I came here wishing, wanting and hoping that living in Iqaluit would teach me some things about myself and perhaps some lessons that I could take home with me. I want to know that I am a better person for taking on this experience. As you may have taken from some of my previous posts, I have been feeling a little lost lately. Missing home, feeling the effects of the darkness, turning over personal stumbling blocks in my head.
I’ve been working closing shifts this past week, meaning that I’ve been working alone, which in turn means that I have had plenty of time with my own thoughts. After weeks of feeling a little removed from my reality, I have found some enlightenment.
I discovered that I have learned two things while I’ve been here. Number one is that I have found a deeper appreciation for the role my parents have played in my life and not just my parents but everyone that encouraged me as a child. I have a new respect for the people who raised me. Every day I see or hear of a child or teenager whose been stealing from our store. I’ve come to accept theft as if it’s inevitable or normal. That acceptance makes me feel sick to my stomach and every once in a while I stop to think about how the younger generation in Iqaluit became the people they are. They say it takes a village to raise a child and when I lived down South I wished that society would open its doors, feel trust and grace and open hearts to the idea of living as one people, as a community.
Community is something I have come to adore about Iqaluit, the way everyone knows each other. Despite the crime rate here, parent’s trust that their children will be okay in the hands of Iqaluit’s other inhabitants. This is something that is truly bittersweet. When I see a woman comforting the same crying baby that was comforted by a different woman the previous day, it warms my heart, it makes me think, ‘this is the way it should be.’ We should open our arms and our lives to each other; love each other like we’re family.
At the same time, when a village raises a child who grows up to think that theft and dishonesty is acceptable, the bitter comes into play. These are the kinds of confusing things I pray about. They are also the kinds of things that have instilled in me the new way I feel about how I was raised. I am so thankful for the love I had available to me as a child, for the security of a roof over my head and food to eat. It makes me laugh how many times in a one week I come across a child and think, ‘if only I could send you to my family for a day.’ Sometimes it’s because I want them to feel loved, sometimes it’s because I want them to know discipline. Either way, I see things everyday that make me send a silent thank you to God for the way I turned out, for the things I feel in my heart and for the knowledge to know right from wrong.
The second thing that Iqaluit has taught me is the importance of compassion.
Just when I begin to wonder how it is that living here hasn’t turned me stone cold, I feel the tug of a five year old boy on my apron strings. He’s smaller than he should be and before he speaks I want to scoop him into a hug. He looks me in the eyes and he whispers, “I’m hungry.”
I tell him I’ll be right back. I have to walk away because I don’t want to cry in front of him. The youth who have become a part of my life are the most powerful things that keep me in Iqaluit. Every time I think I can’t take one more day here, a child touches my heart and I have to stay.
I have never shed more tears for other people as I have since I moved here. Compassion is the one word that keeps me put, the one word that keeps me strong and the one word that reminds me of everything I have to smile about.
I may not be able to save the world but I can make a difference here, I know that now.