By Sue Tiffin
WHEN THE weight of the world feels heavy, it makes us want to retreat, turn off the news, and try to live in a blissful ignorance if the matters of the day don’t seem to affect our own lives directly.
But we are all affected when injustice harms our fellow humans. We get angry, we get frustrated, we feel heartbroken and we want to help.
In these times, when in so many ways what we can do to help is to stay home, we can feel even more helpless. But action can still be taken in our own community and we can make good use of our rage and hurt and fear by funnelling it into action.
The state of many long-term care homes in Ontario due to lack of funding, inadequate staffing and poor organization has long been exposed by advocates who have worked toward correcting our failure in caring for our elders. The spread of COVID-19 throughout Ontario has seen the majority of deaths caused by the virus involve long-term care residents – with heartbreaking stories being shared with us from as close as Bobcaygeon – and will lead to an independent inquiry. We can use our voices to demand this type of investigation of our provincial government, and listen to residents, families, and staff to make immediate changes toward progress and better living conditions.
As the province reopens, we can support local businesses now. Rather than reacting after the fact to stories of local shops that have had to close their doors due to the hardship caused by COVID-19 restrictions, take action now to shop locally, especially with those who you know have done their utmost to protect the community while protecting their livelihood by adapting with curbside service.
Leaving the community to shop elsewhere or ordering packages in from afar doesn’t just increase the chance of spreading the virus from one place to another, it means one less sale for your neighbours and friends who have worked hard to pivot. Challenge friends to support a different business each week, or invite a dozen people you know to spend what they can at a local shop and make a great difference in doing so.
Even from home, we can raise our voices in support against systemic racism and violence. We can share news and stories as our American friends take part in a revolution against anti-black racism and we can also condemn the same racial injustice that happens here in Canada. Take a look at your own racism, as uncomfortable a process as that can be. Learn more so you can do more. June is Indigenous history month. Read the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, five years old this year, if you haven’t yet – ask questions as to what has been done thus far. Pause to listen to those who have been hurt to understand their pain. Donate to organizations that are helping make change happen. Lead by example with your kids and your grand kids, even if that means you have to speak up to your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. Use your space online to help raise the voices of the oppressed as an ally – speak up when someone you know posts something that isn’t helpful, and when the stories you hear become overwhelming, write letters to your leaders to ask why and force change. Sharing is important, but using your own privilege to elevate voices at another level is essential and is a way you can use your voice for true movement.
Feeling helpless at these times can cause great stress for so many, but getting involved, working together and taking action even in small ways to make things better and make things right for all in our community leads to the change that can make our story a good one.