Forgiveness possible for Lorrie Steeves’ comments?

The wife of a Winnipeg mayoral candidate recently had an unpopular perspective. This woman’s point of view only spoke from her experience, an experience that spoke of fear and frustration.

Winnipegger says perspectives based on experience can be forgiven but not forgotten

Gord Steeves and his wife, Lorrie, have been under a heated spotlight about racist comments she made on Facebook. (CBC)

The wife of a Winnipeg mayoral candidate recently had an unpopular perspective.

In particular, this woman’s point of view only spoke from her experience, an experience that spoke of fear and frustration.

Indeed, it is not nice to swear on social media. It is also not nice to single out a racial group.

For this, we need to practice patience and forgiveness.

In this day and age, the old saying, “Forgive and forget,” needs a bit of revision.

We all need to forgive: ourselves, our thoughts, our words, our deeds and everyone else’s. But oddly enough, we need NOT forget.  

It’s not about holding a grudge; it’s about holding out for growth. We need to learn from our mistakes as well as others.

Lorrie Steeves’ statement, instead of being constantly complained about by the media, could instead, be considered an opportunity for forgiveness and growth.

On a personal level, and in a similar demographic to her, I too, have been asked for money and only on the days when I go to downtown Winnipeg.

I don’t like it and am not at all comfortable with it.  

Last month, I was waiting for my bus on the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street.

I just had my eyes dilated at an eye appointment.

But in an effort to practice personal growth, when asked if I would spare some change, I gave a white man what I had in my jacket pocket.

Unbeknownst to me, he got on the same bus as me, except he had a bus pass! Arg. Where was my change being spent? Was I just supporting an addiction?

But there is more. When I got on that bus, there was no room for me up front.

I had to go to the back of the bus. The back of the bus always scared me. I don’t know why.

I was fortunate enough of secure a side seat, which was in front of the back seat that sprawls across the whole back of the bus.

A woman sitting near to me dropped her newspaper. It fell in front of me. I picked it up and handed it back to her.

“Thank-you,” she exclaimed, as though no one ever did anything kind for her in her life. Nice.

At the next bus stop, a young white man of about 15 years of age entered.

He was neatly dressed in a white T-shirt and a pair of shorts. He also sported a pair of braces. However, he purposely sauntered to the back of the bus and sat in the center of the back seat, spreading his arm and his legs so no one could move.

When everyone was perturbed by his lack of manners, he then asked, to each and every one of us who had the displeasure of being there, “Spare some change?”

He gestured with his chin towards another person, “Spare some change?”

I was reading a book, and when no one answered his inquiry, I knew he was talking to me.

“No,” I said.

It’s not a racial thing about being accosted for money downtown, as indicated above.

Truth be told, I only think I’ve experienced Caucasian squeegee kids.

And as for gang involvement, that takes all kinds. I think it has a lot to do with people who are searching for a sense of belonging.

Understandably, native individuals would feel hurt by this Lorrie Steeves’ comments.

But beyond the racial slant, what this mayoral candidate’s wife said has an element of truth -- a truth that Winnipeg, so far, has seemed to ignore: the negative element that surrounds Winnipeg’s safety.

Her statement, albeit said badly, could in retrospect be an avenue that offers further dialogue about making Winnipeg a safer place to live.

Are Winnipeg’s citizens ready for this dialogue? Do they have the skills to deal with this? Specifically, do they have the forgiveness, patience, understanding and the compassion that is needed to attempt this issue?

We all need to be a little nicer. I think kindness and gratitude should be our new currency. Be thankful for what we have. Be helpful to your fellow Canadian and watch yourself grow.

I don’t think this woman’s comment was meant to be racial; she was just speaking of her individual experience of a specific moment in time from four years ago.

And as a graduate psychology student, I can’t help but quote Carl Rogers.

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming,” said Rogers.

So where in lies the truth of Winnipeg’s downtown?

As Lorrie Steeves indicated, "We need to educate."

Many treaty native individuals have access to free education, if they choose to.  But what I think would be more helpful is for more social programs to help people who need it and want it.

I sometimes hear that homeless individuals chose to live this lifestyle, and who are we to judge how a person lives?

Deep down inside every individual, everywhere, has pride. 

In order for Winnipeggers to take pride in themselves and their city, we need to help one another.  We need to help people help themselves because no one wants to be worse off. 

Karen Bergen is a graduate student in counselling psychology at the University of Manitoba.


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