Paul Chiasson , The Canadian Press

(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019)

It was early this election season and the news came on TV and it was federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaking. Then this question from a certain young lady, a healthcare attendant beside me. She looked at the TV and with raised eyebrow said, “Is he running for prime minister?”

She emphasized the words “he” and “prime minister” in a way that showed a remarkable lack of awareness, yes, but also the sad truth that she could imagine pretty well anything in this kooky world except a Canadian prime minister who’d wear – deep breath now – a turban.

I said yes to her question, and this might have been the end of it. But it’s not. Because people should know better. Singh, a practicing Sikh, has led Canada’s NDP for two full years. And anyone who’s ventured past even the end of their driveway must, by now, have at least some level of comfort with headgear besides the hockey cap I personally wear.

My own view, in fact, is that this weekend we should all be wearing turbans. That’s right. You and me and everyone. From sea to shining sea. Turbans in spirit, that is. This weekend is Thanksgiving, after all. And, if you didn’t know, honour and thanksgiving is largely what wearing a turban is about.

Leaving your hair uncut, a practice known in some parts of the world as “kesh,” is an acknowledgment of the beauty of God’s creation. Covering your uncut hair is an outward recognition that you yourself are created with that honour and glory, created, really, to give thanks.

Of course, there are other reasons to wear a turban, more dramatic reasons if you’re, say, Justin Trudeau. Good grief.

Which is to say that you can wear a turban – also called a dastaar – without giving thanks for spit, just like you can have a belly full of thanks while wearing neither a turban nor, for that matter, any hair. It’s less about what’s on your head than what’s in your heart. This is what it means to wear a turban in spirit.

The concept is so simple and clear that even a child can get it. But you do need to keep  your eyes open and, in this case, have at least a working knowledge of the news.

My own boy, Child Number Two, who dislikes haircuts with some intensity, can tell you. Not that he can vote yet. He cant. Even so, he’d just seen that dramatic turban-clad Trudeau photo before he saw another news photo, of Singh, when, without prompt or hesitation, the boy declared “That’s the guy I want to win!”

Mind you, the children have travelled abroad here and there and this has helped them understand what may go into a thankful heart. Not that you ever arrive. It was only this past summer when old Dards started a fresh thanksgiving journal, just a few words daily, there on my bedside table, plenty of days missed, but enough caught as tangible reminders of the small, almost forgettable moments that make up life.

This is one way of wearing that turban in spirit, the spirit that led Canada’s Parliament to enact a Thanksgiving holiday into law 140 years ago, in 1879, when it was realized that even as a nation of mixed peoples, in our common innards we’re made for this purpose, to give thanks. So every year we pause to think about it. Or not.

No, you don’t have to wear a turban. Many Sikhs have understandably stopped the practice for convenience. It all takes time. Just like, this weekend, you don’t have to give thanks. But live long enough without a thankful heart and become blind, if not toxic.

You know toxic people and the harm they bring families, or places of work, or anywhere they’re allowed to run amok. These people are unable to see past their own faces, even as they seem unable to give thanks for, if nothing else, the miracle of the breath they’ve just been given.

But this is about a better way. So have a Happy Thanksgiving. And in this, our free and blessed home, don’t let anyone steal your turban, that is your gratitude, regardless of how you decide to express it.