About ten days from time of writing, I think my three-year-old daughter is going to be a little annoyed with me. This is because at that time we'll be well into our second day of a 135km walk from our house in Toronto to Niagara Falls. My husband David and I are taking her on this walk (during which she'll spend most of the time in a stroller. I'm not a monster) -- in an effort to raise funds to rescue two refugees who are currently stranded in the UAE through Canada's private sponsorship program. Our group, the Westside Refugee Response, has already brought one family to Canada and settled them in Toronto.
I have no idea how much of this my daughter will remember or what, at this age, she will take away from the experience. But when she's older and looks back at this time, I hope these are four lessons she has learned.
1. We have a responsibility to care for others. We are privileged to be living in Canada and we are no more deserving of that privilege than anyone else simply for having won the birthplace lottery. Being lucky means we have a responsibility to support those who aren't so lucky. You help as many people as you can, because you can.
2. Never half ass anything. Give everything your all - always. Go big. You get one life and if you don't give it your all, you will never know what could have been. (Granted if you half ass it and you fail, you can say "Well, what did you expect? I didn't try that hard." But this is not nearly as satisfying.)
3. Don't give in to apathy. Last year at this time - right after the heart rending photo of Alan Kurdi was seen around the world - people were practically throwing money at those of us trying to help refugees. But news has a cycle and it's harder this time around. People have moved onto other things and we're facing crisis fatigue and donor fatigue. Would it be easier just to forget about it, binge watch Netflix, go about our lives? Probably. But there are still millions of displaced people out there with nowhere to go - and children are still dying. They're just not making the front page - so we can't do that. Don't let other people's apathy infect you. Be enthusiastic, even when your enthusiasm is met with a resounding "meh."
4. Yoda was an idiot. Granted, my kid isn't super into Yoda. She's more of a Puffin Rock kind of girl. So, this is admittedly me imposing my own personal Yoda-related vendetta on an innocent child. But still. How much damage did that wrinkled little Muppet do to the perceived value of making an effort? I'll tell you: A LOT.
"Try not." he told Luke Skywalker in his most famous quote. "Do or do not. There is no try."
And I've felt dogged by that phrase ever since. Seriously. What kind of advice is that? I know he's just a Muppet and maybe I shouldn't take him so seriously. But he's a really famous, influential Muppet. He should be using his influence to encourage. Not bully. I mean, if there is no value in trying and failing then much of my life has been spent in worthless pursuit. Because I am not even close to successful at everything I do. Is anyone?
This advice devalues the efforts of everyone who ever made it 18 miles into a marathon, every sports team that ever lost, every kid that ever got an A for "effort," everyone who ever "fought" cancer and died anyway. It's mean.
We are going to go on this 135km walk and we are going to try to raise money and try to get some eyes on our project and our fundraiser, and we might fail.
And, while I'm not writing some life-coachy manifesto in praise of failure, I do want to say that failure is OK. Because it's a real possibility, so it simply has to be. It sucks. But it's OK.
I want my daughter to understand that there is great, great value in making an effort. I don't ever want her to think "I might not succeed, so what's the point of trying?" Because that's the sort of thinking that should break your heart.
This doesn't mean half-assing it. You can do your best and you can still fail. Them's the breaks. And if we do fail I will cry and I will have a meltdown -- and then I will try something else. And at least we got some exercise.
I want my daughter to know that it's OK to have doubts, and that all that "failure is not an option" nonsense is just dumb tough guy talk. Failure is an option because you are going to fail in life more than you succeed.
If you don't, you didn't try hard enough.
To learn more about the Walk Like A Refugee Project click here.
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