If you are in Canada this week you know that it is a very solemn time. You will have seen the poppies on every lapel, and probably you are planning a moment of reflection for 11:00 on November 11th. We hold our peacekeepers in great regard, and I am grateful for their dedication and sacrifices daily as I watch my children enjoy so many freedoms and opportunities…
If you have spent any time in Canadian elementary schools you will have heard the story of Canadian military doctor and artillery commander John McCrae and the heartfelt poem he wrote in 1915 when called upon to bury a friend and fellow soldier:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
That incredible poem has brought a level of humanity and empathy to the enormous faceless atrocity of war… It touched the hearts of people all over the world and cemented the poppy as the symbol of peaceful remembrance…
“Poppy, poppy what do you say?
Wear me on Remembrance Day.
Poppy, poppy what do you tell?
Many soldiers in battle fell.
Poppy, poppy what should we know?
That peace on earth should
Grow, grow, grow!
Poppy we are but children small,
We are too little to do it all.
Children you may do your part.
Love each other is how you start.
Play without fighting.
Share your games and toys.
Be kind and thoughtful,
To all girls and boys.”
I have spent some time over the past week reciting the poppy poems with my children and talking with them about peace – about Canada’s role and our own role in the world. It is not enough, although it is very important, to be peacekeepers – we have a greater responsibility to be peacemakers.
“We are all going to die… All of us! That alone should make us love each other.” (Charles Bukowski)
And yet the crazy vulgarity of war carries on in more places than not. The very humanness that should unite us divides us instead. And so the need for remembrance, for empathy, and for forgiveness most of all. I hope you are finding a way to bring love into this great big world. In the end, it is the greatest and only thing.
Your challenge today is to make peace. Find a place in your own world that suffers without it and work to make it real, even in a tiny way. The same human failings that so easily divide us are ready to unite us – ours is just to find the way to begin! Wishing you joy, and love, and peace…