The Notched Wing

Helen Tara Hughes – Poetry, Fiction, Film, Phantasms

You can Decide to be Happy

You can decide to be happy.

This is a new idea my friend Deb sent to me today.

The Christmas season always makes me feel anxious, and in the days before my flight home I found myself unable to sleep, frantically busy with “projects” around my home, including projects I’d created, I think, to keep myself busy! (Xmas cookies, anyone?)

I almost missed my flight when finding a cab seemed impossible in rush hour traffic, but I very lucky with the cab I finally flagged down. I was steeped in calm the whole way there, distracted by this amazing cabbie who took me to the airport.

He was originally from Eritrea. When the war in his country escalated in the 80′s (it was a war for Independence from Ethiopia) he became a refugee. Only a teenager, forced to leave his country and his family, he finished high school in the refugee camps. He lived in Saudi Arabia for a while, then Italy, then came here.

11 years after he’d left his country, the war ended and he immediately booked a flight to Eritrea. It had been 11 years since he’d seen his family. He is a very hard-working man – he owns his own cab and license outright, and the license has appreciated $100,000 since he acquired it. He spends 6 months every 2 years in Eritrea with his family and friends – and although he speaks 6 languages and has been an IT Systems Engineer in the past, he prefers the freedom that driving cab provides.

He loves his country – it was evident in the way he spoke of his culture, the importance of Community, the ways they celebrate Christmas back home and here in Canada. His country (“beautiful, beautiful! and hot…” ) is so dear to him, and so far away. He is happy in Canada, he said.

He was a most positive and remarkable person.

Then, after the mad panic (damn that snowboard!) to get on my plane before it left without me, I had the most remarkable seat-mates.

I sat next to a man (40 years old) and his sister (52 years old) from Lebanon, who were coming to visit their younger brother for the first time since he left Lebanon, and it was their first time on a plane. Yusef had already decided that flying made him nervous, while Fatima slept like a baby. They had been in transit for 36 hours. Yusef spoke some English and spoke to me about the importance of me taking time to do the important things in life. In his opinion, that was for me to become a mother. And then be a Star in films. In that order!

How he loved his country too – but was saddened by the corruption in the government. “Honesty is the most important thing,” he said, “If you have Honesty, you have everything”. He was coming to Canada to investigate his opportunities for work here, although it was very clear that he would miss his homeland terribly if he were to leave.

In his small village in Lebanon he is a policeman, working 12 to 16 hour days. He said he is sometimes asked to do things which haunt him later (he wouldn’t say what those things were) and some of which he gets into trouble for refusing to do. “It is hard to be a sensitive person in my country” he said. “but oh, my country is sooo beautiful. So beautiful, you would hardly believe it”.

When they landed, I saw the richness of those bonds of family/community love he was talking about on the plane – I saw them in action.

We were the last off the plane. As we came through the doors we saw a clump of men and women, grinning and calling out, taking digital photo’s. The women were in head scarves, the men were dressed as if for a special occasion, and the children on the ground, and the babies in their arms looked about for the cause of the noise and excitement. They could not yet recognize which of the passengers emerging from the walkway were family.

Fatima and Yusef walked into the midst of this cacophony and were enveloped in long tight hugs. Then the two travellers began kissing babies (babies they had never met but only knew the names of) as if they were blessing them. The children were glowing like they’d just seen a magical event, Fatima tightly holding one in each hand all the way to the baggage conveyor, her cherubic face flushed red and beaming with joy, their flushed little faces turned up to the people with wonder.

Joy. So much joy.

It was a good reminder to look around and see how much I already have.

I can choose to believe, as I awake each morning, that I am wealthy beyond belief. I am thankful that I have friends who enrich my life, that I have a family who loves me and is proud of me. I can focus on loving myself as much as I love them. Rejoice in their presence, rejoice in my own presence on this earth.

Wishing you much wealth and joy in 2006.


Author: smallboy

Helen Tara Hughes is a writer, producer and actor. An award-winning theatre performer, she cut her teeth in classical and new work at major theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival. Her first taste of documentary work – a POV radio documentary for CBC’s ‘Outfront’ – gave her the documentary bug, and in 2009 she transitioned into Producing with the feature documentary, Goodness in Rwanda. As a writer, she has been published by, Eros Digest, and TWISI, and has a book of short stories that will be published in the fall of 2012. As a filmmaker, she creates short films based on poetic writing. She moonlights as an Asst Producer and Coordinator for documentary, factual, and independent films, and is developing a slate of her own media projects for 2013.

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