Social Education

Letters to Irshad – Letter 1

Shades of Grey: Hear, Not Fear, Different Perspectives

5 min read

Dear Irshad,

I hope this letter finds you well. 

I know we have never formally met but after finishing your recent book, I have felt very drawn to your message and the work you do through your initiative.

We did have a brief encounter on Twitter a short while ago. We shared pictures of our dogs and laughed about me quoting the story you shared in your book of when Sarah Silverman – to build trust with her audience, talked about the time she pooped her pants. 

Irshad, I wanted to start this discussion off with the following quote from your book which I feel is very relevant to this conversation:

I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present, but Sir, I am not sure I shall ever approve it. For having lived long, I have experienced many Instances of being oblig’d by better Information or fuller Consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Benjamin Franklin

I have been struggling these past few months to weigh in on discussions relating to an increasingly polarizing global issue. I’ve been reading/listening to books/audiobooks, watching podcasts, and carefully wading through articles and social media responses relating to these matters. 

Irshad, I must start with the fact that the deep dive into this topic was triggered by a local issue. I also know some of those involved and even worked alongside them in recent years. We still support one another’s work and involvement in our communities. 

This series is not in defense of, nor an attack on anyone involved or even specific theories. In fact, I won’t touch on the local issue much at all because the real focus here is on how we respond to and support the ensuing conversations that stem from the matters that affect us. Mostly, these letters are merely the opinions of a father both searching for answers and a voice within the subject, while tying my professional and community involvements into those viewpoints.

Although the roles of all of those involved locally are slightly different, they are similar in some significant ways. I know this through my own experiences within one of these positions. I have an appreciation for how difficult the part-time roles they all fill are; trying to balance work, school, and family commitments. 

I have drafted a few different versions of this story these past months. I have never struggled writing something more than this, Irshad. I have spent a great deal of time absorbing the facts and studying different opinions. I’ve trusted other’s views to guide me in the past on issues I didn’t fully understand, but I have long learned the importance of doing your own research. Listening to a diversity of viewpoints (see what I did there?), in an effort to formulate a belief and a stance of my own based not just on facts, but my own moral compass. 

In the end, I chose to write about this subject as a series of letters because it allowed me the freedom to let my thoughts, questions, and concerns flow freely in search of resolutions that recognize the beautiful but flawed humans that we all are. I chose to address you, Irshad, as my mentor on the subject of polarizing discussions because I want for your message – your story, to be on the minds of our institutions, our workplaces, and within the hearts of our youth.

Irshad, I love people. I also love kids as a father to two and a step-father to one. I coach, run events in the community, and the work I did alongside these former coworkers was to support over 50,000 youth from across our city. I took great pride in that role, but I continue to voice my opinions and be involved in supporting the health and well-being of youth across our city in a different capacity.

My beliefs and who I am have changed so much over the years, and I have my grandfather to partly thank for that. Although he had to quit school in grade eight to help support his family after his father was injured at work, he pursued his studies through reading, travel, and even while serving overseas in World War II where he continued to make it a point of building relationships and helping the local people in any way he could.

At only days shy of 99 when he passed, my grandfather never lost his passion for people and learning new things.  He was always evolving and making connections – even beyond his time here on earth. He often told me how proud of me he was and even though seven years have passed, I still do not want to disappoint my human side mentor.

Irshad, I have avoided the underlying subject here thus far in part, because I want people to read this. I want them to be part of the conversation regardless of their knowledge of the subject itself, and for them to not feel judged or alone in their opinions on these matters. Your book does this so carefully and thoughtfully and I wanted this series to be written with the same care, compassion, and thought that you put into bridging the divide between political sides – especially when that division is within those with shared goals.

I believe that your book provides critical tools to help us gain a better understanding of these matters and all of our places within this and other discussions known to divide. Not from a place of complacency, but also not one that leaves many sitting silent for fear of, as you put it, being slammed for simply asking the “wrong” question or having an opinion that differs slightly but with a shared objective. 

Your sweet Lilybean was such a wise soul, Irshad. This quote from her struck a chord with me while reading your book:

“Let us be humble. In taking our message to the next generation, let’s proceed as
if we’re right, then let’s listen as if we’re wrong.”


Irshad, it perfectly summarizes my intent here. Be humble in addressing these sensitive topics, while keeping in mind the next generation of youth watching how we engage in this critical discourse. 

What do we want to inspire?

Be well. Keep safe.

Your friends,
Larry and Finnegan

Previous: Forward | Next: Letter 2

The opinions shared within this series do not necessarily represent the views of all INSE members, volunteers, or that of it’s partners. We do however, see this platform as a space for open dialogue – within reason, built on respect for the plurality of opinions within our communities.

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