Did you know that in another world, another country, another timeline, or another era of history, that we may not be able to read or write as freely as we do right now? That’s a fact that I become keenly aware of every November, right about the 11th of the month.
For anyone unaware, that’s the day many people across the world celebrate and remember the end of WWI, the first global war of its kind on November 11th, Remembrance Day. This year is special, since it’s the centennial remembrance of the end WWI in 1918. From that war alone, 8.5 million people died, (61, 000 of those Canadians), and 21.1 million were injured (172,000 Canadians). It’s something many of the people involved in have tried to forget, yet we need to remember.
I had the pleasure of teaching a class of grade six students this past week about the importance of Remembrance Day. I was impressed to see that they already had a good handle on that knowledge: they knew where the idea of the poppy came from (the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian medical officer John McCrae), and why we wear it (to remember the fallen men and women who fought for freedom in the Great War). I guided them through an activity where they wrote postcards for veterans, thanking them for their service and sacrifice. It was humbling and heart-filling to read their hearts on those postcards.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to witness the hearts of kids at work, I highly recommend that you fix that. Whether it’s asking a child to pray for something, eliciting any kind of thoughtful response, or asking them to send some heart-stirring thoughts to another who needs them, inspired by what’s been planted in their hearts.
Sometimes they can get silly, sure, but so many times I’ve found that, when you sit a kid down and explain the gravity of something, and ask them to produce something from that…they’ll super cede your expectations. It’s a perfect opportunity for their small soul to shine through, and remind us of how much of a balm the purity of a child can be.
It softens something in us, reminds us of our own childhood and innocence, even amidst the subject of Remembrance Day, where we remember the shattering of a global type of innocence. Even if our own childhood wasn’t all sun and sparkles, there are always some moments we can pick out. Our childhood is a time remembered fondly by many.
But then, things changed. Somewhere along the line, we all grew up and forgot what it was to focus on something perhaps long-lost for some, forgot how important innocence was. We started to poke fun at those who didn’t know what choice terms meant. We started to feel like something was wrong if our innocence wasn’t cracked or sullied. And then, somewhere else along the way we thought we had to focus so hard on being successful, on earning good money, on achieving things we didn’t actually care about, or being someone we didn’t actually desire to be. At some point, we surpassed innocence and purity and forgot that it’s actually something we can can cling to, something we can bring with us.
It’s hard. It’s incredibly hard to bring those things with us, to even remember that they exist, but they do. They’re all around us in simple smiles and reaching arms, in the way that hands raise in praise, in an empathetic hand on a shoulder, in a text sent with sweet words from a simple heart, in choosing to smile, and in taking a moments through the day to remember where all this tenderness comes from: the author of it all, Jesus.
He instigates it, carries it to us, through us, and guides us to further it on. It’s something that is central to our faith, for as Jesus himself said:
At that time the disciples came to ask Jesus, “Who is considered to be the greatest in heaven’s kingdom realm?” Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. Whoever continually humbles himself to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm. And if you tenderly care for this little one on my behalf, you are tenderly caring for me.”
And something like this can really be humbling. In order to grow purity within us – because make no mistake, this is a purposeful process, just like so much else in our faith – we will have to make some humbling choices. These choices may make us seem simple or prudish to some, yet still wise to some. Choices like recusing yourself from an activity that you know will not grow your spirit – in fact, it might make it quite oily and grey with impurity. I’m sure everyone can think of a time where they were left feeling like they missed something, wondering why they didn’t feel as satisfied or as light as they were expecting to.
We must recognize the value of how our souls were created to be pristine, even though we fell and sin stained them. So many things in this world can weigh our hearts down: anger, war, control, jealousy, loneliness, worry, temptation, fear, hardship, lust, loss, misery, cruelty, revenge, selfishness, and so much more.
Despite the great amount of heavy things that exist in our world yesterday, today, and tomorrow, remember that since the beginning of time, and until forever, there exists something that is worth seeking that overshadows it all in light. Remember that in every way and day of our faith, we can strive to find purity and purpose combined in every action and word we produce, and receive.
This Sunday especially, let us remember what has been and let us not forget what could have been.
Lest we forget the sacrifice and bravery of those of our countries, and the purity of our faith. Lest we forget the privilege many of us live with everyday, living in free countries.
And so I write to you, “What a Wonderful World.”