living in Canada, is not living in B.C., and is not living on Bowen Island.

How strange that we always think that the poor live far away from us when, they may actually be our neighbours and we do not know.

We’ve all seen people living on the street, asking for money. How do you think they got there? 

One reason could be some kind of family abuse, and the person now feels safer on the street than they did in their own home.

Another could be job loss, something that could happen to any one of the adults we know.

A third (but certainly not the only) road to poverty, and one that I feel particularly close to, is mental illness.

Mental illness is a disease, just like diabetes or arthritis, that can come when you are a child or adult. It comes without any warning. It can happen to anyone.

Very recently someone I have known for years was diagnosed with an extreme mental illness. She was in the hospital for more than six weeks. Her three children and her husband were suddenly without a wife and mother, and she could not earn any money. This person is a nurse and has not been to work since the end of February. 

I also know someone here on Bowen, in fact someone who use to go to IPS, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This means he cannot keep a job because sometimes he cannot tell what is real and what is not. For example, one time when he became psychotic, he thought it would be interesting to learn to fly. So he jumped off his roof!

Fortunately he didn’t die, but the point I’m trying to make is that bad luck and poverty can happen to anyone.

I know a lot of people think saving the environment is important, and I agree. 

However, what is the point of taking care of the planet if we can’t even take care of our own friends and neighbours? 

Here is my hope:

That every one of us here reaches out to someone in poverty. Maybe not every day, but at least every week.

There are the usual ways, such as giving to the food bank or donating to the second hand stores.

But more importantly, we have to stop ignoring the people on the street as though they were invisible. We have to look them in the eye and truly SEE them.

I know of a homeless man who was living in the woods across from the ferry. I know the family who  gave him a place to stay and the person repaid their kindness by fixing their roof and building a fence. The family didn’t IGNORE the poor person.

There’s no single solution to poverty but I hope that if we think and talk about it, and be generous with our TIME as well as our money, maybe we can be part of the answer to ending poverty in the world, starting with our own country, in our own small community.

Thank you very much.

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Some of you have been to where this headstone lies and knew the most wonderful woman buried there.

When we had to decide what words, if any, would summarize the issue most important to my mother, the choice was easy:

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me.”

As my friend Alice suggested, I can’t help but think our mothers’ spirits continue to guide our lives.


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