Thoughts tumble back and forth, playing hide and seek. They’re teasers, barley revealing themselves before racing off again. A flash of colour, red, yellow and gold. It was a cold day in the dying, autumn landscape. This is what’s it’s like to live inside my mind, where ten things are happening all at once. As I sit, chin propped in hand, the old familiar hum of the fridge kicks in.
I am humbled, guilty and grateful, all at once.
Earlier today I watched the Remembrance Parade with a dear friend. We stood in the crook of the road, close to a large cannon. Army trucks, soldiers, veterans and cadets lined the streets. It was a big turn out. The oldest soldier gave a brief speech, when a tiny child broke through the barricade twirling. The little girl couldn’t have been more than three. She danced with abandon, enthralled by the mesmerising swirl of her pink, frilly tutu.
The elderly soldier spoke solemnly of battlefields and fallen comrades.
The tiny child laughed, swirling, dizzy and euphoric.
These two couldn’t have been farther apart. And it wasn’t just their age.
For one had known war, the other, only freedom.
I stood watching the rest of the crowd. Ordinary people. People like you and me, gathering to pay their respects to the brave men and women who fought to keep our country safe and free.
The little girl twirling, the senior leaning on his cane, the man in the business suit, the parents tending to children, the teenagers on their phones, the lady singing with such gusto, the bald man and the woman crying into a handkerchief.
A snapshot of the many people who attended today. People of every size, shape and color. A plane flew overhead interrupting my people watching, when the canon roared. I wasn’t expecting it. There was no warning and it was loud. Very loud. My ears are still ringing.
For a split second I caught a glimpse of what it was like to stand on the battle field. The thunderous roar of the cannon, the bitter sting of gunpowder in my nostrils, and the ghost trails of smoke.
Many lost their lives to save ours.
We have a responsibility to them. One I never quite recognised before today.
It isn’t enough that once a year we pay our respects to the soldiers who lost their lives fighting to keep us free.
For the truth of it is, we aren’t always free. We aren’t free of ridicule and judgement. We aren’t free to say the Lords prayers, or Merry Christmas in our schools. We aren’t free in many other ways, that I have absolutely no power over. I’ve never liked being muffled, but I’ve grown a custom to playing nice and I think it’s this, I was meant to write about.
In the mornings celebration it was easy to pay homage, but what about later? What about the other 364 days of the year?
Each time I stay silent, when my voice is needed, I’m disrespecting the soldiers who fought for my right to be heard.
So today I will take a risk. Just as our soldiers do every day of their life.
I’m not okay with the Lords Prayer being removed from our schools. I believe we need it now more than we ever did. I’m not okay with bullying and abuse. I’m not okay with enabling others to stay sick. I’m not okay with child abuse and parents who abandon their children. I’m not okay with animal cruelty. I’m not okay with 144 people dying each day from overdose. I’m not okay with babies being born addicted and children losing their parents.
The truth is, there’s a lot of things I’m not okay with. It’s easy to see the big ones. But there’s a million little ones too.
It’s so much easier ‘not getting involved’ these days. Maybe it’s the man in line, yelling at the cashier, or your bosses tone of voice. Or maybe someone asks you what you think, and you give them a vague description, telling them nothing of how you really feel. It happens all the time.
Invest nothing. Risk nothing. Give nothing.
Can you imagine if our soldiers did that? Fought our wars half-heatedly. Let the other guy do all the work. Let him take the bullet.
We wouldn’t have the bountiful lives we have today. We wouldn’t have freedom of speech. We wouldn’t have choice.
As I looked upon our veterans; their backs bent in age and fragility, I couldn’t help but wonder. Was it worth it? What do they think when they see us – the people they laid down their lives for?
I can’t pretend to know, but I’d like to ask. I’m curious.
The image of the little girl in the pink tutu comes to mind. What will her future look like? Sometimes I wonder where we as a human race are heading. We’ve picked up some bad habits. Worse yet, we’ve become complacent. It’s easy to wait for someone else to fight our battles and right all our wrongs. We can point fingers and be masterful victims. It’s easy to straddle the fence and play it safe. Speak nothing, risk nothing, do nothing, don’t rock the boat! It’s easy, but it’s not right.
The next time you see something unjust, don’t turn a blind eye.
Because once you know something, it’s difficult to un-know it.
Lest we forget.
I hope I never do.