A Journey of Resilience:
Affording Good Health and Well-being
By H. Gibran | February 22, 2023
It is the same thing every morning: As soon as I am awake and ready to start my day, and before reaching up to rub my eyes, I grab my phone, eager to catch up on the world’s happenings during my sleep. Fortunately, since it was a Family Day and a long weekend, I didn’t have any new emails or messages to attend to. I swiftly turned to social media to check news headlines and my followers’ posts as my preferred and quickest source of news and updates. On this particular morning, my mind became overwhelmed with news of earthquakes, an unusually warm winter, devastating wildfires, and the latest alert regarding missing indigenous persons. The weight of it all tempts me to stay in bed, but nature’s call beckons.
After a brisk shower to wake myself up, I cradled a steaming cup of tea in my hands, allowing its warmth to spread through my body and soul. I settled at my desk to fill out my bi-weekly budget to manage my finances along with checking how much money was left for groceries. Unfortunately, After covering rent and bills, I did not have much left. Due to inflation, and soaring prices – for almost everything – especially fresh vegetables and fruits, my average grocery basket has shrunk by half. Consequently, I had to adapt and change my grocery habits, sacrificing variety for affordability. Instead of buying two kinds of fresh fruit, apples and bananas, for example, I had to buy only apples. I also had to do the same thing with every other grocery item on my shopping list. The shrinking grocery basket is a constant reminder of the challenges we face in affording basic necessities.
Upon returning home from the grocery store later in the afternoon, my focus shifted to working on my advocacy project for The Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC)’s Youth Policy-Makers Hub (YPH). Instead of joining my friends for an outing, I opened my computer and delved into researching the topic of “The Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being”, the SDG I chose to address through my advocacy project. After a couple of hours of reading and exploring the subject, I found myself diving into a series of thought-provoking questions: If young individuals, with a full-time job and a higher education background, struggle to afford a decent standard of living, what about those who are marginalized within our society? How do the vulnerable segments of the Canadian population, such as seniors or people with disabilities, navigate these challenges?
The questions weighed heavily on my heart, prompting me to shut down my computer as dinner time approached. After my exhausting day, I recognized the importance of prioritizing my own mental well-being, so I decided to treat myself to a small pizza from one of my favorite local restaurants in the city. Since the weather was mild, I chose to walk. Walking through the city streets used to bring me joy, but lately, it has become a disturbing experience due to the prevalence of construction sites on every corner. Regrettably, the city has transformed into a giant construction zone.
When I arrived at my destination, an unpleasant surprise awaited me. My heart sank at the sight of my favorite restaurant being replaced by a fast-food chain. I was devastated and I could feel tears threatening to escape. Memories flooded my mind of joyous moments shared with my friends within those walls. Gathering over a large pizza with a few drinks, we would meet every other week to catch up, support each other, and celebrate each other’s achievements, until two years ago. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
That restaurant had always been a place where I got to recharge my soul with hope from Marenzo’s smile, the Italian owner, who was delighted in sharing his family’s stories, recounting their journey to Canada during World War II, and how his father built the rock pizza oven with his own hands, also their family’s secret pizza recipe that made their pizzas truly extraordinary.
I looked around me and I barely recognized the neighbourhood. I posed in shock, diving into my thoughts again. The ever-changing cityscape, dominated by construction sites, takes a toll on my health and well-being in numerous ways. These sites not only obstruct the once-enjoyable sunlight that used to accompany my walks but also stir up dust and pollen, triggering my allergies more frequently. Our cherished green spaces have given way to towering skyscrapers, and the old trees, under whose shade I sought solace on hot summer days, are no longer there. The loss of community and public spaces, where we once connected and fostered a sense of belonging and safety, raises concerns about preserving our mental well-being.
Moreover, the shift from fresh ingredients and homemade pizza to cheap manufactured processed food raises further questions about maintaining our health and well-being. How can we prioritize our overall wellness when we are forced to replace nourishing options with subpar substitutes?
Disheartened, I lost my appetite with everything I went through during the day. I could not help but reflect on the suggestion I had come across earlier on The Wall Street Journal website advising to skip a meal as a means of saving money. While this idea might contribute to my financial well-being, I recognized that sacrificing the most crucial meal of the day would not be beneficial for my overall health and well-being.
Taking a deep breath, I turned around and began my journey back home. However, after a few steps, a familiar melody caught my attention coming from the back parking lot of the building next door to where the pizza restaurant was. My feet began to lead my curious mind. To my astonishment, I could hardly believe my eyes. There was a big crowd, composed of familiar faces, lining up for a food truck serving pizza. Marenzo was there, taking orders and baking fresh pizzas. I stood for a bit watching the smiles in the crowd and swayed to the rhythm of the music. Emboldened, I approached the food truck to place my regular pizza order. After a warm greeting and brief chat with Marenzo, while he was taking my order, I eagerly awaited the completion of my pizza. Once it was ready, warm in my hands, I located a cozy corner where I could observe the joyful crowd.
Finally, I enjoyed my dinner. Marenzo’s fresh pizza possesses a remarkable power over me. As if a burdensome weight had been lifted atop my chest, feeling a renewed sense of energy and appreciation for life injected into my exhausted body.
As I made my way home, my mind buzzed with thoughts, thinking about what Marenzo said: “Resilience is accepting your new reality and trying your best to create something good out of it”. His wisdom resonated deeply within me. It prompted a realization of our inherent strength, both as individuals and as a unified community, as we navigate the challenges that confront us each day. We possess the capacity to find innovative solutions, surmount obstacles and overcome barriers through our unwavering creativity. His own success serves as a testament to this, underscored by the vital support of his community.
In addition, I came to understand that being an advocate entails the crucial act of listening. Whether advocating for Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being or any other cause, it is imperative to approach the task with mindfulness and receptiveness towards both our own perspectives and those of others. Advocacy, at its core, is a collaborative endeavor that unites people, amplifies their collective voice, and empowers them to effect meaningful change. It grants individuals the opportunity to be heard, and seen, and ultimately reshapes the world to be a better place.
Emotions overwhelmed me as I arrived home. I grabbed my drink and opened my computer again. But this time, I was compelled to write about a day that should never be forgotten. I desired to spend the rest of the night alone with my words. Writing became my solace, my way of processing and moving forward. As I closed my eyes, I embraced Marenzo’s wisdom of resilience, eagerly awaiting the next day to continue my journey, armed with newfound insights and the desire to make a positive impact in the world.