Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 11, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Immigration Minister, Lena Diab presents Human Rights Award to members of SAFE


Here’s a SAFE bet.

On Friday, December 8th. at a ceremony in Halifax, SAFE, ground breakers locally in bringing Syrian refugees families to Antigonish, were awarded a Nova Scotia Human Rights Award. Long before the plight of the refugee crisis became a major story, the local SAFE group was trying their best to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis half a world away.

Over the past two years, SAFE has sponsored several families with another handful in the queue. Their work has been exemplary and according to MP Sean Fraser, the settlement of Syrian refugees in Antigonish by the three groups (including Tri-Heart and CARE ) has become the gold standard in Canada. But make no mistake, SAFE laid the groundwork and they rightfully deserve this prestigious award.

Christmas is bearing down on us like a “nor’easter.”

The quasi frantic pace leading up to December 25th. is palpable. Being empty nesters, you don’t get the same buzz without kids around… Nor the mental, physical and fiscal exhaustion that goes with the season!

But for every person experiencing the joy of Christmas, you can bet your boots that for someone else, it is a time of the year which brings sorrow and tears. Yes. Someone you know and love is hurting. Some people are lonely.  Loss of loved ones is tough 24 hours of the day but at Christmas it is somehow magnified because so many other people are in a celebratory mood. I don’t want to be “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” But when you meet up with someone that you know is silently grieving, give them the best gift possible… your time and a hug… and a good cup of tea.

Can’t bear the thought of preparing another big turkey dinner? Sacrilege, you say? As most of my loyal readers are “north of 60 “, you know what I mean.  As B.B. King sang, “The thrill is gone, the thrill has gone away, the thrill is gone, baby.”  (Stop calling me Scrooge. I can hear you all the way to Court Street! ). If you want to experience Christmas dinner in a whole new way, why not join the many people who have their Christmas dinner at St. James Church in the hall.

This is open to the public. Many of the folks who attend the twice weekly Hot Lunch program come that day. Foreign students who can’t make it home are regular attendees. Sometimes it’s someone who has experienced a loss and just wants to be around people. And then there others like us, who for one reason or another, like to spend December 25th. at St. James. All the food is donated (by participants and other people) and there is live music (Christmas Carols). Members of my family will be providing the music this year as we have done from time to time in the past. It has become one of our newest and most enjoyable, Christmas traditions.

And if you haven’t had your fill of the MacDonalds, son Peter, daughter Betsy and yours truly will be performing at a fundraiser at Little Christos on December 17th. Between 6:00- 8:30. It’s in support of Aghyad Al Zhouri who recently attended Encounters with Canada symposium. I’m sure we’ll do a few Christmas carols but you’re more likely to hear Johnny Cash, Neil Young or Blue Rodeo.  You can come up on stage and sing harmonies.

Have a great week.

Reminder. Christmas book sale. Three books $25.00 + shipping. Regular $55. Value. Message me or send me an e-mail at


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 7, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Another day in the rear view window


Senator Mary Coyle.

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Ok. Before you go jumping down my throat about your outrage around the Senate, patronage and political skullduggery, the Senate is actually an important piece in our democratic puzzle. And despite all the negative baggage attached to this institution (most of it well earned), it still has a useful function.

Mary Coyle is one of those people who will help to raise the level of discourse and bring respectability to the “Chamber of sober second thought.” Her resume is very impressive. She is smart and compassionate and has faced some health challenges with stoicism. She cares about the poor.

And she’s from Hillcrest Street, my old stomping grounds. Maybe Mary will introduce a bill in the Senate to get Hillcrest Street closed during the annual Boxing Day Street Hockey game!

Congratulations, Mary.

Some people have stopped me and said, “Len, lighten up, will you?” Long-time readers of my column know that I have focused mostly on humour but lately I seem to have strayed into other forums. I guess part of this change has to do with old age my increasing cynicism. The world seems to have gone mad.

How can one not be cynical? I watched with dismay as people trampled others on Black Friday to get a flat screen television… one day after celebrating Thanksgiving where they gave thanks for all they have.

And don’t get me started about the shenanigans south of the border. I have a very dear friend from the U.S. who is very smart, kind and generous. We correspond occasionally and each time I make reference to her President. Her response is always the same, that ” everything the President says is misconstrued.”

The world’s 8 richest billionaires control the same wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest.

J.J. Watts is a professional football player. (American football – not soccer). He is a superb athlete. I am a sucker for sports and I watch football on Sundays. I mute the million ads that scream commercialism. Mr. Watts signed a 6 contract for 100 million dollars. I am not going to argue if he’s worth it.

When Houston was ravaged by hurricane Irma in September of this year, Mr. Watts decided to use his name and fame to raise money for hurricane relief. His efforts raised $ 37,000,000. (That’s million in case you lost track of the decimal point). For weeks on end, American media reported on the devastation.

Meanwhile in India. The state of Tamil Nadu in southern India was hit with a powerful cyclone last week. .. Largely ignored by the western media. The district of Kannyakumari where I lived and volunteered this past winter took a big hit, destroying homes and businesses and killing several people. One thousand (1000) fishermen from the region are missing. One wonders why they were on the waters with an impending cyclone. It is possible that some of them didn’t know but my hunch is that many of them felt compelled to fish to maintain their livelihood.

I feel badly on many levels. Reconstruction will not come quickly or easily. I received a letter from Sister Archana the other day and the situation is dire. They are doing everything in their power to help with food, medicine, reconstruction. If I had received my Indian visa, I would be there now helping with the relief efforts.

I know I seem to have my hand out ALL the time looking for money for various charities. The people of Antigonish have already demonstrated their generosity by sending money to India to support projects that I was working on during my time there. I wouldn’t object to donations to help the relief efforts in Kannyakumari. I still have an account opened at the Credit Union (Investment India) or you can e-transfer at

Have a great weekend.

Reminder. Christmas book sale. Three books $25.00 + shipping. Regular $55. Value. Message me or send me an e-mail at


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 4, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Dr. P. Sainath – Fall Convocation 2017


Small is beautiful.

Four seemingly unrelated events have got me thinking… which is always a dangerous proposition. Last week (like most weeks in Antigonish), there was a dizzying array of events open to the public and most of them free.

On Tuesday evening, Jamie McDonald, aka “ Adventureman” held a small but very attentive crowd rapt at the People’s Place Library. Sadly, this is not our own Jamie MacDonald who plies his financial planning business on Main Street although Jamie has done some incredible work with the Main Street Fair during Highland Games.

The “other” Jamie is from England. Among other things, he has run across Canada and cycled from Thailand to England dodging bombs in Afghanistan. As a young boy, he was unable to walk as a result of rare medical condition. He was in town on a book tour (he had stayed in Antigonish a few years ago during his run). Lots of people have done similar runs for charity. What struck me were his comments about the kindness of strangers, especially in rural Canada. He was so well fed by Newfoundlanders that he managed to gain weight after running the equivalent of 20 marathons while traversing the province!

I trekked back to the library on Wednesday evening to witness the launch of The People’s Archive of Rural Nova Scotia. ( ) In many places around the globe, rural communities are dying. PARNS had been launched in Antigonish as a repository of stories, photos, audio tapes and videos of ordinary people. It’s sort of like Week45 on steroids! The concept was pioneered in India by Palagummi Sainath ( pictured above ), guest speaker at the event and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate at the Fall Convocation at St.F.X.We are bombarded every waking second of our lives with news and information, much of it soul destroying and destructive to the psyche. Wouldn’t you rather hear stories, or better still, tell stories about extraordinarily ordinary people in our own backyard? Check out the site.

On Thursday evening, I attended a meeting of the United Nations, otherwise known as the Coady Farewell. I was part of the “ Coady Neighbour” program and went to bid farewell to my new friend, Father Joseph, from Kerala, India. It was a colorful and moving ceremony. It was really interesting to hear the comments of Otgonchimeg Altangerel from Mongolia who gave her impressions of Antigonish since arriving here four and a half months ago.

In no particular order, here are some of the things that stood out for her: The Op Shop (!); The ESL Friendship Café; The Farmer’s Market; Cultural Connections (Potluck); The Antigonish Art Fair; AHA! (Arts Health Antigonish). She also remarked that Antigonish embraces those with physical and intellectual disabilities.

“Coady Rising.”

I think that this would make a good title for a book. The Coady institute has been in our midst for almost 60 years (1959). While the Coady influence is probably better appreciated in many countries around the world than it is in Antigonish, it seems to me that in the past 5 years or so, something quite remarkable has been happening in Antigonish. We seem to be morphing into a real multi-cultural community and I attribute most of this to the influence of the Coady which is becoming hard wired into our community’s psyche. More and more events have an international flavour. It could be argued that the Coady influence is helping us become more tolerant, not only to strangers from far flung corners of the world, but also our First Nations people who are right in our back yards.

On Friday night, I drove out to the Heatherton Community Center as one of the performers at a fundraiser for the group home located in Heatherton. I arrived half an hour before the start time to “get my game face on.”! Not really. All I was doing was reading one of my Christmas stories. I was shocked to see the parking lot three quarters full. By show time, there wasn’t an empty seat to be had in the converted gymnasium.

I am not a curmudgeon (?) but I am rarely infused with the “Christmas Spirit.” I won’t go into my commercialism rant. But it was hard not to feel joy watching residents of the group home perform their own Christmas magic. There was lots of great music and tea and cookies at the intermission. Hats off to Brenda Berkvens and her team for reminding us about the important things in life.

So, what is the common thread in these four disparate events? The importance of community, especially small, rural communities. We mustn’t let them die. They are the real deal.

#Rural Communities Matter.

Have a great week.

Reminder. Christmas book sale. Three books $25.00 + shipping. Regular $55. value. Message me or send me an e-mail at


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