Friday, November 09, 2007

Remembrance Day, 2007

It's been awhile since I've had time to write anything. A number of things have happened but I'm not touching those right now. I need to be more at peace within myself. But today I made my annual trip up to the First Nations school north of me. It is a K-12 school. I get asked back because, for some reason (and I think it has to do with the Spirit answering my frantic prayer) the children will sit still to listen to me. I try not to sermonize but to tell stories that teach. I am very conscious that I am white and that I represent an institution that has done great harm to the First Nations people and their culture. So although I try to find touchstones within their culture, I do not try to pretend to know their culture or to be anything but who I am.

I found this resource on the web: United for Peace; from the United Church of Canada. On page 20 of the resource for the all ages worship service there is a story called The Egg. I thought it had a good message but felt it was to old for the children to whom I was talking. So, with Shawn's help, I used the basic idea as well as some points of the story and came up with the talk that follows. I painted a special egg last night for the telling of this story. This is not word for word as I did not have a script. This is from my somewhat faulty memory of the morning.

First of all I want to thank Mrs. S for inviting me to talk here again. This is the third year that I have been here. When I went to college to study to become a priest we had a saying that once something happened three times, it was a tradition. So, coming here to share in your Remembrance Day service has become part of my tradition and a part I value very much.

You may note that as a priest, today, I am not wearing a cross. I am wearing a watch (I held out the watch on a chain around my neck. This watch was my Grandma's. My grandfather gave it to her in 1927. It was passed on to me because I was given her name. I will pass it on to my daughter because she also shares my grandmother's name. It is going to be part of our traditions.

Years ago, many cultures passed on their traditions through stories. They would gather together and share stories about their past. We've kind of lost that today with TVs and computers. But I would like you all to imagine gathering with my family around a fire on a nice warm evening and listening as I tell I story.

Once there was a Mother Canada Goose and a Father Canada Goose. And they laid a very special egg. There was nothing special about the Mother and the Father Canada Goose. They were ordinary parents, like me, like your teachers, like your parents. But the Creator who made us knows that in ordinariness there is something special in each one of us. The Creator knows that each of us can do some special things. So the Creator gave Mother and Father Canada Goose a special task. They were given a very special egg.

Now this was not an egg like those of other Canada Geese. No, these egg had many colours. It was white and black and red and yellow. These are special colours because they are the colours of the all the races of the earth. They are also the colours of nature. And they are the colours of the Medicine wheel where there is inter-relationship and peace. So the egg had some very important colours to mark it as special. It also had the word, "peace" written on it.

Mother and Father Canada Goose saw that their egg was special and they were determined to do the best they could for their egg. Unfortunately, something bad happened to the marsh where the egg was laid and Mother and Father Goose had to leave. Some nice spiders wove a web that Mother and Father Goose could push their egg on and carry it as they flew to find a new place to nurture and hatch "Peace".

So Mother and Father Canada Goose flew, looking for a safe place to raise "Peace." After awhile they flew over a military base like Dundurn or Wainwright. This camp was in the middle of war exercises. Mother and Father Canada Goose did not think that this looked like a very good or safe place to raise "Peace". So on they flew, looking for a safe and secure place for "Peace".

After awhile they flew over a green park in the middle of the city. They thought that this looked like a good place to look after "Peace." But as they got closer they noticed that there were insecticides and pesticides and they thought that these were pretty dangerous for their egg. So on they flew.

They had been flying for quite awhile and the web was getting weak. Soon it began to fall apart. Mother and Father Canada Goose had to land the middle of a town. This was a town just like this one, just like where I come from and just like the town where my husband and children live. An ordinary town. They landed in a playground full of children.

Mother and Father Canada Goose had nothing to make a nest. They had just landed in the park and hadn't had time to gather anything to make a nest for "Peace." And "Peace" was about to hatch. A little girl noticed Mother and Father Canada Goose. She had been having a fight with her best friend over something or other but saw the geese land. She stopped fighting and noticed that the geese needed help. She picked up a twig and brought it over to them. Her best friend saw what she was doing and stopped being mad and gathered some soft grass and brought it over to the geese.

One by one, the children in the play ground stopped what they were doing and gathered twigs and grass for the geese to make a nest. They saw that "Peace" was a very special egg and wanted to help. Even when "Peace" hatched they continued to help Mother and Father Canada Goose to look after "Peace." Soon they were so busy helping raise "Peace" that they forgot about fighting and bullying.

After awhile, their parents noticed the change in the children. They saw what the children were doing and they stopped yelling at their children, at each other and at their neighbours and helped the children care for "Peace." And then the governments noticed the difference in the parents and they started to take care of "Peace."

It's a story. And it may seem farfetched but I believe it can happen. That if we all work together, we can have peace.

This Sunday, on November 11, at 11:00, we will gather to honour those people who gave so much for us in the World Wars. We haven't done well in our honouring of them. My generation has not worked very hard at caring for peace. We can see this with Afghanistan and Iraq. We have failed to honour the sacrifice of the soldiers. We have failed to create a tradition of peace.

My faith tradition has a line which states that "a little child shall lead them." With my generation having failed to bring about peace, it is now up to you, as the children of this world, like the children in my story, to help lead us into a tradition of peace. The men and women who fought in the wars are the warriors on the outside of the circle protecting us so that we can do the important work of creating that tradition of peace.

On Sunday, when we have that minute of silence let us give thanks to those men and women - those who died in the war, those who have died since, and all those who sacrificed physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have talked to a number of vetrens who speak of their struggles to make sense of the wars - to make sense of what happened, of what they saw and they did. Let us honour those people and give meaning to their sacrifice for us by saying thank you and by finding ways that we can care for "Peace" and by working to bring about the world for
which they fought so bravely.

Thank you.

I have for years struggled with the minute of silence on Remembrance Day. My father's oldest brother died night flying over Britain. According to Dad, Uncle Norman was the brother who had it all - the good looks, the smarts, the athletic ability, the personality. I figure that this is largely a younger brother hero-worshipping his older brother because I believe my dad is pretty special. I will never know for sure because I never had the chance to know my unlce - he died 15-20 years before I was born - a gifted man whose life was cut short. So in the minute of silence I pay tribute to my uncle and, through that, to all the men and women who fought in the wars.

In the '90's I watched a documentary series put together by the War Amps. Ever since then I have understood that we truly honour those men and women when we work to ensure that no one has to go to war again. Their theme song was never again. You can access it here. Since that time I have added to my thoughts during the minute of silence. I no longer struggle to keep focused. I am now focused on the thoughts of how I can honour the men and women by working to ensure that the negatives they experienced are not expereinced in the future. For me, working to nurture peace is a better way of saying thank than to spend just one minute a year saying thank you.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

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