Truth is, that wasn't normal by any means. As a society, our relationship with homeless people is simple; either you drop a coin or walk by. It's impossible to connect with people as people because we let ourselves get divided only by borders, but also by our occupations, social status, and other arbitrary self-imposed barriers.
Growing up, I was often embarrassed that my dad sometimes drove a taxi because I thought it was not "prestigious." Ironically, it was during my research on motivation at the prestigious Harvard Medical School Addiction Research Program that I realized that much of what motivates me (and all people) comes from lessons I learned from him in that taxi. Here are some of them.
If we convey negative or suspicious attitudes about other cultures and ethnicities, our kids will pick up on these and replicate our behaviour. "Monkey see, monkey do" is real so keep this in mind and remember to convey a positive and open attitude about other cultures, particularly around your children.
An African-Canadian woman I know became very tired of being asked which "island" she came from. Her family had lived in Canada for many, many generations, so her answer to this question was "Toronto Island." But what happens when a child is quizzed in this way? If we are not careful, our children will learn to internalize the assumptions that others make about them.
She explains what the "Shoah", or Holocaust was. She states that the reason she is being so slow and re-explaining basics to a room full of adults is that there are a lot of 'Orientali', or Asians, in our class, and they don't know about this period of history, especially the Chinese. She says this several times. I can hardly believe what I'm hearing.
The reaction of the populace to Calgary's flooding, particularly the city's ballsy mayor Naheed Nenshi, painted Canada as tough-as-nails action figures fighting World War H20. Despite this, the majority of non-Canadians still see us more as that somewhat dopey, big obliviously-smilin' guy portrayed on the cover of Bill Mann's book than they do us as the fearless, hip, smart folk we know we are. Which is why, if I could change anything about our country, it would be the symbols that define us to others.
Earlier I was called out for using the words "retarded" and "handicapped" in a couple of tweets which referenced Yunel Escobar, the Blue Jays shortstop in hot water for writing the words "Tu ere maricon" ("You are a faggot") in his black eye. I offended someone. I apologized, and after an honest, open, and level- headed conversation concluded that I should be more conscientious. I wasn't foolish enough to write the words across my face, but still, for what I did in the first place, I suppose I'm pretty stupid as well.