Saturday, 26 December 2015

A Prayer from Angel Square

Merry Christmas! Again, I feel lucky. We have celebrated Christmas with our families. The season became even more special with the arrival of our grandchildren (and their parents) today. I'd like to follow up my last comments on the arrival of refugees, with a quote from one of my favourite Christmas books, Angel Square.

Angel Square is a novel, written in 1984 by local writer Brian Doyle. It's told from the perspective of twelve year old Tommy, who lives in the working class neighbourhood of Lowertown, here in Ottawa. The year is 1945. It's interesting to read about Ottawa in the 40's and compare Doyle's recollections with what my other has told me about that period. It's also alarming to read about the racial hatred that existed between Catholics, Protestants and Jews at that time. The simple blind prejudice seems ridiculous today. Relations between Catholics, Protestants (who uses that word today?) and Jews have certainly improved a great deal since that time.

And yet there are still problems of prejudice, fear and mistrust of anyone different. This new wave of refugees, is bringing out the very best and the very worst in North Americans. Of course I have been astonished at some of the rhetoric south of the border. Unfortunately Canada also had some pretty low moments this year with language such as the "barbaric cultural practices snitch line". Thankfully that did not come to pass. Over the past month, CBC television and radio have aired some very moving interviews, documentaries and reports on wonderful efforts being made to welcome refugees across Canada.

I recently attended a stage version of Angel Square. There is a Christmas Eve prayer near the end, that resonated with me. This was written in 1984 and the setting is 1945. Unfortunately, as we head into 2016, these words still fit.

"That night I went to bed early.
And I tried a prayer.
I had never tried a prayer before.
 I prayed for a nice time.
A time when nobody thought that some other person's face was funny look at and nobody laughed at other people's parents and said they were stupid-looking and nobody made fun of the way they talked and nobody thought somebody else wore funny-looking clothes or hateful clothes.
   And nobody got beat up because of the kind of hat they wore or because they were poor or because of the street they lived on.
  And nobody got spit on because they had different kinds of food in their lunch or their father came to meet them after school with a long coat on and maybe a beard.
  And nobody got their mitts stolen or got tripped in the snow because their names didn't sound right or they believed in some other kind of religion or read a different kind of bible or had freckles on their faces or had the wrong kind of hair or had to go home a different time from school or didn't have skates or did have skates or weren't allowed to play alleys on Saturday or on Sunday or were or got dunked in water at church or didn't swear or did swear or smelled funny or couldn't eat fish or had to eat fish or wore a hat in church or didn't wear a hat in church or said the Lord's prayer different or didn't say the Lord's prayer at all.
   And nobody got punched in the mouth because they had clean fingernails or fat lips or couldn't understand English or couldn't speak French or couldn't pronounce Hebrew.
   And there were no gangs waiting all the time...
   And you could carry a book along with you or a mouth organ...
   A time when maybe you liked a girl...
   A nice time.
  That's what I prayed for.
  The prayer might work, I thought.
  Or it might not.
  It was a mystery."

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