The house is awfully quiet when I come home these days. With the four children grown now, I have more time to think, at the end of the day. Often my thoughts wander to my life lived over six decades. Have I spent the time well?
I was, as were many others, deeply troubled by the recent incident in Ottawa, while also being amazed at the calm and resolute response. As an Italian immigrant, I saw Canada as representing a fresh start in a young country. To see this kind of activity here in these times makes me sad, but even more unwavering about the value of life and freedom, and the cost of sacrifice. I am sure I am not alone in this regard.
It’s a tale of three men, an almost unbelievable story yet all true. It started as an average day: two men going to fulfill their daily duties, in our nation’s capital. The third man set out for destruction. By now we have seen the images, and some will be embedded in our minds forever.
What struck me the most is how each man made a choice. In our rush to advance ourselves and our careers, and to fulfill our ambitions, we fly through the day not paying attention to the milliseconds of moments that make up our minutes, hours, and days.
In these moments, we are bombarded with details, activity, and voices demanding to be heard, the pressures of the waking day. Most of us don’t realize that we are going a little too fast for our own good and we are missing things. Some are simple: the pleasure of creating something of beauty and the challenges experienced along the way. Or the celebration of a milestone or a birth, or perhaps time spent sitting to enjoy a breathtaking view. Others are more serious.
Perhaps, in all of our hurry, there are one or two moments where we are destined to be in a certain place, at a certain time on a certain day. Our daily decisions bring us to this place. How we will instinctively react in that moment is a culmination of what we have experienced and what we value. For some the reaction will be dramatic, even heroic. In other instances it will be simple gestures that could change the course of a life. We have great plans for our future, but it’s the decisions we come to each day that make up our lives and determine our fate, now, or even five years from now. There is no end to this.
We do not become useless as we age. Quite the opposite. As we age, we are full of more experience, and hopefully wisdom won in having that experience. Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers is an example of this. I couldn’t imagine what went through his mind when he made his choices that fateful day. Hard decisions need to be made. They may not always be what people want, but rather what they don’t even know they need. These decisions are not made in the big moments, but usually in the small ones. Who will make them? What will be our finest moment that we will be remembered for?
This moment in our history will most likely change the way we see our country, Canada, but hopefully not the way we see ourselves. It is not enough to say you want something or to simply think about it. If you truly want it, you have to fight for it. Freedom isn’t free. There is sacrifice in the development, maintenance, and security of a country and of a life.
Winston Churchill said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” I would add beauty, friendship, family, and love. This is a call to act with purpose and courage, in great things and small things. We will continue to rise to the occasion.
Photo by Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia Commons.