McGregor Says: A lesson in acceptance from children

We are busy at the Christmas Bureau office again this year. We are one of the organizations that, when the economy drops, the number of customers increases.

So many folks are living month-to-month or paycheque-to-paycheque and a layoff or a reduction in work hours results in there being no money for frills or extras like Christmas.

One recent morning, three separate families came in to register at the same time. There is a procedure and our volunteers patiently go through the requirements with each applicant, many times struggling with a language barrier and often realizing there is a reluctance on the part of the person to be here in the first place.

These three families are from three different ethnic backgrounds, Asian, African and Eastern European, and with them they have a total of four children under the age of five.

Off to the side, under our Christmas tree, we have a selection of toys for the kids to play with and a small table covered with colouring books and a big bowl of crayons. The children instinctively leave their parents to the paper work and find their way to the play area.

After a few minutes the kids are all very busy, building, colouring and chattering although none of them are speaking the same language, as far as I can tell. But it seems there is a common language that innocent children have and they are sharing crayons, laughing at pictures and piling blocks into dump trucks. If someone were to come upon this scene they may easily assume these kids had known each other for years.

At that early age, no one has told them yet that they don’t speak to those kids because 500 years ago their people did something bad to our people.

The word ‘religion’ is not yet part of those little kids’ vocabularies and they haven’t been warned about talking to people with a different coloured skin.

Today, they are children of the world, their minds are like little canvasses, waiting for their parents, teachers and society to draw the pictures that will shape their adult thinking.

We’ve had some recent discussions that our Christmas Bureau may be asked to provide some assistance to the Syrian refugees who may be on the way to our community. We don’t know what help may be required yet, but we will handle it.

A few years back, 50 refugee families from Myanmar were relocated to Langley and they have made themselves part of our community, their school-age children have learned to speak English and are often interpreters for their parents if they come in to register. They are Langley people in need and we look after them, because that’s what Langley looks like in 2015.

So many of our Langley pioneer families immigrated here from Europe or Asia, contributed to the community and made a difference. I recall interviewing a lady who remembers Canada’s Prime Minister MacKenzie-King coming to her town in Holland and telling the people to come to Canada — there was work and land, and they were welcome.

What pictures were painted on the canvas in your mind? Some people are accepting of helping more refugees and some are wary and skeptical. We all have different perceptions about change, particularly when we are not in control.

The bottom line is, Canadians are just being asked to share their crayons again.

At least that’s what McGregor says.