After making my roasted chicken sandwich, the young man behind the Subway counter asked me a tentative question: “Are you Canadian?”
When I nodded, he posed the question he really wanted to ask: “Why is the Canadian government giving money to refugees?”
It wasn’t exactly what I expected to be discussing when I had walked in five minutes earlier, but it kicked off a conversation I won’t soon forget.
The young man came to Canada 10 months ago from his native India. Every day, as he’s working he sees a man standing in a major intersection here in London, Ont., asking for donations from drivers stopped at the light.
“Why does the government give money to refugees from Syria when there are people like that who need help?” he asked earnestly.
I fumbled around and talked about how the Liberals wanted to distinguish themselves from the Conservatives in the last election, about how Justin Trudeau is the son of a prime minister who championed immigration and about how the Syrian refugee crisis was a humanitarian disaster that begged for a response. Blah blah blah. He listened politely.
Then he said he’s heard people at the restaurant who don’t like Justin Trudeau. So we talked a bit about parliamentary governments, about how the Liberals could gain a majority with only about 40% of the popular vote.
He nodded knowingly. He clearly knew something about the subject. But that wasn’t really what was on his mind. He was thinking about tomorrow, June 14.
That’s the day he’s going to the Western Fairgrounds to be sworn in as a Canadian citizen.
“It’s the greatest day of my life,” he exclaimed, smiling so broadly that I wanted to hop over the counter and give him a hug. Instead I reached over and shook his hand. I was thrilled for him, thrilled for this country and thrilled to have shared such a quietly powerful moment with a complete stranger.
I have no idea what time he’s taking his oath Tuesday, but I will be thinking of him on the greatest day of his life.