Snow! A Lesson on Universal Values


I experienced major cultural shock when we first arrived in Canada, starting by the fact that I learned our race was “Latino” and not “White,” as I’d believed until then. Welcome to the world of diversity!

Since we didn’t speak English at the tine, my sister Nadia and I enrolled in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class in our Senior School, with other kids from all over the world. Some, just like us, didn’t speak the language at all. Others did speak English, but had to level up other skills, such as Math, before they could enroll in the class that corresponded to then according to age.

I son discovered there were countries I know nothing of, and about how much of a priviledged life we’d had until then. The majority of our classmates were refugees and had experienced life in camps before arriving in Toronto. They and their families had fled war, poverty, female mutilation… And I’d look at them only to see that they were still kids. We were all kids. But they’d already witnessed more atrocities than what I’d hope to see in a lifetime.

On a cold Autumn morning, Nadia saw a small white ball that fell on her jacket from out of nowhere. It looked like a piece of Styrofoam.
-Could it be snow? –she asked.
-No way. Snowflakes are much larger – I replied, in my best older sister’s know-it-all tone. Nadia and I had been in the snowy mountains of Chile, but we’d never witnessed snowfall.

During the morning, as we took notes during class, Nadia looked towards the window and said: “It’s snowing!” and made major fun of my face when I turned to look. And she repeated the joke a number of times.

-It’s SNOWING! -she yelled suddenly, much louder.
-Oh yeah, sure… -I replied, tired of the joke.
-It’s SNOWING! Eva, it’s REALLY snowing! –she yelled as she pulled on my clothes.
-Oh, Sir, SNOW! -I heard our classmate Farridah, from Afghanistan, tell our teacher, Mr. Sutherland.

And so, I turned. And there it was: SNOW! I’d never seen anything as great and quiet at the same time. It was unbelievable.

The landscape quickly covered in white and snow began to pile up.

As soon as the bell rang, we put on our jackets and ran outside. Without any planning, we began to make and throw snowballs against one another. It was Epic! In a few minutes, many of us had learned how painful a snowball can be and how cold it can get when you get hit by one on your neck; who threw them stronger; and how hard it is to build a snowman like the ones you see on TV.

That morning brought us an amount of joy I hadn’t experienced in a long time. We all went back to being kids. We all played together. Wars, Refugee camps, and the pain of leaving home were suddenly gone. That morning, we were nothing but kids being kids.

That’s when it struck me: there are values, such as joy, that are Universal. Once you feel them, no one can stop you.

And, so, at thirteen, I understood why a Coca Cola commercial could be so moving.

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