Sometimes it’s easy to become distracted by our own routines and concerns and to forget that for others in our big wide world, life may be very different from our own.
Close to eight billion humans inhabit our planet. Eight billion spread across 195 countries and 38 time zones. Some, like those of us here in Canada, make their homes in large, resource-rich countries that stretch from ocean to ocean. Others live in small, densely populated countries or on tiny island nations threatened by rising sea levels. Tuvalu in the South Pacific, for instance, is a mere 26 square kilometres. Some enjoy peace and security. Others endure conflict and hardship.
Some of the eight billion are clearly more privileged than the rest. About one per cent hold close to half the world’s wealth, while 719 million live in extreme poverty. A staggering 775 million are unable to read or write, many of them female.
It’s certainly not a level playing field out there, but we’ve known that for a very long time. And other factors impact our quality of life – ethnicity, gender, education, health, and constitutional rights.
This contrast between human lives becomes striking when we consider what took place in different countries on a specific day. For instance, what did some of those eight billion do last weekend? Let’s say on Saturday, May 6th?
Creston Valley was soggy last Saturday, but the spring colours shone through – the soft green of new leaves, the browns of newly furrowed fields and the white and pink blossoms of the orchards. Several hundred locals attended a concert by the Blossom Valley Singers and the Key to She. Audience members enjoyed another musical treat, the voices of friends, family and neighbours blending in harmony at Kootenay River Theatre.
The Creston Refugee Committee held a social event for its volunteers and sponsored families that day. It was a time of friendship and good cheer, a time to reconnect, celebrate a 44-year sponsorship history and appreciate the safety and beauty of our valley.
More than 7,000 kilometres east, across the Atlantic, a very different type of event took place on May 6th – a meticulously planned spectacle brimming with pomp and ceremony in London’s Westminster Abbey. Attended by the wealthy and privileged and necessitating an extreme level of security, it drew huge street crowds and was broadcast to millions across the planet. The coronation of a king.
While I admired Queen Elizabeth’s commitment to duty and gentle sense of humour, like a growing number of Canadians, I’m apathetic about the monarchy. A lavish coronation didn’t entice me. I avoided most of the hype but spotted the “Harry without Meghan?” magazine covers at the supermarket checkout and caught the tail end of a CBC radio interview with a foodie-in-the-know about the merits of serving Coronation Quiche at a meal for a new king. Groan.
But what happened last Saturday for some of the less fortunate? For instance, what occurred in the African nation of Sudan? On that day, while Creston voices filled an auditorium and a new king sat in royal splendor, violence continued on the streets of Khartoum, the country’s capital. Street battles between duelling warlords threatened Sudanese nationals, Canadians hoping to escape and refugees from Eritrea – a neighbouring nation with a dismal human rights record.
Somewhere in that troubled African nation waits a family who had previously fled Eritrea hoping for asylum. The family was chosen several months ago by the Creston Refugee Committee to make the long journey to our valley and be assisted as its next sponsored family.
The human condition is a diverse one. For many this time of year is one of new beginnings and optimism. For others it will be a time of violence and hardship. I am one of the fortunate. I am thankful for Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and for the warmth of community in the beautiful valley I call home.