Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Stand to Honour

This morning I was in Dude and Crafty's school when the national anthem was played. I was standing in a hallway with half a dozen grade five boys who decided chatting and dancing through the anthem was appropriate. In the split second it took for me to decide how I, the adult on the scene, was going to address this I had a flashback of the day my own Enlightening occurred and what an impact it made on me.

I was in the ninth grade and it was early in the year. I was still trying to decide what I thought of my very tall, kind of hairy, basketball obsessed homeroom teacher, Mr. Kennedy. He wore ties with ducks on them and had a poster of Larry Bird above his desk. He also had this weird thing with Canada; he called it patriotism.  It all seemed a little sketchy to me.

Like I said, I was in the ninth grade, 14 years old and stubborn as all get out. I had recently injured my knee and truth be told, I was totally milking it. And he knew it but it wasn't until the morning I refused to stand at attention for 'O Canada' that he called me on my attitude and schooled me on showing proper respect.

I stood for the anthem but leaned on my chair. Apparently I wasn't the only slacker that morning. After the anthem was finished, Mr. Kennedy informed our class that we would stand for an additional five minutes and we would stand at attention. No leaning. No slouching. At the end of the five minutes he informed us that we had earned our disrespectful selves another five minutes at attention because of the chatter, sighing and leaning that filled the previous five minutes.

I said, 'no.'

I claimed that my knee was too sore to stand for another five minutes and I was certainly incapable of standing without leaning on my chair. Although my knee was achy, the truth was that I was bored and decided that this was the moment I was going to make my power play. This was my moment to put this unconventional teacher in his place. He quietly walked toward me, removed my chair and said, 'you will stand.' I looked him in the eye said 'no' again. He stared right back at me. I cracked and tears began to roll down my cheeks. He walked back to his desk and started the clock.

For the full five minutes I silently cried. Not because my knee hurt but because my pride hurt. He called my bluff and I was embarrassed. At the end of the five minutes, in which not a soul moved or breathed, he returned my chair and told us all to have a seat. He then spent the next several minutes explaining the words in the national anthem, the legacy of Canadian soldiers and how our small act of daily remembrance is important so that none of us ever forget the great price that was paid for the life we live.

He finished his talk with these words, "Boys not much older than you gave up their lives so that you can live freely in this great country, the least you can do is stand for three minutes a day and remember them."

Mr. Kennedy was the first person and only person I can ever remember explaining the significance of our anthem and the importance of standing with respect and remembering, honouring, those who fought for our freedom. From that moment to this, if ever I have wasted an opportunity to remember and honour during our national anthem I have felt guilty, like I have cheapened the gift of freedom.

So this morning, as I told the boys to stand at attention and stop talking, I thought of Mr. Kennedy, of the brave men and women who fought, on the battlefield and in the legislature, throughout our nation's history to bring freedom and protect her citizens. I thought, I honoured and I wondered. I wondered if these kids understand. If they understand the price of freedom, the gift of freedom. I wondered if they have ever been told that the simple act of standing at attention for three minutes is our small gift back.

 I wonder.

We only need to look at what we are really doing in the world and at home and we'll know what it is to be Canadian.
~Adrienne Clarkson

Thursday, May 9, 2013

100 Aker Wood Wisdom

I'm having an Eeyore day. Nothing is really wrong but nothing is really right. I'm feeling a little uncertain of my place in the world, a little disconnected and a little bit like I'm spinning my wheels. I am questioning whether the places I am putting my time and energy are the places I am supposed to be putting my time and energy. No worries, though, its not like I'm having a major life crisis ... I'm just doing a little self reflection. And self reflection sometimes turns me into Eeyore.

My whole life I have adored Winnie the Pooh. I have collected books, figurines and stuffed animals from these wonderful tales for years. There's something about that roll polly little bear and his rag tag group of friends that touches my heart and captures my imagination. There's also a lot of wisdom floating around the 100 Aker Wood.

Every now and then, when 'The Eeyore' mood strikes me, I pick up a volume of Pooh Bear classics and I flip through the pages, reading sentences at random. Every time I do this, without fail, my heart swells and my courage is boosted. I am reminded that thinking too much isn't all that its cracked up to be, that love is not particularly dignified or tidy and that's okay and friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Here are a few of my favourite A.A. Milne bits of wisdom ...

"Rivers know this; there is no hurry. We shall get there someday."

"Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more ... to give way to the happiness of the person you love."

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

"Some people care too much. I think its called love."

And my favourite ... today ...

"How do you spell love? You don't spell it, you feel it."

So today, as I am wondering why my life feels stalled out, I will remember the river. When I feel lonely, I'll step outside my corner of the forest. When I feel as though I am going backwards, I'll acknowledge that maybe I need to back up a bit for the sake of the happiness of those I love. When people drive me nuts, I will take the time to know them better so that I may behold their beauty. When my heart feels so full that I'm afraid it might break, I will relax, know that its not madness but love that is filling me. And lastly, love isn't an exact science, it is meant to be felt, to be lived and to be expressed and I will rest in that.

The things that make me different are the things that make me.
A. A. Milne