Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Friday, February 19, 2010

a loss many will never fully understand...

It was with great sadness that I woke to the news that Canada's last WWI veteran, John "Jack" Babcock, had passed away yesterday at the age of 109. This news comes at a time of great joy for Canada as we host the world in the one event that used to bring armistice in wars, even if for a brief time.

Mr Babcock was born July 23rd in 1990 on a farm in Ontario, one of 13 children. He was like so many young men of that generation... he was feisty and looking to make a better life for himself. He had gone through many hardships as a young lad, his father dying when Jack was only 6 years old. He was of the generation that witnessed and took part in Canada's transition from British Dominion to Independent Nation.

At the age of 15 and a half, he enlisted in the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (lying about his age to do so) after hearing recruitment officers quote from Tennyson's The Charge Of The Light Brigade . He was initially assigned to serve in Canada because of his age, but managed to sign up for a regiment that was headed overseas by stating he was 18. So after passing his physical, he was sent overseas to England but his fib caught up with him and prevented him from seeing active combat. Because he was under age, he was sent to the Boys Batallion, a regiment where young men were trained to fight until they were old enough to fight on the front lines. The war ended just months after he turned 18, and he never did get to fight the Germans.
He regretted not seeing combat in that war, being a "tin soldier"... it stayed with him throughout his life and so he never considered himself a true veteran of the Great War. In an interview in 2007 he said: "I think if I had a chance, I would have gone to France, taken my chances like the rest of them did. A lot of good men got killed."

The people that served in The Great War experienced war at it's most raw and the cost in human life was devastating. Sometimes I think if technology wasn't what it is today we might think twice about walking away from discussions and work towards Peace that much harder.

In the 20s, he moved to the United States and also served in the United States Army. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1946. Dual citizenship was not permitted in those days, so Mr Babcock was forced to give up his Canadian ties but never lost his love for his homeland. In April 2008, during a visit from Canadian Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson, Mr Babcock said he would like to get his Canadian citizenship back. At Mr Thompson's urging, he handwrote a note to Prime Minister Stephen Harper which was hand delivered by Thompson that was reported to have said:

"Dear PM. Could I have my citizenship restored? I would appreciate your help. Thank you, John Babcock."

Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted his request and a Canadian delegation traveled to his home in Washington state for a swearing in ceremony.

"We are proud to welcome Mr. Babcock back into the Canadian family and to honour the service he gave our country," Harper said in a news release.
"He symbolizes a generation of Canadians who, in many ways, were the authors of modern Canadian nationhood." - Stephen Harper.

Mr Babcock died a Canadian citizen... as it should be.

Today, my plans changed. I traded in my red sweater, as I try to wear red on Fridays as much as I can in support for our troops, for my father's Canadian Legion sweater. I wear it proudly in their honour for I owe them so much. I can just see the welcome Mr Babcock must be receiving from his veteran comrades in Heaven. May they continue to watch over our troops and act as their guardian angels.

Rest in Peace, sir. Thank you.

"I think it would be nice if all the different people in the world could get along together so we weren't having wars. I don't suppose that'll ever happen, though."
- John Babcock

I strongly encourage you to watch the following videos from The History Channel... I did and learned a great deal about one boy's journey into manhood at a time of great change. Listening to Mr Babcock share his memories, extremely lucidly might I add, gives me an even greater desire to work for Peace.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I do believe... we are more.

12 years ago, I sat at home, a ball of hormones. I was nesting... waiting for the light of my life, the promise that was growing inside me, to join the world. I blamed my hormones for the tears that flowed as I watched the opening ceremony of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympiades.

But the fact of the matter is: I’m a sucker for the Olympic Games.

I love watching athletes from all over the world come together. There’s a glow about them. They’re filled with hope and promise, you can see it in their eyes. You can feel the pride on the face of the flag bearers. And the smiles on the faces of the athletes as they take part in the Parade of Nations is infectious.

My friend Tez's niece, Tamara Oudenaarden - first time Olympian
Long track speed skating

I love the anticipation during that moment before the puck drops, the bell rings, a whistle blows, a figure skater’s music starts. It’s the moment of promise.

Yesterday, I sat at home, waiting for a light from my grandfather’s homeland, Greece, to make its way to the big cauldron of the opening ceremony. There were sweet magical moments, as every day people ran through the streets of Vancouver, on that last day of the flame’s journey. A journey my daughter and I were blessed to have witnessed when, on it’s over 45,000 km cross-Canada trek, the flame was lit in our own community cauldron by a hometown Summer Olympian.

I cried tears of hope and pride, and remembrance, as Terry Fox’s dad, Rolly Fox received the flame from a cancer survivor. My heart swelled and tears flowed as I watched the quintessential hockey dad, Walter Gretzky, hold that torch high and run while people chanted “Go Canada” and afterwards he lead the crowd as they broke into a touching and genuine rendition of “Oh Canada”.

My heart broke when a reporter for CTV informed us of the tragic luge accident that would claim the life of a young Georgian Olympian who that night should have been with his team mates, taking in a moment that no athlete ever forgets, that moment when you get to walk behind your flag as the crowd cheers you on. Nodar Kumaritashvili’s passing reminded us of just how fragile life is and how living to the fullest is the only option.

His team mates chose to honour him and to embody the very spirit of the Olympics by marching in the opening ceremony and competing in the games. Georgia's Minister of Culture and Sport, Nikolos Rurua, said the Georgian team would "dedicate their performances to their fallen comrade.".  I don't think there was a dry eye in the place when the Georgian team entered the stadium.
As a Canadian, I will always remember them and I will keep them in my heart forever. As a Canadian, I nod in direction of the organizers who had both the Olympic and Canadian flags flying at half –mast as the ceremonies were dedicated to Nodar’s memory.

I was moved by John Furlong's words as he addressed the athletes and coaches: "may you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your heart.".

I am immensely proud of my country. We have welcomed the world to our backyard and demonstrated what  makes this country great: the warmth and resolve of its people. This swelling pride is extended to all the athletes present at the games. When faced with tragedy, all rose up and found a way to move on. Tragedy need not define these Games, in the words of slam poet Shane Koyczan : “we live to get past the experiences we go through”.

“We are an experiment going right for a change.”
-Shane Koyczan

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preaching or sharing... you pick.

I haven’t felt the inclination to post. I’ve reverted to my introverted self because I’m too tired to deal with people most of the time and the introvert has been greatly reinforced of late. But I saw something this morning and I wanted to share it.

I stumbled on this in a series of serendipidous interwebz clicks.

I opened up my Twitter the other day and witnessed a perfect example of putting the focus on the wrong aspect of what someone has said and assuming their intentions. Instead of being a conversation about why something was felt to be offensive, it became an attack with name-calling and everything.
I’ve read and heard things from people that fell under the category of “prejudiced/racist”, but instead of judging them and writing them off, I’ve tried to focus on the words they used, what those words convey as a message and that’s been the starting point of the bigger conversation. Sometimes you won’t be able to have the conversation with the interested party... but you gotta try.
Conversations... man, that’s sorely lacking in the world today.

Maybe this is the perfect day for me to start posting again, as I celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mr. Mandela's release from jail. Maybe I’ll get rid of the little voice in my head that keeps me from interacting and just share.

"And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
- Nelson Mandela