My 5 Cents On Minimum Wage Increases


Here in Ontario Canada, our Provincial Government has in its wisdom, raised the minimum wage to $14.00 per hour as of January 1, 2018. This move resulted in a significant increase for minimum wage earners from the earlier $11.60 per hour they were earning. Come January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will rise to $15.00 per hour.

Now here’s a comparative of these numbers, (the 140 hours by the way is calculated on a 7 hour day x 5 days per week x 4 weeks per month)

$11.60 p/hr x 140 hours = $1,624 month x 12 months = $19,488 per year.

$14.00 p/hr x 140 hours = $1,960 month x 12 months = $23,520 per year.

$15.00 p/hr x 140 hours = $2,100 month x 12 months =$25,200 per year.

Now you have to truly be a recipient of the minimum wage to feel the impact of these increases on your overall quality of life. There are other voices to be heard from on this issue – such as the business owners paying these wages, the Provincial Government officials about what they intended to bring about as they enacted this legislative change, the general populace in Ontario whose votes put this government in place, and yes even those with no income beyond social services. There are no shortages of opinion to be gathered on this issue.

Well, certainly I believe anyone and everyone would agree that earning $19,488 per year is not as satisfactory as receiving $23,520 per year. After all, that’s another $4,032 to spend as one chooses. That breaks down to $336 more a month if you’re keeping track of such things, or $84 per week. With an extra $84.00 per week, that’s healthier food in your shopping cart, a little extra set aside in the bank account for something you might not have been able to afford down the road, or perhaps at $336.00 per month, a nicer apartment unit in a better part of town. In short, life is better.

However, (yes here comes the bit that you’ve been waiting for and hoping you’d read), this isn’t the whole story. First of all, my numbers for illustrative purposes are based on 140 hours a month; in other words full-time. How many minimum wage earners are there out there getting full-time hours versus minimum wage earners getting part-time hours? For every hour you deduct from the above equations at the head of this article, there is a corresponding drop in income. If you are only getting 25 hours a week, that $14.00 per hour means you’re bringing in $350 a week, up from $290; an extra $60 a week. Still, a raise is a raise and when you don’t make much, every bit helps right?

Ah, but then we’ve got other things to factor in here. You don’t suppose that their buying power has increased with everything they buy remaining at previous levels do you? Oh naïve little you! Unfortunately for many low-income earners, their expenses have dramatically increased, and are about to jump more as well. Being low-income earners, most are renters vs. home or condo owners, so they are subject to paying monthly rent. Not surprisingly, many renters are telling me that their rents suddenly went up on January 1st of this year, and some others tell me they’ve recently come home to find notice of rent increases stuck under their doors for, ‘building improvements’. Legitimate or not, the timing is something to note.

Now, I noticed something of interest myself. This past week my wife and I had dinner out at Boston Pizza and noted they’d done over the restaurant, and the menus were updated too. We were impressed with the improvement in tables and chairs and couldn’t help but notice the price of their standard food items have increased too. Just under $50 for two adults to order an entrée each including a juice and a soft drink; no alcohol, no dessert, no appetizer, no tip factored in. How many times are people going to opt out for dinner? That might have explained the extra parking available when we arrived. Gone I suppose were the 10 items for $10 they once had just last year. Sigh…

Groceries, rent, transportation, clothing, recreation, property maintenance fees, contractors, manufacturers, goods and services; it’s all going up. One would be very naïve indeed to assume prices don’t rise in general due to inflation, but the minimum wage increase is also being used by some employers to justify increases.

Interestingly, I see at Boston Pizza they are hiring a Front of House Manager. This position has quite the number of additional requirements and expectations over the minimum wage servers and kitchen staff. The wage advertised for this Management position? $17.00 per hour. Break down that $2.00 hourly disparity between this position and minimum wage earning staff there and one might wonder why someone would bother to take on the additional responsibilities. Still, you get to put a title on your résumé and an identifying badge on your shirt that advertises your status.

It remains to be seen if this move wins the Liberal government in power another term as we’re in a voting year. Any incoming government if there is a change, would be hard-pressed to repeal such increases even if they wanted to and come out looking good.

We have to realize that every deserves a living wage; one that provides enough to lead life with dignity. Not everyone has the skills, aptitude and ability to advance and move from minimum wage jobs to middle-income and middle class; nor do all want to. It’s finding the balance that is the challenge.

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What I Think While Interviewing You


First of all you may not even care what I’m thinking when I’m sitting down across from you in this job interview; but you should. After all, you’re hoping I offer you the job we’re talking about. So it stands to reason that if you know what I’m thinking, you have a chance to either let me go ahead with those same thoughts or you’ve got time to change my mind before we’re done.

So let’s begin with my first impression.

When we met the reception area, I quickly looked you up and down and I started with your clothing.  I’m giving you top marks if the clothes are clean, fit with our company dress code and I’m evaluating your judgement in not just what you’re wearing, but how your clothes fit, the coordination and the appropriateness of what you selected to wear.

At the same time – and we’re talking about 3-4 seconds here – I’m taking in your hygiene and personal grooming, your facial expression, noting any obvious piercings or visible tattoos, and noting how you looked just before you realized I was the interviewer. That’s a lot to take in over 3 or 4 seconds, but I do this for a living you understand. Actually you do it too; you’re looking me over I believe and sizing me up as we meet.

I’m offering you my hand by the way as a traditional form of greeting, and how you react to this is also information I’m gathering to assess your suitability. After all, you’ll be meeting many people should I hire you, and your comfort level in how you greet them reflects on us as an organization. I’m impressed most with a firm but not overpowering handshake in return.

Now I understand you’re likely nervous and that’s to be expected. Some nervous excitement given what’s at stake is a good thing actually, but I’m checking as we begin hoping you haven’t got extreme nervousness to the point where I don’t get to see the real you. I’m actually hoping to put you at ease to the extent I can so that I can assess the person you’ll be on a daily basis. Telling me you’re extremely nervous and not yourself isn’t helping your cause. How can I really see you fitting in with my other staff if the real you isn’t present?

Now that we’re seated, I’m noting your posture and like the fact you sit slightly forward and you’re making great eye contact. The smile I’m giving you as we begin is hopefully reminding you to smile yourself – there it is! I’m now wondering if that smile looks natural or forced; because a natural smile is welcoming and appealing to customers and makes for a friendlier workplace. I know not everyone walks around smiling all day, but what I really want to avoid is hiring someone with that brooding, all-too-serious face that seems set in a constant frown. That’s not going to be a good fit here.

Now as we begin the questions and I listen to you speak, I’m sizing up how much you know about the job you’re interviewing for. A question asking what you know about our company, the job itself or why you’ve applied is designed to give you the chance to tell me how much – if any – research you’ve done. If you’re really interested and invested this opportunity you’ll do well in this. If you don’t answer well, I’m unimpressed and guessing we’re just one of 50 places you’re applying, hoping somebody hires you.

I’m really liking the fact that you answer the questions I’m asking. You obviously know yourself well, and the examples you’re giving me are backing up your claims  when it comes to your experience. How you handled situations in past jobs gives me a really good idea of how you’ll behave and act if I bring you onboard here.

You know what I’m also thinking? I hear energy in your voice; you really sound enthused about the job and you’re convincing me that you’re really looking forward to the work. This seems like more than just a job to you; I like that. This is after all, a company I’ve put a lot of hours and dedication into. I’m in a place to select an applicant who will bring some real energy and be a positive addition; because let’s face it, I’m going to work with whomever I hire.

Another thing I’ve noticed as you’re talking is that you look like you’re using your brain. I mean, you’re answers show you’ve thought about the questions asked, and the answers don’t sound rehearsed and fake. Your facial expressions are moving between serious and thoughtful to smiling – the odd laugh added which shows a natural side. You’ve prepared some questions too I see, and bringing along your résumé, the job posting, a pen and having it all organized in front of you tells me you’re ready. I like that because you’re not just saying you are organized, this proves it.

Having wrapped up with a handshake again and walked you out, I noticed you also stopped just long enough to shake the hand of the Receptionist and gave her a quick word of thanks. Full marks for that.

I’ve got other people to interview, but I’m impressed. I’m thinking at this moment you’re making a strong case to be hired. Well done!

Swearing And Social Media


In the fall of 2017 I joined with some other community members to put on a production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Amateur theatre you understand; something I’ve done in neighbouring communities with several theatrical groups for some 25 years.

More and more often, the cast stays in communication with each other via social media, with the Directors typically setting up a private Facebook group and inviting all the members to join to be kept up-to-date with rehearsals and other related information. This then sparks a number of people to then go ahead and send out friend requests to other cast members. It’s likely that even if you are not involved in a community theatre group, you’ve had a similar experience perhaps with some other group centred around your hobbies or interests.

Now with us being in the middle of winter and 2018, the show is long over and yet the online friendships remain. Sometimes I’ve gone ahead and deleted people immediately who I will have no further interaction with unless a future show brings us together again. This time around however, I let things remain largely unchanged after the show and of consequence I’m ‘friends’ with people I wouldn’t really give that title to in any other context – referring to them more commonly as an acquaintance.

I’ve got a problem though. It’s easily remedied on my end, but I fear it’s damaging for another. The issue as the title suggests is this person’s frequent use of swearing in his posts. It’s, ‘f’ this and ‘f’ that, and ‘f-ing’ something else…

The easy thing to do is unfriend the person, who quite honestly I’d never met before and am not likely to act with again but yes, it is conceivable. He’s not quite 20, I’m 58, he’s in another city than I am, and I’m not so unsure of my self that I have a problem just doing so.

Yet, there’s part of me that wanted to reach out to him and if he’s open to hearing it, let him know that I find his choice to include such language offensive. Not only is this my point of view, he could well be hurting his future chances of employment; acting or otherwise, by his frequent use of such language. Call me a prude if you will, old-fashioned, etc. I really don’t mind. I know what I enjoy reading and what I don’t.

Now it’s his right as it is anyone’s right, to speak ones mind, and part of that freedom comes with the right to say it HOW you’d like to do so. But, there are consequences to our choices, and there’s a responsibility that comes with those same rights. Not everybody gets this. Seems to me a lot of people go about claiming they know their rights, but few go about toting that they know their responsibilities.

In any event, I opted this time to do something different; I’ve taken the approach of reaching out to him via a private message and let him know how his frequent use of foul language has our tenuous friendship at risk of being ‘unfriended’ on Facebook. I’ve also advised him if he’s open to hearing it, that his posts are there in the public domain for future employers, Directors etc. to read and in so doing, form their opinions of him as suitable for their places of employment or shows.

No I’m not trying to be more saintly, or holier than thou as it were. I’m simply taking a more caring way of helping him along and not the easy way out of just unfriending him with no explanation. I’m sure this happens all the time and I’ve done it myself. Maybe this once though, something good could come of it. Even if he chooses to ignore my suggestion or advice, he is at least aware of the impact his writing has on one person and that alone could be helpful.

You see, he’s young, troubled, and – well yes – overly dramatic. However, being a young under 20, it’s not uncommon that one’s problems seem like the only problems in the universe. With maturity comes the realization that ones problems are not so unique, and everyone has things they deal with; some of us better or more privately than others. I hope he’ll get that over time and in fact I’m sure of it.

The thing I’d point out is would he, (or you) talk to your boss, your mom or dad, your friends etc. using the same language you use online? That is of course exactly what happens when all those people see what you write and how you choose to say it online. If you wouldn’t talk a certain way in-person, why talk that way online? If of course that’s who you are whether online or in-person, that’s your choice and your free to be authentically you. Just think about it.

So there it is. Feel free to give me your thoughts on the use or excessive use of swearing in social media public posts. Okay or not okay in your opinion? Helpful in expressing yourself or hurtful and self-damaging to getting on in the world? Feel free to agree or disagree as is of course your own right. This could be good people; where do you stand? Would you talk this way face-to-face with your friends; with your boss?

 

“Job? I Just Need A Resume”


Yesterday I stood facing and talking with 5 people who had shown up at a résumé workshop. Before we really got started, I engaged them in some small talk, asking each person what job or career they were looking for. Here’s who was in the room:

  • A late 40’s woman with 20 years experience working with the homeless who stated she had no formal degree or diploma in the field, but did have a certificate in the hairdressing industry.
  • A 60-year-old man who said he could no longer do what he’d done much of his life and didn’t really have any idea what he wanted to do for the next 5-8 years of his life in terms of work.
  • A couple in their 40’s who looked like they’d lived a rough life; him with no computer skills at all, her with grade 8 education. They’d both lost their jobs as a Superintendent couple due to some negligence on their part. They too had no idea what they wanted to do – they just needed resumes though to get work.
  • A late 20’s year old guy who wanted a factory job – for now. He had no idea of a long-term goal, but was somewhere between no longer wanting to wash dishes and whatever he’d eventually do.

Okay, so of the 5 people above, the fellow in his 20’s is the only one who knows what job he’s after. He’s the one who you could sit with one-to-one and start looking for factory or warehouse jobs and build a targeted resume. In doing so, it  becomes necessary to take his past experiences and highlight his transferable skills, emphasize his physical stamina, good health, work ethic etc.; the qualities needed by the employers in the job ads we looked at. Good on him for at least knowing what he’d like to do in the short-term while he figures out what to do long-term. He will be at the least, earning some income, learning and improving upon some job skills, and these will keep him attractive to future employers.

The woman who showed up with 20 year’s experience working with the homeless said that she wanted to work with the disadvantaged; be they teens, young adults etc. however, she admitted with no formal training over the past 20 year’s, she was finding it tough. I applauded her for having a pretty accurate picture of her circumstances. She’d be pretty hard-pressed to compete with the competition in her field who would present Child and Youth Worker or Social Service Worker Diploma’s. Her 20 year’s experience might even work against her not for her in the view of some employer’s who want to mold and shape their newest hire without having to have someone leave behind how they’ve done things elsewhere.

To her credit, she’d been thinking of a return to school to get the formal education that would compliment her experience, and vastly improve her employment opportunities. I think what she really needed was the validation of someone in the field agreeing with her that this was a good plan.

Now the 60-year-old man was new to the area, devoid of contacts, resources and knowledge of the community in which he now finds himself. I felt for him; here he was with an active, intelligent mind but a body that no longer let him to do the physical work he’d done his whole life. Reinventing himself at 60 was scary; where to begin? What to do? Time slipping by each day he delayed in moving ahead but not having any idea what direction to move in. Hard to do a résumé when the desired goal is so clouded, so for him the answer wasn’t a resume at all but rather a career exploration class with a healthy number of self-assessments to get a better handle on his skills, interests and abilities.

The couple? They were the most challenging to me. Insistent on just needing a résumé for each of them but again no idea of what the résumé was made for. With no interest in taking the time to better understand themselves, their interests etc., they were just focused on getting a résumé – any résumé it seemed. When I hear this from people, I believe there is a motive existing I’m unaware of. Who needs the résumé really? The person themselves or someone else; like a Caseworker, a government agency, someone providing them with help – provided they show up with a résumé. Hey I might be wrong but….

In each case, I didn’t make a résumé at all. Rather, I booked each of them  in for a personal resume consultation of an hour and a half. Between the first meeting yesterday and their appointed times, I’ve asked them to look at what’s available and come with a better idea of what they might like to do. A specific job posting makes crafting a résumé so much more beneficial.

“But if I bring you an ad”, began the guy with the spouse, “and you make me a résumé for that job, then I’ll need another one when I apply for another job.” I guess I’d got my point across after all; one resume for one job and a separate resume for each job application. He gets it. I know it sounds daunting – especially for someone with no computer skills. A class on basic computer skills is a good idea to get started.

Don’t Let Your Past Taint Others First Impressions Of You


When you’ve had a run of bad experiences such as being let down by others, denied opportunities for advancement you felt you deserved, or flat-out been rejected for jobs you feel you were perfectly suited for, you can start to feel cheated, robbed and hard-done by. Unfortunately, not only can you feel these emotions, but try as you may, they can start to manifest themselves in your behaviour, facial expressions and comments. In short, you can become unattractive to others.

Now this is extremely unfortunate when you meet others for the first time; others who may just be in a place immediately or shortly afterwards to help you out. However, you can well imagine that if their first impression of you is a brooding, negative, all-too serious kind of person with a permanently furrowed brow and constant look of exasperation, you likely aren’t going to be at the top of their list when openings arise.

Sadly, this my dear reader, might just be something you are blissfully ignorant of. It’s true! Now I can’t say for certain of course not having met you, but do yourself a favour and without noticeably relaxing your facial muscles or attempting to consciously smile, grab a mirror and look at yourself. Imagine you were meeting someone for the first time now and what would they see? Of course you might argue that if you were in fact meeting someone for the first time, you’d definitely put on a smile. Ah but wait; that facial expression and overall impression staring back at you in the mirror is the face you’re projecting to people everyday when you’re at your normal self; just walking or sitting around. This is what others see all the time when you’re being your authentic self.

There are clues of course that something is amiss. Could be that people are asking you if everything is okay, or if anything is wrong. Puzzled, you might say things are fine and ask them why they ask, only to be told that you looked troubled or upset. If you are just being your, ‘normal self’, and you’ve not had these kind of comments in the past, something has changed in how you present yourself to others.

Now again, you might have cause to feel the way you do; let down, perhaps kept down, held back from promotions, denied interviews for jobs you wanted or interviewed and rejected far too often. These setbacks are certainly frustrating and it’s hard not to take them as personally as they are after all happening to you. However, taken on their own as individual not connected events, these disappointments may well be not so much indicative of your qualifications or experience but rather the outcomes of a very competitive job market. In other words, more people are applying and competing for single jobs these days and many of those are highly qualified. So if you are applying for jobs, you’ve got a lot of competition.

Of great importance is to make sure the jobs you apply to in the first place are jobs you are truly competitively fit for. Ensuring you meet the stated qualifications – from an objective point of view mind – is integral to your success. Applying for jobs well outside your area of ability on the hopes that someone will take a flyer on you just isn’t going to meet with a lot of success. So if you do, you set yourself up to fail with a high degree of regularity.

Look, have you heard it said that many Recruiters and interviewers decide in the first few minutes of a first meeting if they like you or not? Sure you have. That first few minutes is nowhere near the time it takes to accurately check your education, experience, qualifications and overall fit. So what are they using to make these appraisals? They – just like you and I and everyone else by the way – use our first impressions. How you look, the tone of your voice, your facial expression, mood, dress, posture, personal hygiene and yes your attitude – these come together to create that first impression. After those first 2 – 5 minutes, the rest of the interview is really all about confirming or changing that first impression.

This is why it is so highly important that you don’t allow your past to affect your present if your past is a growing number of poor experiences. Yes, you do have to be authentic and real, not some phony, all-positive and artificially smiling person. Being ‘real’ is important. However, it could well be that given a chance to prove yourself in a job, or getting that promotion would see your old positive self return; the self you truly are most of the time.

Like I said, you might not be fully aware of how your body language and facial expressions have changed; what you think you’re covering up well may be very transparent to others. If you wonder just how things are, and you’re up for some honest feedback, ask people who’ve known you for some time and give them permission to tell you the truth. Could be they’ve noticed a change – and not for the better – but they’ve been reluctant to say anything out of concern for not wanting to hurt your feelings and strain a relationship.

Your first impression is one thing you have complete control over.

2018: It’s Here!


Yesterday was New Year’s Day and today is day 1 of the ‘work’ year. For me personally, there is a huge contrast in the two; yesterday was sitting and reading a book I got for Christmas, snacking more than I should normally do, and generally relaxing. Today, it’s up and at ’em, back to the blog, shower and dress, make breakfast and out the door to work all day.

As the days of 2017 counted down, did you find yourself consciously putting things off until the new year? You know, job searching; updating your résumé, (yet again!) applying for jobs? Well, it’s here and so it’s time to get going. I hope you’re fired with enthusiasm for changes and the hard work it takes to ultimately be successful. I truly hope you have the stamina to put in the necessary effort and sustain it, and of course I really do want you to succeed.

It’s hard at this time of the year for many to get going though; well for very long at least. Here in Canada we’re under a prolonged deep freeze where the temperatures are with wind chills in the minus 20 – minus 30 range. The days are short on sunlight and the snow has been more plentiful than in past years. Staying inside is tempting; reading as I’ve done for pleasure, or perhaps your own Christmas gifts have your attention (or over-attention as the case may be).

While you may have resolved to put more effort into your job search for the new year, please don’t make the mistake of setting yourself up with lofty expectations you’ll likely not meet. Doing so can have the reverse effect upon you, when you falter, have a setback or two and lean towards chucking the thing in once more. Yes, you don’t want to expect yourself to put in a solid 7 or 8 hours straight every day, nose to the grindstone and then when you slip up a bit, chastise yourself for your failings and give up entirely. This can lead to self-deprecation, low self-esteem, depression and despair.

It’s the balance you’re looking for I suggest. You know better than anyone what your effort in 2017 was really like. You know the help you sought out or didn’t, the advice you failed to follow or the shortcuts you thought in your wisdom would do the same things as taking the longer but probably more effective way to get things done. Nobody knows you like you know you!

Yes, balance is the key. So yes, 2018 will require some effort on your part and perhaps more of a commitment to your end goals. This could mean more work, less play for many, or it could mean just shifting your play time without diminishing it. So rather than saying you’ll give up movies, reading for pleasure, playing games entirely or ignoring the lure of your hobbies and interests until you get a job, (because this won’t work), you could just reallocate your time spent doing these things.

Setting aside ‘play time’ will allow you to enjoy it more when it comes anyhow. So if you love heading to the basement to do some woodworking and it takes some time to set things up, do what you love and then more time to clean up after, give yourself an afternoon say twice a week to do so; and ENJOY it guilt-free. After all, you don’t want to feel distracted with guilt doing something you love, which robs you of the very pleasure you find in it.

You may or may not be in a place to turn your love for your hobby into a job (had you thought of that?), or you might not want to – keeping your hobby and your work separate and apart to unwind and keep the fun of what you love doing.

Now when you’re having your, ‘you time’; immersed in what brings you happiness and contentment, don’t overdo it. If you can discipline yourself to getting back to the job search as you intended to, you’ll ultimately be happier with yourself. You don’t want to feel bad after all that you’re shirking your job search time while you’re trying to enjoy reading that book, sewing or whatever it is you enjoy. That feeling of, “I should be looking for work” will rob you of your concentration and you’ll feel distracted.

So what you might do is begin with a schedule. Whether you set up an alert on your phone, write things down on paper or set an alarm clock, do whatever it takes for you to stay on track of your intended schedule – just as you would do if you were employed. Factor in a couple of breaks and lunch, and where possible, get outdoors for some fresh air at some point too. Good for the spirit, the lungs and the body.

As for the job search? Well, how’s it going? Is a change in strategy needed or are you getting close doing what you’re doing? If you want better results than what you ended 2017 with, then maybe you need a different way of going about things. Read a current book on job search techniques, learn something new about your field of interest, take a course, consult with a job search expert or have your résumé reviewed at the least.

2018; this is YOUR year! All the very best wishes for success!

My Christmas Post


Merry Christmas!

Now yes I know that in our 2017 politically correct, full multi-cultural societies where we have people from all manner of faiths and religions; where tolerance and growing sensitivity to the needs of all those around us would have us drop the Christmas from Merry Christmas and have it replaced with, “Happy Holidays”, I say nonetheless, “Merry Christmas” to you just the same.

I am not insensitive or blissfully unaware that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I am not ignorant that some who acknowledge Christmas and believe in the child of Christ are in a financial or emotional state to find it hard to be merry for that matter. Some find the Christmas season decidedly isolating; a poignant reminder of whatever state they find themselves in which may not be what they’d want or have imagined for themselves. I get that.

Yes some would have the world drop the word, ‘Merry’ from our greetings as well as the ‘Christmas’. While we’re at it there are those who don’t like Christmas lights – a blatant waste of both energy and money they say. I light up the dark nights of winter with my Christmas lights all the same.

You can understand I think why some find this time of year particularly challenging to deal with. They may be unemployed, underemployed, homeless or living just above the poverty line. For people who have been disinherited from families, perhaps cut out of family gatherings and estranged from those they once called brother, sister, mom or dad, yes it can be a constant source of pain to see everyone around them going about with a ‘Merry Christmas’ on their lips.

Me? I go about with a jolly ‘Merry Christmas’ just the same. In fact, I went for a walk at noon just yesterday and made a conscious decision to say just that – “Merry Christmas!” to several people on that walk. There was the guy walking towards me with his head down, hoodie on and hands in his pockets. There was the fellow who had a cigarette in one hand and just walked across the street on a full red light when the traffic gave him an opening. There was the woman who was rushing to go somewhere and had a furrowed brow and look of concentration as she navigated the clearest path to accelerate her walk. And the reaction I got?

Each and every person I said, “Merry Christmas” to said exactly the same thing; “Merry Christmas to you.” Each person also did something else; they made eye contact for about 2 seconds and smiled as they said it. 2 seconds….and a smile. Hmm…. Big deal you say?

Well, if everyone I met felt visible and smiled while saying, “Merry”, perhaps – just perhaps I say – wishing others a “Merry Christmas” isn’t so bad. Now yes, I could have been more thoughtful and stopped these people in their tracks and first asked them, “Excuse me, might I know your religious beliefs and if in particular you believe in the Christ child? You see, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas but I also don’t want to impose any kind of religious doctrine on you in doing so should you practice another religion, believe but not practice or perhaps be an atheist. And also good sir/madam, I do hope its not delaying you in any way or causing you to feel singled out and vulnerable to have a stranger talk to you in this public space and use the words, ‘Merry’ and ‘Christmas’ in the same sentence? You see you might not wish to feel merry – for that of course is your right, and it would be terribly presumptuous of me to wish you to be merry when that may not be what you’d wish for yourself.”

Yes, I suppose I could have said something like that in order not to cause any offence to anyone. However, the good people I wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ to on the streets of downtown Oshawa Ontario didn’t seem to mind. Now I don’t imagine these folks are very different from others who might wander the streets of your city or town. For I’ve no reason to believe Oshawa residents are somehow singularly patrons of Christmas or unifyingly merry for that matter.

How nice then I think to have a stranger wish them a merry Christmas. I wish someone had first said that to me on my walk. I’ve noticed though that people generally walk and avoid eye contact period, let alone say a word of greeting. Yes, it’s eyes averted, down on the ground, straight ahead – anywhere other than meeting the eyes of people they meet. But me? I’m different. I walk and make a point of looking at the faces I pass. I note that people generally see me coming (they aren’t blind after all), and then they purposely avert their eyes. Oh and it’s not that they reserve this behaviour for me alone. I see them do it with everyone they pass.

And I’m open to a Happy Chinese New year, Happy Chanukah, etc. too. Feel free to give one to me when the time is right. I’d like that. So I will continue to go about on my daily walks, look for people who could use a little, ‘Merry Christmas’ and give it to them. Oh, and you out there? A very merry Christmas to you!