Remembering those who fought to give us the freedom we enjoy today has always seemed something of an oxymoron to me. It’s indescribably sad that war should flourish as readily as it does, both today and all those years ago; I’d like to believe that as humans, we are constantly working towards a common understanding, a peaceful coexistence for all. History teaches us that peace is something that has to be championed, and when we are confronted with the face of evil, it must not go unchallenged. However, we can all make the effort to acknowledge the sacrifices made by others in order that the majority might live lives in relative comfort and happiness.
My own experience of Remembrance Day in Canada has been an interesting journey. For example, would it surprise you to learn that in Great Britain, it is not a national holiday? Everyone goes to work just as normal. Of course, everyone acknowledges the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, but apart from that, the day passes much like any other. Coming to Canada, I could not have been less prepared for the reverence and respect shown to the day, and the veterans it is designed to honour.
When I first started teaching in Canada, I began as a teacher of behaviourally-challenged students. To say their level of engagement was sometimes lacking would be understating it! But the students were upset when they discovered I had not booked a veteran to speak to them around that time. I scrambled to find someone, and a wonderful gentleman by the name of Gordon Day gave a presentation that stopped time. I recall very well these boisterous, loud, aggressive and disengaged students being entranced for the whole hour. Not one disrespectful comment, or superfluous question. They knew what this man had given and returned to him the one thing they had to give; their time.
How many heroes walk among us and we don’t even notice? Heroes don’t always dress in uniform, or wear badges, or have labels to identify them. Heroism is something people carry inside them, something that gives them an inner confidence, but not always an obvious outer shell. On Remembrance Day, we set aside time to respect and admire those who so selflessly gave everything – what can we give to be everyday heroes in the lives of others?