the "collective experience" of Vancouver 2010

As the Olympics came to a close on Sunday, I'll admit, I was sad. For me, and many other Canadians I assume, the 2010 Olympics were an opportunity not only to express our latent patriotism, but also share in an experience bigger than ourselves, even if only for 17 days. Hey, one day I might even miss that theme song, "I believe"! The extinguishing of the flame marked the end of the celebration, leaving me with that post-holiday feeling - the inevitable return to normality and our old way of Canadian life.

So we ask ourselves, "what now?" Will the Olympic stories inspire Canadians to also consider how their lives fit into a bigger story - Canada's story? In the video below - probably the best summary of the games from a Canadian perspective - journalist Stephen Brunt suggests that contrary to Canadians' tendency to downplay their nationalism and embrace personal freedom in self-identity, the Olympics brought our scattered identities together. Brunt suggests "it is important to have a shared history...There is power in collective experience." I think he's right. Too often our Canadian ideals of tolerance and acceptance - great things by the way! - sadly turn into an excuse to ignore the people around us. So to see something as simple as strangers conversing on the street as so many of us in Vancouver witnessed and participated in, reveals a hiatus from our typical hurried and private lives. I only hope this openness continues.

Now, I'm not so naive to realize this "collective experience" has it's limits. From a Christian perspective, I've already reflected on the tension cultural celebrations such as the Olympics stir in us - the reality that our unity is incomplete in the face of so many still excluded. And realistically, many people will probably morph right back into their old ways, once more ignoring those around them, perpetuating a sort-of impersonal existence. But perhaps that won't be the case for everyone. Maybe a young teen will join the speed-skating club instead of following what seemed an inevitable path towards self-destruction. Or what if one of the tourists remembers a conversation they had with a Downtown Eastside resident and sponsors a scholarship for low-income women to earn a college degree? Or what if you simply decided to look someone in the eye everyday and say "hello" as so many did with ease for two weeks this February? Maybe the idea of "sharing history" doesn't have to seem so foreign after all. Perhaps our feelings of Canadian pride and unity could transform into concrete practices of pride and unity? That's my hope for a 2010 legacy!

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