When I was between 10 and 14 years old, newspaper/flyer delivery was a major source of income for me.  First, I had a flyer route that paid $20/month for delivering 70 sets of flyers each week to my neighbors.  The job included assembling flyers from multiple stores into one package and then delivering them throughout my neighborhood.  Not every house got a set of flyers; those who subscribed to the Toronto Star would not be on my route, because they would get the flyers included in the newspaper.  So, I would bring a list of addresses with me during the delivery, making sure the right houses got the flyers.  Sounds pretty easy, but imagine doing this in -15°C weather in the middle of a blizzard.  Eventually, I memorized my entire route and could do this without looking at the list (I got to know the houses, instead of memorizing the addresses).  Then, when my best friend Michael moved to Pickering, I inherited his prized evening Toronto Star paper route.  The money was way better from a revenue to work ratio.  I only had about 10 houses to deliver to but the money was similar.

My brother, Eric, also had a paper route.  He delivered the Sunday Toronto Sun. He had around 60 houses on his route.  He was (and is) really smart; he somehow tricked me into thinking that it was a great idea for me to help him with collecting money from the subscribers.  Yes, this was a thing.  In addition to delivering the newspapers, we were also responsible for knocking on the doors of our customers and collecting the money that they owed the Star/Sun.  Every month, we would remit the majority of that money to our managers and retain our earnings.  If we didn't collect all the money, tough luck, we still needed to remit the money.  So, it was in our best interest to collect.

Back to the story, I had forgotten what Eric had paid me, but it was a small portion of his income, while the work was arguably harder.  If it wasn't harder, it was definitely more time consuming.  Folks weren't home all the time and so you might need to go back to the same house twice, thrice, five, eight times to collect the $5 that they owed.  In addition to that, I actually had to interact with people, some of whom were nice and always tipped, but others were miserable and was not afraid to let you know that it was not welcome to knock on their door during dinner time.  Who ate at 5:00 pm anyway?!?

There was one family on Hood Crescent in Scarborough that I would dread going to.  It was the house of a white family with 2 kids, a girl and a boy around my age.  The father would sometimes answer the door and was polite, if not pleasant, but the mother was always upset about something.  If she wasn't complaining about me coming at dinner time, it was something else.  It was always unpleasant with her.  One day when I was 12 years old, I rang their doorbell as usual and she opened the door.  Immediately, a frown appeared on her face.  As you know, I almost always carry a smile on my face and so, I told her, with a smile, that I was collecting paper money and she owed $5.  She mumbled something about dinner time and went back inside to get the money.  When she came back with the money, she said, and I will never forget, "I would rather give this money to a nice white boy."

I was shocked.  I didn't know what to say.  I just took the money and walked back to my bike.  I didn't know what to feel, except anger.  It upset me tremendously.  I rode my bike home, to be met by Eric and my mom.  I was shaking as I told them what the white lady had said.  Then, uncontrollably, I broke down in tears.

After that, I don't quite remember what happened.  My mom probably consoled me and life went on.  But to this day, I still remember that woman's face and more vividly, her words.  It definitely wasn't the first time I was a victim to racism; some stupid kids at school would call me a chink or would tell me to go back to Hong Kong.  This time was different; it came to me, a 12-year-old boy, from a grown up.  I had a very hard time reconciling that in my head. We were taught racism was wrong and not acceptable, especially in Canada, where people of various backgrounds live harmoniously.  Yet, this lady, who had kids herself, would inflict such pain on a 12-year-old boy.  How deep her hatred for people of colour must have run!

Almost 30 years later, as I reflect on this, I am saddened that racism is still such a real thing in the world.  All I ask is that we continue to pray for those who still bear hatred towards those of another race, and to continue to make decisions in our lives, from voting to educating our kids, that denounce racism.  Just like slavery, it will become a thing of the past only to be learned through history books.  I wish to see the day when 12-year-old newspaper boys only need to worry about whether it was dinnertime when knocking on their customer's door.

...wait, are newspapers still a thing? 😅
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