BUILDING BRIDGES: Solidarity glow brightens

Family, cultural traditions instill hope

I’m not sure about in your home, but in ours, Saturday nights lately are for early dinners, pyjamas by 5 p.m., Christmas tree lit and fireplace blazing.

Oh, and cuddling up in front of a Netflix Christmas movie.

It’s a highlight of our week, being in one room at the same time, and we are ridiculously excited about the holidays that promise more of these moments.

Another thing we love to do during family time is talk – about everything from sports and school, to spirituality and social justice.

Our dream is to explore other parts of the world; we have started doing this by bringing the world to our home through learning languages and learning about other cultures.

On a recent Saturday, we unexpectedly had some of these topics come together at once.

After our Christmas movie ended, my son asked if we could watch a Tumblebook on the Santa Tracker channel.

If you are unfamiliar with Tumblebooks, they are essentially digital books where pages turn, and words and pictures appear while a narrator reads the story.

He clicked on A Light in the Darkness by Aaron Zevy.

This story is narrated by the main character, Willy C. Jackson, a young black boy. He tells us about his best friend and neighbour, Josh Siegel.

The pair have much in common; they love to play basketball, watch scary movies and eat junk food.

Josh also happens to be Jewish, and Willy is excited to be invited over for dinner on the first night of Hanukkah.

In a simple, perfect way, Willy introduces the idea of this Jewish tradition.

On that first night of Hanukkah, after everyone is in bed, Willy is woken up by a crash and the sound of glass shattering. A stone has been thrown through the Siegel family’s window, directly at the menorah.

The police arrive and recommend that the Siegel family not light the menorah the next night. But they do and the same incident takes place.

Willy feels bad for his neighbours and comes up with an idea that requires going to a store with his dad and using up his allowance savings.

After the shopping trip, he tells each of his cul-de-sac neighbours about his idea and hands them the mystery purchase.

The story ends on that third night of Hanukkah with all the homes bearing a glowing menorah in the window.

After nearly three years of sharing my thoughts in this column, I hope it’s apparent that a story like this would truly move me.

I glanced over at my eight-year-old – a mother’s instinct to check in on her sensitive son. Sure enough, his head was bowed, his fingertips stroking his forehead. A telltale sign that he was also fighting a lump in this throat.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“That was really sad. I feel bad for that family…

Would somebody do that to us?”

“No.”

My mama bear, protective mode turned on.

“But you said Jewish people are our brothers and sisters.”

“Yes, they are. But, everybody is. Did you see the ending of the story? What did it mean that everybody had a menorah that night?”

“That they were being kind.”

“Yes. And there’s a really good word you should know: solidarity.

“The neighbours were showing solidarity, which means they were telling the Siegels that they were not alone, that they were supported and that the neighbours were standing together with them.”

I hugged my son by the glow of the Christmas tree.

Look out, world. Eight-year-old boys are learning the word ‘solidarity’. Eight-year-old boys are shedding tears at injustice.

All of this is moving with us into 2019 and that gives me hope.

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

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