There are people in the world whose mere presence speaks volumes about them and their journey. When we need look no further than into the eyes exposing their pain but also their mission. Where an infectious smile draws in the stranger to them and to their purpose – and of course because we also know of their astonishing story.
Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai, the parents of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize award winner Malala Yousafzai, accepted an honour on behalf of their daughter at a gala event I attended in Toronto earlier this week. Malala would have attended in person had it not been for her exams, but the world’s supreme campaigner for the education of girls could not skip out of an exam merely to be feted in Toronto. The evening after all was dedicated to the education of Muslim women yet I found this to be much more compassionately and spiritually about all of us. Named Daughters for Life, it is in memory of loss of life – the heartrending wartime loss of three daughters to Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Not inconsequentially, the master of ceremonies for the event was Toronto media personality Erin Davis who acknowledged during the evening’s festivities that earlier this month was the first anniversary of the sudden passing of her own daughter.
Also receiving an award was Canadian politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis and his wife Michelle Landsberg, well known Canadian journalist, feminist and social activist. It took me over 37 years but thanks to an elevator ride at the event with the exemplary couple I was finally able to share with Stephen my very amusing but true story when I surprisingly received a swift return call from my then sitting MP, the late Robert Kaplan, whilst in my university dormitory. Mr. Kaplan’s secretary mistakenly scribbled down Stephen Lewis instead of Stuart Lewis on the message pad and hence the hastily returned call. Stephen was quite tickled by it. But I digress … Michelle, in her brief address made one comment that resonated deeply. She said, “Those who have lost the most give back the most.” Seated with me were women representing Bereaved Families of Ontario, an outstanding organization supporting individuals who have suffered loss. The BFO support group are those who themselves have similarly suffered.
Also seated at my table were several doctors, one a Canadian born Palestinian. We had a chance to share our mutual stories and without going into details, the following day the doctor ended an email to me by commenting on the palpable aura of love filling the room that previous night and how if imaginably replicated in other facets of society, “could change the face of humanity”.
There was no judgement at this event. Despite the genesis and reason for it – there was none. Neither were there political nuances. There was no blame. Just love and it was so beautiful. And it was a choice for us all to be there. To support the cause. To support one another. And definitely not to judge. I am so grateful to be learning that lesson myself. All of this is a choice. That is our power to control over ourselves.
Yet if there was one small iota of “politics” heard that wonderful evening it came from Ziauddin Yousafzai. He spoke so eloquently, passionately and I must say skilfully, clearly the apple of Malala doesn’t fall far from that tree of her parents. He concluded his remarks by declaring, “the greatest gift to peace in the world was through the education of women”. That kind of politics I can accept.