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What would they see when they look at your house?

Something to think about on Canada Day
shelley column pic
When home isn't so sweet

OUTLOOK - Think of some of the descriptors you might use to describe the home in which you currently live. Homey. Comfortable. Spacious. Beautiful. Landscaped. Sustainable. Colonial. Rancher. Craftsman. You get the idea. We can come up with many words to describe the space, architecture, finishes and whatever else we consider important to describe the home in which we live. But I was taken aback this week by a description I wouldn’t have considered. And for that I was humbled.

A woman working with refugee resettlement sent a picture of her house in Outlook to

someone currently living in a refugee camp. It was part of an effort to introduce herself and her life here

to someone awaiting resettlement. The response to seeing a picture of her house? He said, “It looks


Clearly he was coming from a very different perspective. I can only imagine the conditions he would have had to escape to now look at a picture of a large, beautiful home with interesting architecture and a lovely landscaped yard and think one thing…peace. It struck me how differently I look at a house. I see square footage, number of bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom finishes, and outdoor living space. But for others, perhaps it’s what they don’t see that makes it entirely distinguishable. Bullet holes. Blasted out walls. Or a family fleeing out the back door while enemies try and enter the front.

A lot has happened in our country and around the world since we last gathered to mark Canada

Day. A reckoning of our own nation’s past. The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. Mass shootings.

Violent protests. Continued civil war in Ethiopia. And Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen. Terrorist

insurgency in Algeria, Chad, Mozambique, Tanzania and Tunisia. The invasion of Ukraine. Sadly, I could go on.

Those who know peace may not always realize what they have, because consider this: according to the United Nations two billion people around the world are living in conflict affected areas. Two billion. That is fully one quarter of the world’s population. What they know is terror, devastation and loss. Loss of life, loss of freedom, loss of homes, loss of livelihood. One of those losses is enough. Imagine experiencing all of them at once. Far too many don’t need to imagine because it is their reality.

Shahid, his wife and family, left their home in Aleppo, Syria when the fighting became so intense there was no safe place to take cover any longer. After feeing to the mountains, they hid for several days until they got help to reach a “quiet region” in northern Iraq. With a few other families they now make their home in an abandoned factory. It isn’t luxurious. Many would say it isn’t even comfortable. But…and this is the key for them…it is peaceful.

A 14-year-old girl named Shafaq lives with her family in Lebanon. Constant moving throughout the country in search of safety has put her two years behind in school. She says where they currently live is an area chosen “because we want to survive.” But she knows this living situation, too, is temporary as she states, “Every day I wonder where I will be tomorrow.”

We can read the stories of those escaping war zones, famine, persecution, civil war and so many other unthinkable conditions, but as good as those accounts are they give us a glimpse at best. I don’t know that we can begin to understand what it does to the physical and mental well-being of those trying to survive the horror of circumstances far beyond their ability to do much about. They are at the mercy of others with decision making power. Victims of evil, greed and corruption. Trying to withstand oppression and persecution. Longing for safety. Seeking peace. Searching for

While it is true we need to take good care of the places we live if we want them increase in value, there’s much more reason to properly care for the places we call home. Whether it’s a house, apartment, trailer, or townhouse; Victorian, mid-century modern, Tudor or cottage, in their essence they are simply places to live. But there’s nothing simple about the divergent circumstances we find ourselves in from so many other

Perhaps one of the most important things you could do this Canada Day is look around and marvel that the place we call home looks…peaceful. That’s my outlook.