A little respect goes a long way

Megan Walchuk

Tomorrow is the United Nations World Day of Social Justice. It’s a day when we draw attention to the plight of those who face oppression, and struggle to secure human rights, due to their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, ability or socioeconomic status.

It’s a day that we’re reminded to not judge a book by its cover – that someone’s circumstances in life does not define who they are, or what they can achieve. Although it seems a lesson geared more to war-torn regions and countries with questionable human rights records, Canadians can still improve their attitudes towards those in our own society who are struggling for social justice.

In the Rainy River District, we have many role models around us. In this edition of the Times alone, we can read about Tracey Omerod, a teacher in the Fort Frances jail, who doesn’t see her students as criminals, but as people, just as worthy of support and encouragement as any other student in any other classroom.

In Rainy River, we have Joanne Ogden, who has helped transform the local Lions club. She was introduced to the club’s early screening program, in which Lions screen Early Learning students to see if they need glasses. She saw the difference it made in those young lives, and jumped into service, not only keeping the program alive, but revitalizing the chapter with many new members.
Looking around our region, there are so many groups, all working tirelessly to close the gaps in social justice. Loaves and Fishes, Borderland Pride, the Metis Nation, Homeless Committee, Legion and hospital auxiliaries, Project Sunset and the United Native Friendship Centre are just a few of those making a difference, as are our teachers and librarians, who, through education, work to close the gap as well.

Although these and other groups do important work, it’s important for all of us to take stock of our own actions, and think how we can lift others up. Volunteering at your child’s school, joining a service club, or helping at a charitable event are great options. Yet, even our small and everyday interactions can make a difference. Simply treating others with respect can bridge even the widest divides. Just a smile, a hello, a word of encouragement or a helping hand can give someone a sense of belonging and worth. As human beings, we’re all walking this road together, regardless of our circumstances. Charging ahead, as others who differ fall further behind, isn’t how most Canadians would like to view their country. However, social justice for all doesn’t just happen on its own – it’s everyone’s responsibility.