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thank goodness


 Good News!

On this page:


Scroll down this page for good news stories and a final thought we are leaving you. Use these as illustrations and meditations for your next meeting.


Bhangra dancer brings joy in the Yukon


Restauranteur donates free meals to front-line workers in long-term care homes.


Make yourself a Gratitude Jar!


Pride from around the world for ribbon skirts!


Vaccines begin!!!


Toronto carpenter builds tiny shelters for the homeless


Alan Syliboy - his generosity with his art is a true Canadian treasure.


Esther - Canada's Wonder Pig


Halifax Teen aims to make 200 Masks



Greetings! 

At thank goodness, we want you to be inspired by all the good things happening in the world. Use our stories as illustrations you can take to meetings, use in church sermons, or in any way that you find helpful. Each article is followed by a "thought" about what spiritual "good news" it demonstrates. Check back often because our stories change several times a month.


Bhangra dancer loves the snow & ice beneath his feet!

And the Good News is:

    What a joy it is to live in a country that is filled with a diversity of cultures! We think we know and have seen everything – and then along comes such marvelous people as Bhangra dancers! And our lives are further enriched with new things to see and hear and be introduced to! How boring and limiting it would be to live in a place where we all look alike, think alike, eat alike, etc. And yet, in Canada, where our winters keep most of us inside for months at a time (not to mention the pandemic!), it excites us and makes us happy when a person like Gurdeep Pandher comes along – dancing into our own lives!

    Who has been your “Gurdeep” in your lifetime? Who have you embraced as “friend” who opened your eyes to new things to think, to see, to eat, or to do? If you are still in touch with them, why not drop them a card and letter expressing your appreciation for what they have done for you in life?

Gurdeep Pandher describes himself this way on social media:

  

      “I Support Farmers —I'm a Canadian dancer. Breaking barriers. Advocating equality & new-voices. Building cross-cultural bridges, joys & new-normalities.”

     What you don’t get out of the wonderful self-description is that he moved to the Yukon; lives in a tiny home where he uses an outhouse in -45C degree weather; and often is filmed dancing on frozen lakes near his home north of Whitehorse.

     What a life! And even more lovely, is that we can watch him dance on Facebook, You Tube, Instagram and Twitter. And trust us – it will make your day!

     The joy he exudes as he dances Bhangra – a traditional folkdance of the Punjab region of India – is absolutely infectious!

     All across Canada, we are finding people from India or Pakistan who have come to work or study in Canada, more than willing to share their love of the dance with their chosen communities. Bhangra is a traditional folk dance of the Punjab region of Pakistan and India that celebrates the annual harvest. The term bhangra originally designated a particular dance performed by Sikh and Muslim men in the farming districts of the Punjab region of South Asia.

     It is a high-energy dance of joy with graceful movements – especially of arms, hands and legs. Originally danced only by men, it is now common and acceptable to include women in a dance troupe. Dance troupes, mostly out of universities, have been gaining popularity and well-deserved media press from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia all the way to the west coast and now – thanks to Gurdeep – even in our north.

     Check him out by “googling” his name in any search engine … it will make your day!



Mohamad Fakih, left, is the CEO of Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen company based in Toronto. He has been making and serving thousands of free meals to give to workers inside Ontario's long-term care residences.

Above: Employees  prepare meals to be delivered at no cost to front-line care home workers.

A Toronto restaurant-owner has been giving free meals to workers inside long-term care homes in Ontario and wants to do even more! Mohamad Fakih is CEO of Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen company, a restaurant chain that is suffering from the Covid-19 lockdown in his area of Ontario – yet he continues to keep his kitchen going at full steam preparing 6,000 meals each month. Mr. Fakih says he would like to ramp it up to 15,000 meals and eventually go national!

   The Lebanese-Canadian entrepreneur is a leader in his business community and has a long history of donating meals to the community in times of need. He says he has been especially moved by the struggle of workers in long-term care homes who are putting their lives at risk for minimum pay in some places, and having to deal with the grief of losing so many seniors whom they have cared for.

   "These people are our real heroes, truly, because they go into these homes and they're so close to the virus, they're so close to be at risk," he told the CBC. "I know for a fact that they deserve to be paid better and they need to feel safe."

    "Over 3,000 seniors died [in Ontario nursing homes from COVID-19] and the caregivers that looked after them feel so lonely.”

    A career as a PSW (Personal Support Worker) is physical, hands-on and challenging at the best of times. The work involves helping residents use the washroom, take a shower and eat or drink if they need it. And now, with the pandemic and all its safety precautions, the job has become much harder.

    Vonetia Reid, a PSW in Toronto, told the CBC that the past year working as a personal support worker has been exhausting. But Fakih’s generosity of a free meal is heartwarming and has boosted the morale of workers.

     For those who are wondering what they can do in today’s chaotic world, Fakih has a simple message: "I think the solution of the world today, with all these problems, is having more people doing good things."


And the Good News is: Take your cue from Mr. Fakih when he says we need more people in the world doing good things!  Think of what our communities could be if they were filled with people taking care of the needs of others - in big and small ways. Sometimes, we think that we, as individuals, aren't making a difference. But if  your act of kindness makes a difference in even one person's life, then you matter in a huge way to the Universe! Be kind - because it's so important in this world we live in.


FOR GROUPS: Have a discussion on the "small thing" someone has done for you in the past that meant a lot to you. 

A Gratitude Jar.

Have you ever had a Gratitude Jar? Why not start one this year?

    That's my gratitude jar in the photo to the left. I took a large mason jar and painted some flowers and bees on it with my children's paints. And then, I write on small pieces of paper - like post-it-notes, for example - whenever I have a really good day or a great time with friends or family. I just jot down a happy memory of the day and who I was with and date it, and then pop it in the jar!

    On New Year's Eve, - or whenever I need a pick-me-up - I grab a favourite drink, plop myself down on a comfy chair, and go through the notes, one by one.

    What a happy time that is for me! It's an exercise that brings back so many memories of things that I have long forgotten - even though it has only been a year!

    The year 2021 is as good a time as any to start this new tradition at your house. Maybe each person in your family can have their own jar? That sounds like a great idea!

There will always be good times, good people, good events, and great memories in the course of anybody's year! So write them down for future remembering. 

Chris Kulak stands with his wife and six daughters, all wearing ribbon skirts, after his 10-year-old, Isabella, (in the middle with black skirt, and blue and green ribbon) was told her skirt was inappropriate to wear on "Formal Day" at her school in December.

Girl wearing traditional ribbon skirt sparks world-wide support

A 10-year-old Cote First Nation girl from Saskatchewan, Isabella Kulak, is causing a world-wide movement of support for the awesome and meaningful wearing of the traditional ribbon skirt. International support has been pouring in on social media sites for the Gr. 5 student who was told by an educational assistant that her traditional Indigenous skirt was not appropriate for the school's formal day last December .

   Since word of her experience was made public, women around the world have taken photos of themselves in their own ribbon skirts and posted them on Facebook and Twitter.

   In an interview with CBC News recently, Isabella said her skirt “is black with lots of white flowers and a blue, green and black ribbon on it. I like that my auntie Farrah made it for me and it fits me really well."

   Ribbon skirts are traditional Indigenous clothing worn by women and represent strength, womanhood and identity. Men also wear ribbon shirts.

    Unfortunately, when Isabella wore her skirt for “Formal Day” at the school (which is in the Good Spirit School Division) a teaching assistant told her it was inappropriate for the day and compared it unfavourably to a store-bought dress worn by another student.

    Isabella’s father, Chris Kulak, said he found the actions of the school to be offensive to his culture.

    "We found that very offensive, especially with the culture that's intertwined with the ribbon skirt and the sacredness behind it for Native women and for many women who participate in the skirt-making and identify that as part of their heritage," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Morning Edition. "She was shamed for her traditional wear."

    Ever since the story was shared on social media, people from around the world have been posting photos and videos featuring them wearing their own ribbon skirts or shirts to show their support for Isabella.

     "She was a catalyst for a movement that had been waiting to come to the surface for a long time," said Mr. Kulak. "We are overwhelmed with the positivity on Facebook."

     Photos have been sent from all over the globe, and Mr. Kulak said the reaction online has turned the negative experience into a positive one for his family.

    "I want to say thank you to all those people for their positive messages. That's how we help each other heal, is through positivity," he said.


    The Good Spirit School Division has apologized to the family and met with Chief of Cote First Nation, George Peter Cote. Its CEO, Quintin Robertson, said Isabella’s family and her Nation have been “most gracious,” and have offered the school its support, advice and forgiveness.

     "And I don't want to squander that. I don't want to take that for granted," Mr. Robertson said.

     Mr. Kulak said this has been a learning experience for everyone.

    “She's (Isabella) a quiet little girl that likes to learn and likes to play with her friends, and she realizes that she has a powerful voice even though she doesn't feel so big and mighty," the father of seven girls said. "I told her that lots of people are listening and watching. She's been chosen by her people to speak for them. And it's a big responsibility for a 10-year-old girl, but she's rolling with the punches and she's absorbing it all very well."

    "All these people reaching out from all these different bands and areas of the world, just shows her how many aunties and sisters, kokums, she has all around the world that literally feel her pain, in terms of the shaming, and definitely share her pride in the garment," he added.

    "So she's learned a lot and she's learned that she has a great nation behind her."


And the Good News is:

    It was a shocking thing that even at the end of 2020, a youngster was shamed for the clothes she was wearing to school. That should never happen - and especially in the case of shaming a person for wearing honourary clothes of their culture! And yet, how gracious the family has been in quickly extending their forgiveness and offering to educate the school system about their indigenous culture.

    Isn't this the way it should be? People make mistakes and own up to them - and instead of opting to go with our "cancel culture," the family and their Cote Nation have offered up tools to teach us all to do and be better as sisters and brothers in this world.

      We used to have the saying :"teachable moments," but that phrase has gone by the wayside. But we understand and appreciate the sentiment of it! This is certainly a "teachable moment" for our entire country. Are you listening?

Happy vaccine news finally comes to Canada!

It's finally here! The Covid-19 vaccine began to be administered to the most vulnerable in long-term care homes, and the medical personnel who work in homes and hospitals on Dec. 14!

   It was a historic moment now being called another “V-Day,” as the country enters a new phase of the battle against the novel coronavirus.

   It may take awhile until all Canadians have the opportunity to be vaccinated, but it is a welcome start for everyone who is weary of our social-distancing from friends and family.

   Each province will have its own priority list for the doses, so it is best to check your own provincial website for all information about the vaccination roll-out. And in the meantime, all provincial health officers are asking Canadians to continue being very careful by wearing masks, not congregating in large groups, and washing our hands often.

    

                               Photo courtesy of Quebec Premier Francois Legault/Twitter

Eighty-nine-year-old Gisele Levesque, of Quebec, was the first person in Canada to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 14. While vaccinations will continue all through 2021, health officials are warning Canadians not to get complacent and to continue following the rules of social-distancing to avoid becoming sick.

And the Good News is: Here we are during Advent - the time of waiting. And along comes this vaccine that we have been waiting for. The "hope, peace, joy and love" of 2020 that will bring our world back to "normal" - whatever that is! The most important thing is, that our hope of keeping people safe and healthy may be realized - if all goes right. This is definitely an answer to our prayers.

   Did you pray over the last few months? What did you pray for? Maybe it was to have your job back - to have employment of any kind and an income of any kind. Maybe it was for rest? We must never forget that while many lost their jobs, there are so many others who have to work more hours under more difficult circumstances than normal!

   Maybe you had to pray that your loved ones would stay or get healthy. And all of us prayed that the day will come again when we can gather in groups with our friends and family.

   And so, as of December 14, 2020, our prayers appear to be answered. And as with all things this important, the answer comes not overnight, but in a time that is safe and realistic. 

   Despite the terrible year of 2020, we do live in a good world. As long as we take a breath on this earth, however, we know that our lives will be filled with mountain peaks and dry valleys. The difference this past year was that the entire world went through a bad time together. It was unusual for that to happen - but it has in the past and will again in the future.

    Just know that our collective prayers are being answered. Just know that a great and benevolent Power hears us and answers prayers in their time and in their way. And never forget to be grateful. 

    

Khaleel Seivwright is using his skills as a carpenter in Toronto to build "tiny homes" to help the homeless get through the winter in the city. The shelters are insulated against the cold.

Toronto man builds tiny shelters for homeless people

A Toronto carpenter is building tiny, insulated shelters for the homeless as winter prepares to set in. Khaleel Seivwright has also set up a GoFundMe page and has already surpassed his goal of $20,000 to build them.

   Each of the small home structures are insulated and cost around $1,000 each to build. He also needs money to pay for storing the building supplies, including plywood, small windows, door hinges and roofing materials.

   Seivwright says that he is aware of the huge problem Toronto has every winter with supporting its homeless population and he wanted to do what he could to help. He acknowledges that it is a worse problem this year because of Covid-19 when the shelters have to limit the number of people they can house.

   “As shelters are usually at capacity at some point in the winter in Toronto and also because of this coronavirus, making space to allow for social distancing will put even more strain on Toronto’s capacity,” he says.

   Seivwright posts updates of his project so that donors can follow along with the building journey. As of October 28 and after some publicity, he has raised $65,000, far surpassing his $20,000 goal.

   If you think you can help him out with money or materials, check out his Go Fund Me page.


And the Good News is: Every single one of us has been given a talent of some kind. We owe it to the rest of Creation to find ways to share these talents with others for the good of community. Sometimes, the less-talented among us (or at least that's the way we would describe ourselves) think we have nothing or so little to give. And yet, maybe you are the very person who can give encouragement to the other person with the talent! Maybe, it's your company - your very presence - that is needed by another person. There is ALWAYS something we can do to help. When you have a focus, such as Khaleel has found, it is wonderful! So  think about the kind of person you are and what you have to offer. How can you be a "Khaleel" to others in your family, your community, your country ... think about it and find a way to do it!

 

The Daily Drum (Thursday, Oct. 22)

This week features Syliboy's “Eight Pointed Star Drum”. The eight-point star is believed to be an updated version of the seven-point star; which the Mi’kmaq used to represent the seven districts of their nation. The inner star represents the four directions of East, West, North and South. (Alan Syliboy)

A Great Canadian Treasure - Alan Syliboy

Alan Syliboy was born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia. Living in the Millbrook First Nations community, he journeys through his life with a demeanor of strength. Alan has built an eve-growing list of accomplishments throughout his lifetime, although many people are most familiar with his beautiful and unique works of art that captivate and inspire us. Here we will share just a small portion of some of his great contributions to the world of art.

   In 1971 Alan began his private study with influential artist and activist Shirley Bear who is an Order of Canada recipient.      Four years later Alan decided to further his education in the art world and joined the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

    He created a limited edition Butterfly gold coin for the Canadian Mint in 1999 it was limited to 25,000 copies which sold out. In 2002 he was presented with the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal. The year after that Alan was the featured artist and Aboriginal consultant for the production Drum!for CBC television. He was also involved with Muiniskw, a CBC animation special which included his artwork. Within that same year he also became a juror for the Canada Council for the Arts!

    Alan has traveled world wide, graciously sharing his gifts with us all. He traveled to France multiple times throughout his career participating in shows and trade missions. He was delegated by the Department of External Affairs of Canada to take part in a trade mission to Japan where he was joined by several other Nova Scotian companies. He obtained an agent and was involved with exportation of his works. He also took part in Art demonstrations at Ludwig Beck store in Munich, Germany.

    He has illustrated several books including: the novel “The Stone Canoe: Two Lost Mi’kmaq tales,” and has created the animation for his “Little Thunder” who appeared at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The animation was later featured in a travelling show called “Canada’s best” which travel nationally and internationally. It has been in 40 different festivals around the world and was voted best animation in Montreal in 2011.

    He is truly a Canadian treasure! He continues to show his spirit of generosity by posting a daily drum on his Twitter account, which is made available to the world!


And the Good News is: We are all born with talents and gifts that have been freely given to us by the One who created us. For  thousands of years, our First Nation neighbours have both been conscientious stewards of all the gifts the Creator has given this world - but more importantly - they have generously shared these same gifts with all Creation. We should certainly look to the Indigenous community of Canada as examples of generosity and sharing. We owe them a debt of gratitude from the past, for keeping this country so pure, clean and bountiful in years past. And we owe them today for sharing their ancient knowledge and wisdom with us - as well as their culture and the beautiful drumming, song, music, and visual art. We are a better country of amazing communities because of them. In Mi'kmaq, we say: Wela'lin! Thank you!

Esther -Canada's social media powerhouse

   Want your daily smile? You have to check out Esther, the Wonder Pig – a real Canadian treasure!

    We thought we would check in on our true Canadian celebrity and beauty: Esther the Wonder Pig. We were very pleased to find that, at 8-years-old now, she is doing very well and still enjoying her life in Campbellville, Ont.

     Have you heard her story? Two young men named Steve and Derek were offered a tiny, “micro pig” who needed a good home. Well, of course they took her! Trouble was – she didn’t stop growing at “micro” size! In fact, she kept growing to the point where she outgrew the men’s home and they had to buy a little farm!

     It’s turned out just wonderful for all three of them and assorted other pets in the household. Esther has become the most famous pig in Canada and has her own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Website pages!

    And trust me – she is quite a character! She loves to dress up, to sleep, and to eat, eat, eat!

     If you want to follow her escapades and search her store for all things Esther and pink piggy, just google “Esther the Wonder Pig” and check her out.

 Esther the Wonder Pig relaxes in her home after a busy day at work as one of Canada's biggest media stars!

And the Good News is: As we explore all that Esther has to gift us with - joy, laughter, amusement, gratitude, etc. - we are reminded that in the Bible, we are told that God created animals before they created humankind! That was how much God loves the animals of the earth, birds of the sky and fish of the sea. It's no wonder, then, that we are all called to be good stewards of the land and help maintain and sustain every living creature on earth! 

   Did you ever give an animal a "forever home?" Or have you helped raise funds for organizations that take care of animals? Did you know that even as simple as throwing your Christmas tree way out in the backyard every year, you are providing shelter for the wild little ones? Do you have any other ideas about how to help improve the quality of life for all God's Holy life?

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