The Executive Corner

50 Years of Tolerance

SAITSA executive council portraits on campus in Calgary on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (Mikaela MacKenzie/)

SAITSA executive council portraits on campus in Calgary on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.
(Mikaela MacKenzie/)

Alex Dimopoulos
SAITSA Vice President Academic

This story is dedicated to my grandmother and her devotion to family.

What is family?  Some say it is only your blood relatives, others say it can be whoever you choose to identify as family members.

I have realized that family does not always mean they come from the same family tree.

I recently went to the funeral of my grandmother and it was a beautiful service.

One thing that stood out while sitting in the Catholic Church where the service was held, was how many people of the Muslim faith were in attendance. They were the long-time neighbors of my grandmother’s.

They are a large family with many members, but all of them were there to honour my grandmother.

There was an open mic at the reception to tell stories of the deceased. One of the neighbours got up to the mic. He opened with a statement, saying, “I feel as if my own mother has passed.” He then went on to tell stories about growing up at my family’s Catholic household alongside my mother and her siblings.

Both families, his and my grandmother’s, were newly immigrated families and had many traditional values.

His story then mentioned how relations between our families were not always sunshine and rainbows. There were definite misunderstanding and conflicts throughout the 50 years, but the two households always tolerated and respected each other.

They were from two separate religions and two completely different parts of the world, but lived peacefully on the same street in Canada for 50 years.

World leaders should take a lesson on tolerance from two 60s style homes up in north Edmonton from differing ideologies that came together to become one big family.

The lesson I am trying to drive home is that we must tolerate each other’s cultures and religions. Here at SAIT, we see a large population of students coming from other parts of the world.

The people who come from other countries have challenges bigger than just paying for their education.

They have to deal with cultural difference and trying to adapt to our Canadian way of life.

Then there is the actual geography and weather of the land that has to be absorbed and understood.

There is the whole matter of translation from their language to English in conversation, lectures, assignments, midterms, finals or even just watching TV.

I encourage all fluent English speakers to be patient and understanding when interacting with international students.  Put yourself in their shoes and imagine if you were asked to speak their language in front of others.   You would have difficulty as well.

On the other side, I challenge international students to try new things while here in Canada, and get out of your comfort zone to expand your own tolerance and understanding of other cultures.

We are sisters and brothers from different mothers but become one big family when studying at SAIT.

This is the gift my grandmother has given me in her passing:  understanding and tolerance.

We should not base who our family is purely on who we share DNA with. This is the moral of this story.

My grandmother was always known for being a person who could make you laugh, but she always had a lesson to give about the world. Even in her passing, this statement holds true.

Thanks, Grandma.

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