Category Archives: Guest Commentary

Leadership Lessons from LeBron James

Hugh head shot

By Hugh D. MacPhie

If your initial reaction to the title of this article is that there must be some typo or mistake, you can be forgiven. My hunch is that a Google search of “LeBron James” and “Leadership” might not yield many results. Leadership just isn’t part of the LeBron James brand.

Or so we thought.

But let me share why my admiration-level for LeBron James went up considerably.

I was at the Raptors-Cavaliers game with my family. And before tip off, from the perch of our nosebleed seats, I decided to just watch LeBron, because I wanted to see if he was going to do his chalk-dust thing.

But I witnessed something very different instead.

Pre-game, LeBron went up to every other player on his team, and either did a cool hand-shake, fist bump, or some other personal ritual along those lines. He did it with every player  – from the starting point guard, to the guy everyone knew wasn’t going to get off the bench all game.

He then shook hands with each of his coaches – looking them in the eye respectfully.

But he wasn’t done. Reaching into the stands, he shook hands with the Cleveland staff traveling the team. He the moved along further – warmly greeting what appeared to be the TV and radio crews in from Cleveland.

Along the way, LeBron hugged the bench staffer, who was literally about half his size. And he made a point – made a point – of approaching, fist-bumping, and hugging the guy whose job it is to wipe the sweat off of the players’ chairs during the game.

Every. Single. Person.

And LeBron did it authentically. With a combination of swagger and genuine respect shown to every person he touched.

I have got to believe, that even for the people who see a lot of LeBron, that those interactions make them feel pretty special.

So the next day I was sitting with a friend who leads a very large organization, and I relayed this story.

Because as a leader, he also creates that feeling of specialness with everyone he walks past, meets, or simply acknowledges.

For leaders, human interactions go beyond the functional requirements of getting things done. Those interactions also have a symbolic element.

If you go down to the cafeteria to get lunch, and genuinely interact with people in line and behind the counter, you’re doing a lot more than just picking up some food. You’re doing something that has a profound impact on the people you “touch”. And don’t think they won’t tell their own co-workers, and their family members, and their friends, about who talked to them, smiled at them, learned their name, and appeared to genuinely listen.

This idea – making the most of otherwise mundane interactions – doesn’t just apply to CEOs or rock stars or NBA basketball players. It applies to all of us.

Over the course of his life, LeBron learned that he was pretty good at basketball, and people see him as a role model for that reason alone. He has learned to exploit – in the very best sense of the term – the positive emotional impact that he can have on people by just acknowledging them.

And that can impact his organization’s effectiveness.

Final score? Cleveland 120, Toronto 112.




Warning: do not read this book

mccarthy cover

Dude. Definitely don’t read Blood Meridian.

I am telling you, do not read that book. That book will get inside your head and mess you up. And worst of all, you’ll have no idea what is happening – not to you AND NOT EVEN IN THE BOOK. I have been reading and re-reading it since 2009 and I am still fuzzy on even the most basic of plot details.

Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece is difficult to read for two reasons.

(I am leaving out the obvious reasons that apply to all of McCarthy’s books: he doesn’t use punctuation; you can never really tell who is speaking; many of the most important characters are never given any back story; there is no mention of what anyone is thinking or what their motivations are; dialogue is often written in Spanish without any translation.)

First, it is the most violent and repulsive thing probably ever written. Second, it’s written by Shakespeare. Well, Shakespeare but he’s an existentialist cowboy serial murderer.

And that’s why it will get in your head. The material is vile but the language is beautiful. It is definitely the kind of book you’ll have to hide in the freezer before bed time. But you’ll find yourself reading lengthy passages to anyone who will listen! It’s messed. Here is a sentence. I picked it completely at random.

“The dead lay awash in the shallows like victims of some disaster at sea and they were strewn along the salt foreshore in a havoc of blood and entrails.”

WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING IN THIS SENTENCE??? Nobody knows. But it’s horrible and beautifully written and I want to read more sentences just like it. That’s the problem. Every sentence in this book disgusts you but you want to read more and then you feel disgusted with yourself for wanting to read more.

But the gore-geous rendering of violence (see what I did there?) is nothing compared to the judge. Judge Holden is the bad guy. I guess. Everyone in this book is so awful it’s hard to say who the bad guy is. The novel is about a bunch of cowboys that ride to Mexico to scalp Indians (and, eventually, anybody) in 1849. But it turns out the Yumas and the Maricopas were schooling people in scalping long before these guys show up.

So pretty much all of the characters are scum; but the judge is definitely the antagonist by the end of the story. However, everything he says is just out of this world brilliant. He’s certainly evil. I can’t even bring myself to detail some of the horrific things he does in the book. But then there’s passages like this:

“They posted guards atop the azotea and unsaddled the horses and drove them out to graze and the judge took one of the packanimals and emptied out the paniers and went off to explore the works. In the afternoon he sat in the compound breaking ore samples with a hammer, the feldspar rich in red oxide of copper and native nuggets in whose organic lobations he purported to read news of the earth’s origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. The judge smiled.

Books lie, he said.

God don’t lie.

No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words.

He held up a chunk of rock.

He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.”

I KNOW! RIGHT?!? Pretty much every scene with the judge is that badass. By the end of that passage you don’t even care what an azotea or a lobation is. Here are a few more of his quotes:

“Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupation of men engaged in rash undertakings.”

“… and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way.”

“Your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery.”

And the problem is, after a while, this starts to make sense (!) But it is impossible to make sense of. That is why McCarthy is never spoken of without mention of other works. (The cover of my copy of Blood Meridian compares it to Melville, Faulkner, Dante’s Inferno, The Iliad, and the Bible. Just on the cover!)

No one can assimilate him into a worldview. They can’t speak of him on his own terms. Academia and reviewers have never been able to talk about this book without comparing it to Milton, Dostoyevsky, or Shakespeare. You would think this means Cormac McCarthy is great, that he is a great writer – but that’s not what it means at all.

It means there is no way to interpret him comfortably without using accepted categories to pacify his bizarre trek into the absolute depths of everything that is revolting about human nature. He has no predecessors. You can add up Milton and Shakespeare and Homer and Dante and Dostoyevsky and King James and throw them into a giant literary stew and you would never get a passage like this:

“Now driving in a wild frieze of headlong horses with eyes walled and teeth cropped and naked riders with clusters of arrows clenched in their jaws and their shields winking in the dust and up the far side of the ruined ranks in a piping of boneflutes and dropping down off the sides of their mounts with one heel hung in the withers strap and their short bows flexing beneath the outstretched necks of the ponies until they had circled the company and cut their ranks in two and then rising up again like funhouse figures, some with nightmare faces painted on their breasts, riding down the unhorsed Saxons and spearing and clubbing them and leaping from their mounts with knives and running about on the ground with a peculiar bandylegged trot like creatures driven to alien forms of locomotion and stripping the clothes from the dead and seizing them up by the hair and passing their blades about the skulls of the living and the dead alike and snatching aloft the bloody wigs and hacking and chopping at the naked bodies, ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries to their fellows.”


Don’t read this book, man. I’m telling you. You’ve been warned.

–David Smith

Lowering “national age” of marriage to 16 will encourage forced marriage



by Homa Arjomand
Bill S-7

Bill S-7 needs to be amended. No doubt if it passes, it will put the safety of young girls and women in danger. A joined force is needed to prevent this from happening.

This Bill was introduced by Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander. This bill has already been passed by the Senate on 16 of December 2014. It was supposed to amend the Immigration and Refugee protection Act, as well as the Civil Marriage Act and Criminal Code.

This bill is an attempt to curb the practice of oppressive culture. And indeed it did so with respect to polygamy. But while closing one gate, at the same time it left other gates open allowing 7th century tradition to haunt young girls and women. This act is meant to be for communities under the influence of religion and “backward culture.”

Those communities practice the act child bride, forced and arranged marriage, child trafficking for the purpose of marriage and polygamy all are seen as the norm. By lowering the age of marriage from 18 to 16 years old, this provides an open invitation for backwards culture to freely practice their inhumane acts towards young girls; leaving the girls at the mercy of parents, sheik, imams and 7th century customs as well religious institutions to legally violate their rights. Lowering the age of marriage to 16 is in fact the equivalent of legalizing child bride and child trafficking.

Bill-S7 also fails to recognize that girls over the age of 18 need protection from forced and arrange marriage. According to Statistics Canada catalogue no. 85-002-X, half of all Canadian women have experienced physical or sexual violence. If we consider women and girls from communities influenced by religion and submissive tradition as Canadian too, then the expectation is for them to be treated the same.

For abused women in Canada there are tools in place to support them legally including, legal aid and outreach counseling services, to boost their self esteem as well as shelters for abused women, to provide a safe place for them to stay and to assist them in fleeing their abusers and ultimately in achieving their goals. All of the above services are there for abused women and their children and none would ever hold back their service because of their age.

The question is why does Bill-S7 fail to protect Canadian girls over the age of 18 who are forced to a forced and arranged marriages outside of Canadian borders?

What this act failed to touch upon is the psychological and social coercion that forces girls and women irrespective of their age to arranged and forced marriages; the role of culture and tradition pressure on girls and women is being completely ignored. As if girls over 18 are willingly with no pressure agree to marry someone who they have never met and associated with.

It is hurtful to see that bill S-7 only touched the surface of several problematic areas with respect to child bride, arranged as well as forced marriages. This bill also did not ban or put any restriction against Bride Price (that is a price paid by the groom to the bride) and dowry ( property , gold or goods given to the groom by the bride’s family) both of these traditional acts have already claimed the life of several women in Canada, particularly in communities that are influenced by tradition and religions. The bill must pay more attention to the effect of these anti-women tradition and legally ban them. By not mentioning Bride Price and Dowry means it is not a harmful practice even though people in Canada and elsewhere are witnessing bride burning or bride suicide rates rising.

To make this matter worse Bill S-7 did not place any supportive bodies for women and young girls who have been victims of arranged and forced marriage outside of Canadian borders. The question is which legal body can they contact outside of Canada? Where can they go if they finally manage to flee? How would they be able to obtain their legal documents again?

Sure enough they have been traumatized, who will be in contact with them to boost their courage and self esteem? I strongly believe that without placing the right legislative act and without proper tools in place to support all women irrespective of their age, women and girls would never be protected.

As a women and children’s’ rights activists I would like to touch base on issues that somehow have been accepted and gradually are being recognized as way of life by society at large. I want to emphasize that it is not ok to see tradition dictating the future of our young girls and women. Bill S-7 can be improved and can make huge progressive changes for a better life of all residents of Canada.


Polygamy, child bride, arranged and forced marriages, honor killing have great ties with anti-women culture and religious movement in particular with the Islamic movement globally. Canada is not immune from it either. As soon as the promoters of the religious movement in particular, the Islamic movement find an ability to penetrate into the legal system, more women, girls and children will be subjected to violence. Women and young girls will face harsh consequences for refusing to follow these backward traditions of their families’ culture.

My aim is to focus on child bride, arranged and forced marriages as this bill attempts to pay closer attentions to aforementioned issues.

With respect to arranged marriage and forced marriage which go hand in hand, the bill tries to water it down and sugar coats them. Bill S-7 indicates: “- in arrange marriages family and friends play a central role in bringing the couple together and arrange the term of a wedding with consent of individuals concerned.”

Several essential problematic issues are missing in this happy and sugared coated picture, the age of these two individuals is not mentioned, the fact that these two individuals have no rights to date or have any physical interaction before their wedding night, the pressure to marry someone from their parents’ religion or the same cast of their parents; there is no love or romance involved in an arranged and forced marriages; women have no control over their destiny plus the heavy obligation on both individuals in particular the girls and children in preparation of becoming a good bride, based on their parents value.

None of the above problems have been touched upon or even mentioned in the bill. The reality is that arranged marriage is not a contract between two individuals. It is a moral and financial contract between two families. This fact alone is against the Civil Marriage Act.

Marriage by arrangement is a dreadful violence against children and young girls as they are all pressured by the members of their family, relatives and community members to conform to it. State legislation and proper tools are needed to ensure that girls and women are free and to end this ancient regressive traditional way of marriage. State has a duty to protect all individuals within the community. It can be done by putting the right progressive, modern and compatible 21st century legislative Act and the creation of enforcement tools.

To understand the complexity of arranged and forced marriage I will present the following case; the name and country of origin have been modified to protect the individuals identity.

Minasadat is a young woman who was arranged to marry her first cousin at birth. He was 12 years old when she was born. She stated she cannot remember when she was told that Omar is her future husband as far as she is concerned she always knew. She was constantly reminded by all her family members and relatives as well as all of her neighbors that she is the chosen one for Omar.

She remembers several harsh incidents that caused her to be very fearful of him and made her freeze as soon as she heard his voice, his smell or presence in the house. One particular incident sticks out with her even now. When she was picking up small round stones from her back yard when she was in grade one, Omar, who was 18 at the time, suddenly appeared yelling and picked her up, rushed inside and threw her against the wall, where her mother was sitting talking to other guests at home.

She said that she remembers blood was covering her face and Omar was still yelling and her mother was apologizing to Omar. She ended up having 22 stitches on her head. She was told at the hospital that Omar was angry because his future wife was playing with dirt instead of be trained to be a good wife. It was her duty to learn to become a good wife like all her aunts, her grandmother and exactly like her own mother.

She was watched and disciplined not only by her own parents but also by the parents of her future husband and by her future husband, Omar. To make the matter worse the future husband can dictate her how to behave and what to wear or whom to play with. Everything that she did needed to be approved by Omar as well. That is the tradition of arranged marriage.

There are other cases of arranged marriage too and that is when parents decide that their children are at the right age to marry. They would find a bride or a groom according to the parents’ value and belief. In all of the above cases the parties involved are not allowed to date or be seen together alone.

If on a rare occasion the parents permit them to go out, a trusted person must accompany them. That person could be a brother, younger sister or an adult. That trusted person has to spy on them and report back to the parents or guardians. In fact this backward tradition is imposed on them by their parents or guardians or other members of the family and relatives.

These types of marriages are happening in Canada even among well-educated boys and girls due to fear of rejection from their parents and their communities. These young educated boys and girls become the victim of their parent’s tradition despite of having a thirst for a romance in their lives.

Sometimes these individuals won’t see each other until the wedding night, they are arranged to marry someone in other provinces in Canada. Sometimes their marriage is performed without both parties being present as one might be living in Canada or elsewhere and the other in a different country; in this case the parents will opt for someone to act on his or her behalf to perform the marriage. As result the first time the couple will meet each other would be at the Airport.

Women and children’s rights activists in Iran and globally are running an International Campaign against arranged and forced marriages as they are both in the same category. Some of the activists are losing their lives in order to get rid of this backward tradition that has been a barrier for a healthy relationship between couples. Most of marriage sponsorship in Canada or elsewhere is done through arranged marriages. “Azdevaj posty” translation of that is “Parcel Marriage” is a name given to these types of marriage.

The question is what tools a civil society is going to put in place in order to protect these vulnerable individuals?

The other issue with arranged marriage or “Parcel Marriage” is that it is putting the safety and wellbeing of women in the hands of their so called husbands. If there is no law to protect them then the abuse escalates and their marriage life becomes unbearable. Suicide rate is very high among these victims. One of my clients “Zamaneh” (name altered to protect the clients identity) married by arranged and met her husband at Pearson Airport for the first time after being married with him for almost two years (parcel marriage).

Two days later she was asked to return back to her home country because according to him she was not virgin. They both are holding a degree, one from a university in Canada and other from his home country. The police was called but he was not arrested as he committed no crime. Instead she was sent to a shelter for abused women as she said that she cannot return back home because of the embarrassment that she has caused her family and relatives.

She might even face much harsher consequence, if she returns back home. If she was from one of the countries ruled by an Islamic state, she would face death by stoning. According to her so-called husband she was in relation with another man while she was married to him. Bill S-7 states there is consent for marriage by both parties but it refused to state that these consents are not based on the free will of both individuals.

Fear of being disowned by her parents and family members, fear of isolation without any legal protection from the state and society at large leaves them with no other choice but to agree with the parents’ way of marriage.

 –Homa Arjomand

Widows and Orphans in Kenya: Hard Lives in Hard Times


In my time in Kenya, one of the projects I worked on was the Widow`s Project.

I visited the widows in different areas of Kenya, giving Bible talks, having conversations with them and giving them gifts that were generously donated for them.

In Kenya, if someone is widowed, the husband’s family comes in and takes all of their possessions, leaving them literally with nothing. There is no financial aid, nothing. They are left to fend for themselves, and if they have children it is even worse as they have to feed their children as well as themselves.

Some of the widows have had people trample on their land, trespass and use their land to plant their own gardens.  The widows are treated with disrespect in the market places, they are considered the lowest of society.  This was sad to hear as a Bible scholar knowing that God requires us to look after the widows and treat them with respect.

Having heard some of the stories, I felt very sorry for them and was a little sad going to Ndalu to visit the widows there. When we arrived, we were greeted with song and dance, and welcomed with open arms. After having a Bible class, they told us about a project they started on their own, together. They make baskets and sell them in the market for 500 shillings each (about $5 Canadian). They each donate as much money as they can for the supplies. Here they are working together, banding together to overcome their poverty. This was very inspiring to hear.

After our visit, they presented us with a live chicken. Tabby and I did not know what to do with it, so when we returned to Kamukuywa, we gave it to George, the chef at the school here so his family could have it.

George himself was orphaned and lived with his step-mother when he was a child. He arrives at the school very early in the morning – 4 am…I can hear him through my bedroom window when he arrives as the metal kitchen door makes a loud noise. When he was asked if it was difficult getting up that early he said “No, my step-mother used to beat me every day because she didn’t like me. I used to get up very early and leave to go to school so I would not get beaten. I am very lucky that I can get up so early. The other chefs here, they are not as lucky as I am.”

He considers himself lucky! Here is a man that was able to put his past behind him and consider it luck that he is who he is today and that he can get up early because he got up early to avoid beatings as a child.

I have seen this a lot with people here, they have led such terrible lives, but they are always smiling and saying they are happy and glad to be where they are now.

My whole perspective on life has changed completely after hearing countless stories of the people in Kenya. I will always remember them and remember the people behind the stories. They have kept their faith in God through it all and I find that truly inspiring.

–Jennifer Bell

NOTE FROM RITA SMITH: Jennifer Bell has started a crowdfunding site to raise funds which will be spent to make life a little easier for the Widows in Kenya. Personally, I love the idea of funding a goat (which costs only $50 and provides milk, baby goats, and meat) although Jen points out that funds can be used for many other helpful necessities as well. Please donate here. Thanks!

Phonics is a Four-Letter Word


by Malkin Dare

Before the invention of the first alphabet, there was only picture writing, and beginning readers had to learn a different symbol for every word. But once the Phoenicians brilliantly invented a new method of writing down language by matching each sound to a different letter, the job of learning to read became infinitely easier. For the next 3000 years or so, children had it good when it came to learning to read, as they had to learn only about 30 or 35 letters and their sounds. Until, that is, about 60 years ago.

Then, for no obvious reason, educators began to abandon this time-tested method of teaching reading in favour a new approach that paid little attention to the letters and their sounds (phonics), but rather taught the children to guess at words by their shape, context, initial letter, or picture clues. This new approach has had a lot of different names over these 60 years – Look-Say, Language Experience, Whole Language, Balanced Literacy – but each new iteration continued to downplay phonics.
Controversy has now been raging for at least 50 years over the best way to teach children to read. In the research community,converging research from a number of different fields has definitively settled the question in favour of systematic phonics – so much so that the issue is no longer being researched. But most education leaders still deny the importance of systematic phonics and refuse to include it in their reading programs. The result is a 42% illiteracy rate, according to Statistics Canada.
If your child is not a fluent reader by the end of grade one, you should teach him or her yourself, using systematic phonics. If your child has not yet started grade 1, you would be wise to teach him or her to read before entering school (it is generally harder to teach a child to read once he or she has formed the bad habits engendered by non-phonetic methods). Teaching a child to read is usually not very difficult, and phonetically-taught children typically do very well in public school classrooms.
Here are some of the most common responses to parents’ requests for systematic phonics.
1.  Because all children learn differently, we use a variety of methods to teach them to read. No one method is best.
It is true that children are very different, and even the same children use different methods at different times. The claim is not that every child will learn better with phonics and that no child can learn without phonics. We simply state that phonics is the single best bet, and that it should be the systematic starting point for teaching nearly all children to read in grade 1.
2.  But we DO teach phonics.
Most primary teachers believe that it is harmful to teach children the letters and their sounds by rote or “in isolation”. In addition, since teachers have been told that the reading experience must be individualized and meaningful for every child, most teachers avoid whole-class “lock-step” instruction and teach phonics only on an incidental “as-needed” basis. This kind of phonics is sometimes called phony phonics – intermittent and random attention to letter-sound relationships on a low-priority basis over several years.
Real phonics involves a lot of practice isolating the sounds in words, along with the systematic teaching of the letters and their sounds, one at a time, at a fairly rapid pace, and in an appropriate order, followed by extensive practice in combining the letters to make words. The vast majority of real phonics students are fluent readers by the end of the first year of instruction, and there is thus no further need for phonics instruction.
3.  We consider the higher-order skills, like comprehension and appreciation, to be more important the the mere ability to decode words.
Children who aren’t fluent readers are most unlikely to be able to comprehend or appreciate text.
4.  If parents would only read to their children, teachers would be able to teach the students to read.
Educators who wring their hands and point their fingers at disadvantaged parents for not reading to their children are being irresponsible. They should acknowledge the fact that some parents are not in a position to read to their children for a variety of reasons, such as their own poor education or lack of time. Scolding such parents will not help their children learn to read.
Instead of choosing a method which is more likely to work with students who have been read to, educators should accept reality and adopt a method which will work despite any shortcomings in their students’ parents or society in general. That method is systematic phonics.
5.  Many children are learning-disabled.
Labelling non-readers “learning-disabled” is a way to shift the blame onto the children and allow educators to sleep at night. Virtually every child can be taught to read fluently in one school year, provided he or she is taught using systematic phonics.
This article was abridged from a much longer article that can be accessed by clicking here.

The Erne from the Coast



When I moved to Ontario in Grade 8, this was one of our English literature readings. It blew my mind completely! The writing is engrossing and entrancing; however, what amazed me was that Canadians expected Grade 8 students to read this just like you would read any other simple piece of writing. To this day, the excitement, the fear, the courage, the cruelty, the violence, and the hypocrisy of the tale take my breath away. For decades the sentence that echoed in my memory was “He was fighting for his eyes.”

This piece actually motivated me to NEVER be like the parents in this story; and to realize what you put at risk when you humiliate another person. 

–Rita Smith




(from the Atlantic, April, 1938)



“Where’s Harry?” Mr. Thorburn came out of the back of the farmhouse. He stood in the middle of the well-kept farmyard. “Here, Harry!” he shouted. “Hi, Harry!”

He stood leaning on a stick and holding a letter in his hand, as he looked round the farmyard.

Mr. Thorburn was a red- faced, powerful man; he wore knee breeches and black leather gaiters.

His face and well- fleshed body told you at a glance that Thorburn’s Farm had not done too badly during the twenty years of his married life.

Harry, a fair-haired boy, came running across the yard.

“Harry,” said the farmer to his son, “here’s a letter come for old Michael. It will be about this visit he’s to pay to his sick brother. Nice time of year for this to happen, I must say. You’d better take the letter to him at once.”

“Where to?” said Harry.

‘He’s up on the hill, of course,’ said the farmer. ‘In his hut or with the sheep somewhere. Your own brains could have told you that. Can’t you ever use them? Go on, now.’

“Right,” said Harry. He turned to go.

“Don’t take all day,” said his father.

Mr. Thorburn stood looking after his son. He leaned heavily on the thorn stick which he always carried. Harry went through the gate in the low gray wall which ran round one side of the yard, where there were no buildings. Directly he left the farmyard, he began to climb. Thorburn’s Farm was at the end of a valley. Green fields lay in front of it, and a wide road sloped gently down to the village a mile away; behind the hill soared up, and high on the ridge of the hill was Michael’s hut, three miles off, and climbing all the way.

Harry was thirteen, very yellow-haired and blue-eyed. He was a slip of a boy. It seemed unlikely that he could ever grow into such a stolid, heavy man as his father. Mr. Thorburn was every pound of fourteen stone, as the men on the farm could have told you the day he broke his leg and they had to carry him back to the farmhouse on a hurdle.

Harry started off far too fast, taking the lower slopes almost at a run. His body was loose in its movements, and coltish, and by the time the real work began he was already tiring. However, the April day as fresh and rainy, and the cold of it kept him going. Gray gusts and showers swept of the hillside, and between them, with changing light, came faint gleams of sunshine, so that the shadows of the clouds raced along the hill beside him. Presently he cleared the gorse and heather, and came out on to the open hillside, which was bare except for short, tussocky grass. His home began to look far off beneath him. He could see his mother walking down towards the village with one of the dogs, and the baker’s cart coming up from the village towards her. The fields were brown and green round the farmhouse and the buildings were gray, with low stone walls.

He stopped several times to look back on the small distant farm. It took him well over an hour to reach the small hut where Michael lived by day and slept during most nights throughout the lambing season. He was not in his hut, but after a few minutes’ search Harry found him.

Michael was sitting without movement, watching the sheep and talking to his gray and white dog. He had a sack across his shoulders, which made him look rather like a rock with gray lichen on it. He looked up at Harry without moving.

“It’s a hildy wildy day,” he said, “but there’ll be a glent of sunsheen yet.”

Harry handed Michael the letter. Michael looked at it, and opened it very slowly, and spread the crackling paper out on his knee with brown hands. Harry watched him for some minutes as he studied the letter in silence.

“Letter’ll be aboot my brother,” said Michael at length. “I’m to goa and see him.” He handed the letter to Harry. “Read it, Harry,” he said. Harry read the letter to him twice.

“Tell thy dad,” said Michael, “I’ll be doon at farm i’ the morn. Happen I’ll be away three days. And tell him new lamb was born last neet, but it’s sickly.”

They looked at the small white bundle that lay on the grass beside its mother, hardly moving.

“I’ll pick up,” said Michael. He slowly stood and looked round at the distance.

Michael had rather long hair; it was between gray and white in color, and it blew in the wind. It was about the hue of an old sheep’s skull that has lain out on the bare mountain. Michael’s clothes and face and hair made Harry feel that he had slowly faded out on the hillside. He was all the color of rain on the stones and last year’s bracken.

“It’ll make a change,” said Michael, “going off and sleeping in a bed.”

“Good-bye,” said Harry. “You’ll be down at the farm to-morrow, then?”

“Aw reet,” said Michael.

“Aw reet,” said Harry

Harry went slowly back to the farm. The rain had cleared off, and the evening was sunny, with a watery light, by the time he was home. Michael had been right. Harry gave his father the message, and told him about the lamb.

“It’s a funny thing,” said Harry, “that old Michael can’t even read.”

“Don’t you be so smart,” said Mr. Thorburn. “Michael knows a thing or two you don’t. You don’t want to go muckering about with an old fellow like Michael – best shepherd I’ve ever known.”

Harry went away feeling somewhat abashed. Lately it seemed his father was always down on him, telling him he showed no sign of sense; telling him he ought to grow up a bit; telling him he more like seven than thirteen.

He went to the kitchen. This was a big stone-floored room with a huge plain table, where the whole household and several of the farm hands could sit down to dinner or tea at the same time.

His mother and his aunt from the village were still lingering over their teacups, but there was no one else in the room except a small tortoise-shell cat, which was pacing round them asking for milk in a loud voice. The yellow evening light filled the room. His mother gave him tea and ham and bread and butter, and he ate it in silence, playing with the cat as he did so.




Next morning at nine o’clock there was a loud rap with a stick at the kitchen door, and there by the pump, with the hens running round his legs, stood Michael.

“Good morning, Mrs. Thorburn,” he said. “Is Measter about?”

“Come on in with you,” said Mrs. Thorburn, “and have a good hot cup o’ tea. Have you eaten this morning?”

Michael clanked into the kitchen, his hobnails striking the flags, and he sat down at one end of the table.

“Aye,” he said, “I’ve eaten, Missus. I had a good thoom-bit when I rose up, but a cup of tea would be welcome.”

As he drank the tea, Mr. Thorburn came in, bringing Harry with him. Michael, thought Harry, always looked rather strange when he was down in the village or in the farmhouse; rather as a pile of bracken or an armful of leaves would look if it were emptied out on to the parlor floor.

Michael talked to Mr. Thorburn about the sheep; about the new lamb; about young Bob, his nephew, who was coming over from another farm to look after the sheep while he was away.

“Tell en to watch new lamb,” said Michael; “it’s creachy. I’ve put en in my little hut, and owd sheep is looking roun’ t’ doorway.”

After his cup of tea Michael shook hands all round. Then he set off down to the village, where he was going to fall in with a lift.

Soon after he had gone, Bob arrived at the farm. He was a tall young man with a freckled face and red hair, big-boned and very gentle in his voice and movements. He listened to all Mr. Thorburn’s instructions and then set out for the shepherd’s hut.

However, it seemed that Mr. Thorburn’s luck with his shepherds was dead out. For the next evening, just as it was turning dark, Bob walked into the farmhouse kitchen. His face was tense with pain, and he was nursing his left arm with his right hand. Harry saw the ugly distorted shape and swelling at the wrist. Bob had fallen and broken the wrist earlier in the day, and by evening the pain had driven him back.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Thorburn,” he kept on saying. “I’m a big fule.”

The sheep had to be left for that night. Next morning it was again a cold, windy day, and clouds the color of gunmetal raced over the hill. The sun broke through fitfully, filling the valley with a steel-blue light in which the green grass looked vivid. Mr. Thorburn decided to send Harry out to the shepherd’s hut for the day and night.

“Happen old Michael will be back some time to- morrow,” he said. “You can look to the sheep, Harry, and see to that sick lamb for us. It’s a good chance to make yourself useful.”

Harry nodded.

“You can feed the lamb. Bob said it didn’t seem to suck enough, and you can let me know if anything else happens. And you can keep an eye on the other lambs and see they don’t get over the edges. There’s no need to fold them at night; just let the dog round them up and see the flock is near the hut.”

“There’s blankets and everything in the hut, Harry,” said Mrs. Thorburn, “and a spirit lamp to make tea. You can’t come to harm.”

Harry set off up the hill and began to climb. Out on the hilltop it was very lonely, and the wind was loud and gusty, with sudden snatches of rain. The sheep kept near the wooden hut most of the time; it was built in the lee of the ridge and the best shelter was to be found near it. Harry looked after the sick lamb and brewed himself tea. He had Tassie, the gray and white sheepdog, for company. Time did not hang heavy. When evening came he rounded up the sheep and counted them, and, true to advice that Michael had given him, he slept in his boots as a true shepherd does, warmly wrapped up in the rugs.

He was awakened as soon as it was light by the dog barking. He went out in the gray dawn light, and found a rustle and agitation among the sheep. Tassie ran to him and back towards the sheep.

The sheep were starting up alert, and showed a tendency to scatter. Harry looked round, wondering what the trouble was. Then he saw. A bird was hovering over the flock, and it wasthis that had attracted the sheep’s attention. But what bird was it? It hovered like a hawk, soaring on outstretched wings; yet it was much too big for a hawk. As the bird came nearer Harry was astonished at its size. Once or twice it approached and then went soaring and floating away again. It was larger than any bird he had ever seen before – brownish in color, with a gray head and a hawk’s beak.

Suddenly the bird began to drop as a hawk drops. A knot of sheep dashed apart. Tassie rushed towards the bird, his head down and his tail streaming out behind him. Harry followed. This must be an eagle, he thought. He saw it, looking larger still now it was on the ground standing with outstretched wings over a lamb.

Tassie attacked, snarling in rage. The eagle rose at him. It struck at him with its feet and a flurry of beating wings. The dog was thrown back. He retreated slowly, snarling savagely as he went, his tail between his legs. He was frightened now, and uncertain what to do.

The eagle turned back to the lamb, took it in its talons again, and began to rise. It could not move quickly near the ground, and Harry came up with it. At once the eagle put the lamb on a rock and turned on him. He saw its talons driving towards his face, claws and spurs of steel – a stroke could tear your eyes out. He put up his arms in fear, and he felt the rush of wings round his face. With his arm above his head he sank on one knee.

When he looked up again, the eagle was back on the lamb. It began to fly with long slow wing beats. At first it scarcely rose, and flew with the lamb almost on the ground.

Harry ran, throwing a stone. He shouted. Tassie gave chase, snapping at the eagle as it went. But the eagle was working towards a chasm, a sheer drop in the hillside where no one could follow it. In another moment it was floating in the air, clear and away. Then it rose higher, and headed towards the coast, which was a few miles away over the hill.

Harry stood and watched it till it was out of sight. When it was gone, he turned and walked slowly back to the hut. There was not a sound to be heard now except the sudden rushes of wind. The hillside was bare and coverless except for the scattered black rocks. Tassie walked beside him. The dog was very subdued and hardly glanced to right or left.

It took some time to round the sheep up, or to find, at least, where the various parts of the flock had scattered themselves. The sick lamb and its mother had been enclosed all this time in a small fold near the hut. The ewe was still terrified.

An hour later Harry sent off down the mountain side to the farm. Tassie looked after him doubtfully. He ran several times after him, but Harry sent him back to the hut.

It was the middle of the morning when Harry came back to the farmyard again. His father was standing in the middle of the yard, leaning on his stick, and giving advice to one of his cowmen.

He broke off when he saw Harry come in through the gate, and walk towards him across the farmyard.

“Well,” he said, “anything wrong, Harry? I thought you were going to stay till Michael came back.”

“We’ve lost a lamb,” said Harry, breathlessly. “It’s been carried off by an eagle. It must have been an eagle.”

“An eagle?” said Mr. Thorburn. He gave a laugh which mocked Harry. “Why didn’t you stop it?”

“I tried,” said Harry. “But I . . .”

Mr. Thorburn was in a bad mood. He had sold some heifers the day before at a disappointing price. He had had that morning a letter from the builders about repairs to some of the farm buildings, and there was work to be done which he could hardly afford. He was worried about Michael’s absence. He felt as if the world were bearing down on him, and he had too many burdens to support.

He suddenly shouted at Harry, and his red face turned darker red.

“That’s a lie!” he said. “There’s been no eagle here in my lifetime. What’s happened? Go on – tell me.”

Harry stood before him. He looked at his father, but said nothing.

“You’ve lost that lamb,” said Thorburn. “Let it fall down a hole or something. Any child from the village could have watched those sheep for a day. Then you’re frightened, and come back here and lie to me.”

Harry still said nothing.

“Come here,” said Thorburn suddenly. He caught him by the arm and turned him round. “I’ll teach you not to lie to me,” he said. He raised his stick and hit Harry as hard as he could; then again and again.

“It’s true,” began Harry, and then cried out with pain at the blows.

At the third or fourth blow he wrenched himself away. Thorburn let him go. Harry walked away as fast as he could, through the gate and out of the yard without looking round.

“Next time it will be a real beating,” his father shouted after him. “Bring the eagle back, and then I’ll believe you.”




As soon as Harry was through the gate, he turned behind one of the barns where he was out of sight from the yard. He stood trembling and clenching his fists. He found there were tears on his face, and he forced himself not to cry. The blows hurt, yet they did not hurt very seriously.

He would never have cried for that. But it had been done in front of another man. The other man had looked on, and he and his father had been laughing as he had almost run away. Harry clenched his fists; even now they were still talking about him.

He began to walk and then run up the hillside towards the hut. When he reached it, he was exhausted. He flung himself on the mattress and punched it again and again and clenched his teeth. The day passed and nobody came from the farm. He began to feel better, and presently a new idea struck him, and with it a new hope. He prayed now that old Michael would not return to-day; that he would be able to spend another night alone in the hut; and that the eagle would come back next morning and attack the sheep again, and give him one more chance.

Harry went out and scanned the gray sky, and then knelt down on the grass and prayed for the eagle to come. Tassie, the gray and white sheepdog, looked at him questioningly. Soon it was getting dark, and he walked about the hill and rounded up the sheep. He counted the flock, and all was well. Then he looked round for a weapon. There was no gun in the hut, but he found a thick stave tipped with metal, part of some broken tool that had been thrown aside. He poised the stave in his hand and swung it; it was just a good weight to hit with. He would have to go straight at the eagle without hesitation and break its skull. After thinking about this for some time, he made himself tea, and ate some bread and butter and cold meat.

Down at the farm Mr. Thorburn in the evening told his wife what had happened. He was quite sure there had been no eagle. Mrs. Thorburn did not say much, but she said it was an extraordinary thing for Harry to have said. She told her husband that he ought not to have beaten the boy, but should have found out what the trouble really was.

“But I dare say there is no great harm done,” she ended, philosophically.

Harry spent a restless night. He slept and lay awake by turns, but, sleeping or waking, he was tortured by the same images. He saw all the events of the day before. He saw how the eagle had first appeared above him; how it had attacked; how it had driven off Tassie and then him. He remembered his fear, and he planned again just how he could attack the eagle when it came back.

Then he thought of himself going down towards the farm and he saw again the scene with his father.

All night long he saw these pictures and other scenes from his life. In every one of them he had made some mistake; he made himself look ridiculous, and grown men had laughed at him. He had failed in strength or in common sense; he was always disappointing himself and his father.

He was too young for his age. He was still a baby.

So the night passed. Early in the morning he heard Tassie barking.

He jumped up, fully clothed, and ran outside the hut. The cold air made him shiver; but he saw at once that his prayer had been answered. There was the eagle, above him, and already dropping down towards the sheep. It floated, poised on huge wings. The flock stood nervously huddled. Suddenly, as before, the attacker plunged towards them. They scattered, running in every direction. The eagle followed, and swooped on one weakly running lamb. At once it tried to rise again, but its heavy wing beats took it along the earth. Near the ground it seemed cumbersome and awkward. Tassie was after it like a flash; Harry seized his weapon, the stave tipped with iron, and followed. When Tassie caught up with the eagle it turned and faced him, standing over the lamb.

Harry, as he ran, could see blood staining the white wood of the lamb’s body; the eagle’s wings were half spread out over it, and moving slowly. The huge bird was grayish-brown with a white head and tail. The beak was yellow, and the legs yellow and scaly.

It lowered its head, and with a fierce movement threatened Tassie; then, as the dog approached, it began to rock and stamp from foot to foot in a menacing dance; then it opened its beak and gave its fierce, yelping cry. Tassie hung back, his ears flattened against his head, snarling, creeping by inches towards the eagle; he was frightened, but he was brave. Then he ran in to attack.

The eagle left the lamb. With a lunging spring it aimed heavily at Tassie. It just cleared the ground and beat about Tassie with its wings, hovering over him. Tassie flattened out his body to the earth and turned his head upwards with snapping jaws. But the eagle was over him and on him, its talons plunged into his side, and a piercing scream rang out. The eagle struck deliberately at the dog’s skull three times; the beak’s point hammered on his head, striking downwards and sideways. Tassie lay limp on the ground, and, where his head had been, a red mixture of blood and brains flowed on the grass. When Harry took his eyes away from the blood, the eagle was standing on the lamb again.

Harry approached the eagle slowly, step by step. He gripped his stick firmly as he came. The eagle put its head down. It rocked on its feet as if preparing to leap. Behind the terrific beak, sharp as metal, was a shallow head, flat and broad as a snake’s, glaring with light yellow unanimal eyes. The head and neck made waving movements towards him.

At a pace or two from the eagle Harry stood still. In a second he would make a rush. He could break the eagle’s skull he told himself, with one good blow; then he could avenge Tassie and stand up to his father.

But he waited too long. The eagle tried to rise, and with its heavy sweeping beats was beginning to gain speed along the ground. Harry ran, stumbling over the uneven ground, among the boulders and outcroppings of rock, trying to strike at the eagle as he went. But as soon as the eagle was in the air it was no longer heavy and clumsy. There was a sudden rush of wings and buffeting about his head as the eagle turned to drive him off. For a second he saw the talons sharp as metal, backed by the metal strength of the legs, striking at his face. He put up his arm.

At once it was seared with a red hot paid, and he could see the blood rush out.

He stepped back, and back again. The eagle, after this one fierce swoop at him, went round in a wide, low circle, and returned to the lamb. Harry saw that his coat sleeve was in ribbons, and that blood was running off the ends of his fingers and falling to the ground.

He stood panting; the wind blew across the empty high ground. The sheep had vanished from sight. Tassie lay dead near by, and he was utterly alone on the hills. There was nobody to watch what he did. The eagle might hurt him, but it could not jeer at him. He attacked it again, but already the eagle with its heavy wing beats had cleared the ground; this time it took the lamb with it. Harry saw that it meant to fly, as it had flown yesterday, to an edge; and then out into the free air over the chasm, and over the valley far below.

Harry gave chase, stumbling over the broken ground and between the boulders – striking at the eagle as he went, trying to beat it down before it could escape. The eagle was hampered by his attack; and suddenly it swooped on to a projection of rock and turned again to drive him off.

Harry was now in a bad position. The eagle stood on a rock at the height of his own shoulders, with the lamb beside it. It struck at his cheek with its talons, beating its wings as it did so. Harry felt clothes and flesh being torn; buffeting blows began about his head; but he kept close to the eagle and struck at it again. He did not want simply to frighten it away, but to kill it. The eagle fought at first simply to drive Harry off; then, as he continued to attack, it became ferocious.

Harry saw his only chance was to keep close to the eagle and beat it down; but already it was at the height of his face. It struck at him from above, driving its steel claws at him, beating its wings about him. He was dazed by the buffeting which went on and on all round him; then with an agonizing stab he felt the claws seize and pierce his shoulder and neck. He struck upwards desperately and blindly. As the eagle drove its beak at his head, his stick just turned the blow aside. The beak struck a glancing blow off the stick, and tore away his eyebrow.

Harry found that something was blinding him, and he felt a new sickening fear that already one of his eyes was gone. The outspread beating wings and weight of the eagle dragged him about, and he nearly lost his footing. He had forgotten, now, that he was proving anything to his father; he was fighting for his eyes. Three times he fended off the hammer stroke of the beak, and at these close quarters the blows of his club found their mark. He caught the eagle’s head each time, and the bird was half stunned.

Harry, reeling and staggering, felt the grip of the claws gradually loosen, and almost unbelievably the body of his enemy sagged, half fluttering to the ground. With a sudden spurt of new strength, Harry attacked, and rained blows on the bird’s skull. The eagle struggled, and he followed, beating it down among the rocks. At last the eagle’s movements stopped. He saw its skull was broken, and that it lay dead.

He stood for many minutes panting and unmoving, filled with a tremendous excitement; then he sat on a boulder. The fight had taken him near a steep edge a long way from the body of Tassie.

His wounds began to ache and burn. The sky and the horizon spun round him, but he forced himself to be firm and collected. After a while he stooped down and hoisted the eagle on to his shoulder. The wings dropped loosely down in front and behind. He set off towards the farm.





When he reached his home, the low gray walls, the ploughed fields, and the green pasture fields were swimming before his eyes in a dizzy pattern. It was still the early part of the morning, but there was plenty of life in the farmyard as usual. Some cows were being drive n out. One of the carthorses was standing harnessed to a heavy wagon. Harry’s father was talking to the carter and looking at the horse’s leg.

When they saw Harry come towards them they waited, unmoving. They could hardly see at first who or what it was. Harry came up and dropped the bird at his father’s feet. His coat was gone. His shirt hung in bloodstained rags about him; one arm was caked in blood; his right eyebrow hung in a loose flap, with the blood still oozing stickily down his cheek.

“Good God!” said Thorburn, catching him by the arm as he reeled.

He led the boy into the kitchen. There they gave him a glass of brandy and sponged him with warm water. There was a deep long wound in his left forearm. His chest was crisscrossed with cuts. The flesh was torn away from his neck where the talons had sunk in.

The doctor came. Harry’s wounds began to hurt like fire, but he talked excitedly. He was happier than he had ever been in his life. Everybody on the farm came in to see him and to see the eagle’s body.

All day his father hung about him, looking into the kitchen every half hour. He said very little, but asked Harry several times how he felt. “Are you aw reet?” he kept saying. Once he took a cup of tea from his wife and carried it across the kitchen in order to give it to Harry with his own hands.

Later in the day old Michael came back, and Harry told him the whole story. Michael turned the bird over. He said it was an erne, a white-tailed sea eagle from the coast. He measured the wing span, and it was seven and a half feet. Michael had seen two or three when he was a boy, — always near the coast, — but this one, he said, was easily the largest.

Three days later Mr. Thorburn took Harry, still stiff and bandaged, down to the village inn. There he set him before a blazing fire all evening, and in the presence of men from every cottage and farm Thorburn praised his son. He bought him a glass of beer and made Harry tell the story of his fight to everyone.

As he told it, Thorburn sat by him hearing the story himself each time, making certain that Harry missed nothing about his struggle. Afterwards every man drank Harry’s health, and clapped Thorburn on the back and told him he ought to be proud of his son.

Later, in the silent darkness, they walked back to the farm again, and neither of them could find anything to say. Harry wondered if his father might not refer to the beating and apologize.

Thorburn moved round the house, raking out fires and locking up. Then he picked up the lamp and, holding it above his head, led the way upstairs.

“Good night, Harry,” said his father at last, as he took him to his bedroom door. “Are you aw reet?”

His father held the lamp up and looked into Harry’s face. As the lamplight fell on it, he nodded.

He said nothing more.

“Aye,” said Harry, as he turned into his bedroom door, “I’m aw reet.”

Tom Smith’s “Secret Rules of University”

This PowerPoint presentation was originally created by Tom Smith for three of his cousins who were just beginning university; it has turned out to be a very helpful guide for many young people. You can advance the slides more quickly or go back using the cursor arrows on your keyboard.


Top 10 reasons I am thankful to live in Canada: dispatch from Kenya


Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get away from the mazungus driving!  That is the Kenyan answer to the old joke.  While visiting the coast, Tabby, who has an international driver’s license, has been driving us around to visit places. Every time she is driving there seems to be chickens, cows, goats, sheep, monkeys and whatever other animals crossing or walking along the roads, blocking the way.

Remember the game chicken, where two drivers drive towards each other and see who will chicken out and move first?  We have played that every day here with actual chickens.

Speaking of chickens – or poultry, this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. This is the day Canadians get together and have a turkey dinner, and tell everyone what they are thankful for. This is the first Thanksgiving holiday that I will not be in Canada for, or eating a turkey dinner. Instead I will be in the coastal area of Kenya, eating a traditional Kenyan dish such as skumawiki (boiled kale) or ugali.  I will be thankful for that, as it is more than some of the neighbours here eat.

Some thoughts for Thanksgiving weekend, and things for which I am thankful:

  1. I am thankful that Canada has a world-class healthcare system

We complain a lot about our health care system, but it is really one of the best in the world.  The health care system here in Kenya is very poor. I can walk into any hospital in Ontario and get looked at, tested, given medication, maybe even have to stay for a day or so without having to pay for anything.  Here, you have to drive for miles (no ambulance will come for you especially in remote areas). Once you get to the hospital, you pay first for the doctor to see you. Then he may ask for tests to be done, you go back to the cashier and pay for the tests, then you have the tests done. If you need medication, you go pay for it, then you get either your prescription (for which you then have to pay the pharmacist), or whatever medication the doctor will give you directly.

If you have no money, you get no help.  There is no OHIP or any other system in place to provide any kind of free treatment.  Some people just go without help and get sicker and die or end up disfigured or sick for the rest of their lives. One brother in Nakuru has to have surgery on his leg and since he cannot pay, has been walking in pain for the past 9 years.

  1. I am thankful that the Canadian government has programs in place to help the unemployed and those that are disabled or unable to work, and the elderly. These programs are not perfect, but nothing in life is perfect.

In Kenya, unemployment is rampant and there is no agency that is there to help. There are no employment centers to help you look for a job, there is no unemployment money to live on. If you don’t work, you have no money.  There is no old age pension, so if you are too old to work, you have no money. Widows are left destitute as there is no life insurance for when their husbands die, so they have nothing. Even worse, the family members then come and take away everything the widow has, leaving them even more destitute.

Canada also has Children’s Aid societies that look after orphan children or children with poor family lives and either has them adopted or fostered to families that will care for them. This system is not perfect and sometimes there are families that do abuse the children, but again it is much better than in Kenya. There is no agency to help the children. If they are abused, no one notices or cares, or if they do care, there is nothing they can do. If a child is living on the street, unless someone takes them in, there is nothing that will be done for them. As most people have several children of their own, they would not consider taking someone else’s child. Most orphans taken in by relatives are treated very poorly, or the relatives have no money to properly care for the child and they end up making them leave. The lucky ones are able to get sponsorships so they can continue school and board there.

  1. I am thankful for clean, drinkable water.

Water is scarce in Kenya, especially drinkable water. In some areas it does not rain much, so there is no water. You have to walk for miles with heavy buckets to the nearest watering hole or river full of dirty water, then boil the water until it is drinkable. In Canada we have an abundance of fresh water, and it freely pours out of our taps.

  1. I am thankful that our educational system is one of the best in the world.

Canadian schools have consistently been ranked as one of the best systems in the world.  Any child can go to public school for free in Canada. In Kenya, all schools have a fee, plus a uniform that has to be paid for. Most parents cannot afford it, so they either need to get their children sponsored by outside organizations or the children cannot go to school.

Those lucky enough to go to school are not taught to think for themselves, but are taught by rote and memorization. They are not taught to think outside the box. There are no guidance counsellors to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives and see if their goals can be achieved. They are taught 9 basic subjects in school then after high school left to their own devices to figure out what to do from there. Most give up and drop out and become part of the unemployment problem because they have no clue what to do.

  1. I am thankful for Canada’s climate.

Yes it snows and is cold for most of the year, however we have a very temperate climate. It is not overly hot in summers, we get enough rain for crops and plants to grow. The temperature changes throughout the year.

In Kenya, in most places it does not rain for months on end. The land is dry, crops will not grow and it is hot and humid. Some places it does rain every day and is cool, but it is a very small part of the country.

  1. I am thankful for having a great family life.

I might sometimes complain about some of my family members, however family life here is harsh. It is very rare to have a family with both parents that love and cherish their children and put their family first. A lot of men are drunkards, or sleep with prostitutes and bring HIV home to their families and infect them. A lot of mothers cannot cope and just walk away from their families.

Rachel is a lady that works here on Sammy’s property as the cook and looking after the children here. She left school to marry young. Her husband ended up leaving her and their young child. She had no job and nowhere to go. Sammy stepped in and gave her a job and place to live. Her child has ended up living with her mother, which is also what happens here a lot. The single parent ends up having to live away from the child in order to get work.

Stepmothers might beat their step children because they don’t like them. The chef at the Kamukuywa school, George, is an example. He used to get up at 4 am every morning to leave the house before his stepmother woke up as she would beat him every day. I read in the paper here that a young man stoned his grandmother to death recently for no reason, just because he felt like it.

  1. I am grateful that for the most part, discrimination of any kind is not tolerated in Canada

People here are discriminated or scorned for anything. Widows are scorned because they have no husband and no income. Orphans are scorned and ignored. People with diseases, especially HIV are scorned here.

Cynthia is a young 17 year old that has been HIV positive since birth. Her mother died of HIV and she has been living with relatives. Her uncle’s wife did not like her and kept her separated from the rest of the family. Cynthia is a sponsored child and is able to go to school, but at school they scorn her for her HIV status. She gave up and went off her meds because she wanted to die because of this. She is on the road to recovery and we are all praying that God gives her the strength to get well.

  1. I am thankful I was born in Canada and have access to all of the resources the country has to offer to citizens and have the money to pay for anything that I need.

Here in Kenya, people don’t have a lot if any money. They cannot afford to go to a grocery store here like I can and buy fresh fruits and vegetables to eat. They cannot buy new clothes or the latest electronic gadget like I can. In Canada things are expensive, yet I am able to buy the necessities I need in life, most people here cannot.

  1. I am thankful that there are organizations like Agape in Action that is working here to try to improve the way of life for people.

They are working to get children sponsored so they can continue their education and move on to University to specialize in a career path that will hopefully end the cycle of unemployment here. They are also working to help widows overcome their poverty by giving them clothes, seeds, beds, etc. whatever they need to get back on their feet again.

  1. I am especially and more importantly thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to come to Kenya to experience life here and learn what it is like to live here.

This has made me realize how good it is living in Canada and I will never again take anything for granted.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend to everyone back home in Canada, and remember to count your blessings this holiday.

–Jennifer Bell

Posted from Kenya in October, 2014