Fighting against hate with kindness

We were nice to each other for a while after the towers came down

14 years ago today

Every year, the 11th day of this month is difficult for me, as I’m sure it is for a great many others.

Despite knowing this column will get drowned in the sea of other, “Where were you 14 years ago today?” columns, think-pieces and reflections, I will tell you briefly what today means to me.

I was attending university 14 years ago today. I lived off campus, and got ready for my day like it was any other. I walked down the street to the Tim Hortons between my place and the school, as I always did.

CNN was on every television in every corner of the store, and everyone’s faces were upturned, watching the towers come down.

To this day, I can’t even mentally picture the sight of those towers coming down and how hard it hit me without it hitting me the same way every time.

“That’s people.”

That’s all I remember thinking that day.

All day.

“That’s people.”

My girlfriend at the time was an American, and I ran to campus to see how she was. I don’t remember even buying my coffee.

We held each other and cried.

We cried for those people all day.

There hasn’t been a year since when I haven’t caught myself wiping a tear away for those people.

We’ve been through a ton of change in our society since that day.

Airport security has gotten more invasive and strict.

Security measures have been stepped up at public events where this strange, elusive entity we’ve become all-too-familiar with – “Terrorism” – may rear its head.

I had hoped that people would respond with kindness and compassion.

They did, for a time.

People were nicer to each other for a while.

But then the hate came back.

The distrust.

The skepticism.

Even today, when the photo of a child’s dead body lying face down on a beach has raised the profile of the Syrian refugee crisis – families fleeing bombs and gas and starvation whose only “crime” is being born in the wrong place on the planet – many think, “We can’t let them in! What if they’re terrorists?”

No. I’m not going to go off about refugees and people’s opinions on them.

That’s not what this column – that’s not what today – is going to be about.

Today is going to be about compassion, love, and acceptance.

I’m going to go back to the week after that terrible day 14 years ago when people, for a short time, at least, were kind to each other.

Today is going to be about kindness.

Be nice to people today. Don’t judge them. Don’t assume things about them. Look at your neighbours, the people around you – the lady in the store who is blocking the aisle with her cart, the guy in the big truck who cuts you off on Dogwood, the person who gives you a crappy haircut – and shrug it off instead of hating.

Maybe ask someone if they’re okay. Listen to their answer.

Almost 3,000 people died because of hate 14 years ago today.

Many more have died since then for the same reason.

Be nice to people today.

And if it feels good, maybe try doing it again tomorrow.