Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Quebec, Canada -

Your house is on fire! The sirens ring through the streets and reach your house. Your family stands on the lawn watching the flames licking the roof. In shock!

The firemen haul the hoses out quickly and get the hydrant shooting a torrent.

As the first fireman rushes toward your burning house, hose kicking hard in his arms, you stop him and say,

"Do you speak English?"

I was in the emergency family room of the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal on the afternoon of June 28, 2016.

An African man heard about Canada while he was growing up in Congo and now he has a job as an attendant helping patients walk to the bathroom and making them comfortable while they wait to be seen by the doctors. I watched him carefully guiding sick ladies and meek old men to the bathroom and back to bed with a gentle hand, like a parent helping a child. I was warmed by his manner, his cautious tenderness. He came over to open my apple sauce container for me.

Close by a woman sat by her husband's bed. 

The attendant approached to help the old man move up in his bed, to make him more comfortable. The woman stopped him. She demanded to know if he spoke English. Again and again, she demanded that he speak English.

The ward was full of all kinds of people from all nations, all races, young and old, and only God knows how many languages were being spoken around the room. But people helped each other to open the heavy bathroom door, to pick up something they had dropped, to smile a little and to chat, even if chat was not always wanted.

And the wife of the white haired patient nearby is demanding that the gentleman who is trying to help her husband, "Speak English."

If you know me, you know I couldn't let this happen. I called them out on it loud and clear. 

"Get away from here! Go away," the patient demanded. "This is none of your business. None of your business!"   

"This is my business. This is Canada, and people are free to speak whatever language they want to speak," I told them. "The man is trying to help you."

The patient ordered me angrily from his prone position. "Shut up!  Get out of here. This is none of your business". Tiger !

"Bigotry IS my business", I said. "Justice is my business". Don't you have enough trouble without being bigots!"

The people around watched and listened and I backed off after I had made myself very clear. It looked like a bar room brawl was about to explode. But I had said what I had come to say and done what I had to do, sans regret.

If your house is on fire, 


Say, "Thank you". Say "Merci". Say "Danke shoen". Say "Muchos gracias, Ef kharisto, Kamsa hamnidah". Or just smile and nod.

And don't say, "Shut up! This is none of your business". 

Justice IS my business.

Deuteronomy 16:20
It is all about Justice

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