My husband and I have returned from our annual boating vacation in the waters off of British Columbia. Now in year eight, we were cruising in Adagio, a beautiful wooden boat built by this talented guy I’m married to.
She is a real beauty and has all of the comforts of home. Though perhaps she’s a bit sparse for some; at 28 feet we are always the smallest boat in the marina or cove. Yet I’d be willing to bet no one is any happier than the two of us, when we’re cozy in the evening light, rocking ever so gently, with a cup of tea warming our hands and our loyal mutt warming our feet!
One of my joys in boating are my fellow mariners. I’ve come to believe that it must be boating itself that binds us together. We find generous, friendly, helpful, and fun loving boaters wherever we go. This trip we shared a big skillet of freshly caught prawns with one couple, lemon cake and tea with another. One morning, three boaters actually trotted to the end of the dock and quietly waved us off at sunrise. Yes, they were that friendly
While some of these delightful people were Americans, because of our route, the vast majority of them were Canadian. This is where is gets downright fascinating because I have yet to meet a grumpy Canadian! Scouts honor. Surely one exists somewhere but I’ll be darned if that grumpus has ever crossed our bow.
This trip I started asking people about this observation, acknowledging it was a generalization but reiterating the fact that our experiences with Canadians have always been positive. Most of them demurred, some said we’d just had ‘good luck’.
But one thoughtful soul offered this possible explanation: “Canadian culture was founded on a British standard … don’t make a fuss, apologize even when it’s not your fault, always be respectful, be part of the group not independent.” He paused, carefully deciding on his next words, “… while America began with a group of people rejecting the British way. They were searching for their own identity, desperate for independence. And then along came your cowboys and well, you know, the rest is history.”
We shared a laughed at his characterization. (Oh those cowboys and the Wild, Wild West!) Then, with that aforementioned respect, he moved on to the topic that nearly every Canadian asked us about, “How do you explain what is happening in the United States during your presidential election cycle?”
Every time this came up we were stymied. While we understand the many issues we face as a nation are complex and deserve improvement, we couldn’t begin to explain the mean-spirited, disrespectful, and deceptive vitriol that seems to be our nation’s new norm.
Honestly? It was embarrassing. Canadians are horrified by this election cycle. So are we.
Throughout the trip, I found myself contemplating what part I play in this disturbing reality. What could I do to change, temper, or alter the way people behave? Probably not much because I know all any of us can do is be responsible for our own behavior.
But, as the older members of our society, perhaps we can actively model the exact behaviors that seem to be slipping away: speaking with kindness and respect; not rushing to judgment; seeking facts, not sound bites; sharing our opinions and truly listening to others when they do the same. It’s worth a try.
I know many people our age feel too marginalized to have any impact but I beg to disagree. As the Dalhi Lama has said: “If you think you are too small to make a difference … try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.”
Come on, let’s make a buzz!