The Beauty and Power of Compassion
/ Author: Donald Mundy
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters, National /
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The Beauty and Power of Compassion

Lending a helping hand to those in need takes strength and courage, but the rewards are great

By Don Mundy, Representative

One of the things I love most about my job as a union representative is that I get to meet people from all walks of life. Over the years, I have had the privilege of interacting with individuals from nearly every country.

When I was younger, I lived in the Philippines for a year. I recall how difficult it was to adjust to a different culture and figure out how things worked. Just navigating the throngs of people and vast streets of Manilla was an incredible challenge—there are more people living in that one city than in all of western Canada.

I was fortunate that English is widely spoken in the Philippines. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been if I couldn’t communicate effectively. When I returned home, I had a newfound affinity with recent immigrants to Canada and could somewhat identify with the struggles they were going through as they tried to adjust to life in a brand-new country.

I recently visited some of the CLAC Local 501 members who work at the Executive Hotel Vancouver Airport in Richmond, BC. As I rounded a corner, I came across a family of five, two parents and three beautiful young children, the oldest being no more than seven. They were waiting in one of the lobbies with a huge amount of suitcases, waiting to be taken somewhere.

I had attended a labour-management meeting the week before at the hotel where the director told us they were hosting a number of refugees from Afghanistan, many of them staying for several weeks until the government could find suitable housing. It was clear to me that this family were Afghans who had just left their country. The luggage they were tending was most likely the sum of all their earthly possessions.

Like many, I was glued to the television last summer as the incredible scenes of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban were reported daily. The plight of the thousands who fled to the airport to try and flee the county were gripping. Seeing this family in the hotel, I could only imagine what they had been through.

Sitting with the family was an older gentleman, probably the grandfather, who was dressed in traditional Afghan garb, looking as though he could have been sitting on a park bench in Kabul. I walked up to him and extended my hand. He stood up and grabbed it, and I put my other hand on top of his. I tried to say, “Welcome to Canada,” but I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the gravity of the situation and what this family had endured.

It took a while, but I finally got the words out. I’m sure the only word the older gentleman could understand was “Canada,” but I bet that one word meant everything to him and to his family.

He couldn’t speak any English back to me, but he understood the gesture. He put his hand on his heart and gave a slight nod of his head in appreciation. I nodded back and then left.

I was filled with an incredible sense of pride. I was proud that Canada was so quick to open its doors to Afghans who were fleeing tyranny for a better life. But mostly I was proud of our Local 501 members at the hotel. These hardworking people were some of the first Canadians that this family had interacted with in a strange new country where things are done differently. 

The majority of CLAC members working at the hotel were themselves immigrants to Canada many years ago and could identify with what this family was going through. They too struggled with the language, with strange food, with how to get around, with what their future would be.

I know that the patience and grace they showed, and continue to show, to the many Afghan refugees staying at their hotel will never be forgotten.

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