I promised myself I would get to church early this morning, because the last two weeks I showed up noticeably late and had to sneak in the back. But on my way through Uptown I got stopped at a light where there was a police car parked. This happened to me a few weeks ago when a race was holding up traffic. I got a little frustrated and looked around, trying to assess how long I would be held up.
And then I remembered – it’s Remembrance Day. The police car was keeping the intersection clear so that, for a few moments, a procession of veterans could march down the street.
Funny enough, I was actually held up by a second, completely separate, Remembrance Day procession and was late to church again. But I’ve never been so grateful for being held up in traffic. It gave me some additional moments to think about what Remembrance Day represents and how thankful I am for the men and women who have made huge sacrifices.
I’ve been thinking about the price that was paid to strive for peace and freedom today. Remembrance Day is about more than pausing at 11 am for a moment of silence and going about our day. Mennonite Central Committee Ontario has coined the term “to remember is to work for peace” around this day – and I like the idea that we are not only remembering the past, but we are working towards building peace in the future.
It’s easy to want to rush through the solemn moments of silence on Remembrance Day straight to Christmas cheer or American Thanksgiving – but I want to take more than a moment to pause and remember. We cannot forget what happened in the past and let it become the future.
As a child I didn’t understand the impact of the world wars or the magnitude of loss that was felt during them. The cost of lives lost in WWI and WWII was over 100 million combined. Obviously I wasn’t there, but I have a history minor, so you can trust me.
I don’t often get too political on here, but if you don’t know I’m a Jesus loving feminist who dreams of equality for all no matter one’s race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic class – I’m probably not doing a good enough job as an ally.
We need to keep pushing forward and working to build and preserve peace. To honour the sacrifice of soldiers who died in hope that war would never be necessary to solve the worlds problems again.
Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed when a car drove into a crowd during a protest against white-supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, had a Lisa Borden quote as her final post on Facebook before the protest. The quote was;
“If you aren’t outraged, then you just aren’t paying attention”.
Working for peace is so much more than acknowledging and respecting sacrifices made once a year and then going about business as usual. It also means thinking about what is currently happening in our world and identifying what inequalities exist that need to be made better. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown wrote:
“Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving; courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we are really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”
Striving for non-violence, social justice and social equality is something we probably won’t stop striving for anytime soon. My question is this, what do you get upset about? What social inequalities are on your heart? How can you take this day and let it inspire you to take action on the next 364?
We can be tempted to believe we can’t make a difference – but this is simply not true. We must continue pursuing rights, inclusion, safety and validation of all our fellow humans.
The magnitude of loss and sacrifice being remembered today is nearly impossible to imagine, especially if you’ve also been lucky enough to only ever live in a peaceful country. Remember that much of our world and people living in it have not had that luxury and continue to experience violence and upheaval today.
As excited as I am to jump into celebrating holiday joy, join me in taking time to be thoughtful of how to continue striving for peace everyday in our communities and around the world.
What can you do to work for peace to honour the memory of sacrifice? How can you be an ally? How will you vote when elections come to positively shape our communities and countries? Please wrestle with these questions today, and think about how you will use your actions today and tomorrow to honour the lives lost.