Two people support each other in front of flowers at a makeshift memorial at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Robert Bowers, the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at the synagogue, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Two people support each other in front of flowers at a makeshift memorial at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Robert Bowers, the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at the synagogue, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Cole’s Notes: Hatred has no place anywhere

Challenge issued to combat acts of hatred with your own acts of kindness

Last March has been on my mind lately. You remember March, 2020, right? Toilet paper hoarders, Tiger King, the infamous celebrity Imagine video — there was a lot going on.

The world transformed around us in the months that followed. People stayed home as much as they could, many businesses closed their doors, and there was great speculation about the coronavirus. As tumultuous as that time was, something beautiful happened too.

It didn’t take long before people started decorating their windows with hearts. People were checking in on their loved ones, their friends, and their neighbours. Front-line workers of all stripes were regularly celebrated — entire neighbourhoods broke out in cheers and a cacophony of kitchenware clangs every evening at 7 p.m. It was common to hear the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’.

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But things don’t feel that way lately. In some ways, we’ve never been more divided. If you turn on your television, or use social media at any time today, you’re almost certain to encounter some type of hatred.

We’ve seen hatred rear its ugly head throughout the pandemic. Anti-Asian racism rose sharply in spring 2020, as did hate crimes against Asians. More recently, racism and hatred on the Island has been directed toward First Nations communities that disclose COVID-19 cases. This is completely unnacceptable. It’s incumbent on all of us to call out this hatred when we see it.

What if I told you that my mother had COVID, or my sibling, or my grandparents? Would it be as easy to be hateful towards them, or towards me, in that situation? I hope most of us would react with kindness and empathy, but that isn’t always the case.

With every thing that’s happened in the last year, it’s gotten harder to extend that kindness and empathy to everyone — especially people who regularly spout hatred and misinformation. A lot of us are wearing out, or wore out months ago. Our capacity for caring is being overwhelmed by daily tragedies, and outrages. In the face of all of that, it’s easy to forget that respect is our strength.

We accomplish so much more when we respect each other. When people feel safe and valued they’re less likely to respond hatefully to those around them. Respect allows us to build communities and engage in true dialogue. We can share our values, and connect on issues that matter to us. Many of us are dealing with the same issues. Our collective power could be put to far better use solving our problems than directing negativity toward each other.

Before we can do this we need to look inside ourselves and resolve our own hatred. We need to respectfully call out those who carry hatred, and let them know that there is no place for hate in our communities. But there also needs to be space for people to learn from their mistakes and change.

I know that we can all do our part to make the world a more respectful place. Why not start with Vancouver Island? We’ve already got a reputation for treating people with kindness, but there’s always more room for love in town.

So, this March I’m going to do a random act of kindness every single day. I’m going to tell people how much I love and appreciate them. I’m going to help out wherever I can, and be of service to others.

I’d like to invite everyone in the community to join in and practice kindness for the entire month of March. Kindness can be everything from buying a cinnamon bun for the next person in line, to refraining from name-calling on your local Facebook forum.

We could all use a world with more kindness and respect in it. So let’s make one, together.

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