Why I won’t wear pink tomorrow

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Tomorrow is a day that has been designated as a “Wear Pink for Anti-Bullying” day.  I have to admit I am feeling a bit anxious about it.

A few months back I would have said that my years of being the target of bullies no longer bothered me, and that I had in fact become a stronger person as a result of those experiences.  Then we had a designated non-instructional day as staff to learn about an anti-bullying program.  Somewhere along the way I started to flash back to those feelings and situations.  I feel it’s risky to admit it, but I had a bit of a meltdown.  I managed to draw away to a quiet corner and pull myself together, but those feelings have stayed with me and have threatened to resurface a few times since then.

So now we have a day when everyone is supposed to wear pink, and that is somehow going to end bullying.  I want to support this, and I will certainly show support to those who wear pink tomorrow.  I won’t be one of them.  And that’s the point I want to make.  It’s okay to be different.  Whether, as when I was a child, I am different simply by being who I am, or whether it’s a choice to dress in my own way, as I will tomorrow, it should be okay.  Ostracism and coercion are two of the tactics of bullies.  I am a little afraid I will encounter these, even among those adults who are supposed to be teaching children not to bully.  To be honest, the thought of it is giving me knots in my stomach right now.

I am nervous about going public with this disclosure, but I realize that if we want to end the stigma of being bullied, I cannot in good conscience remain silent.  If I can stand in solidarity with one child who feels like he or she does not fit in, I will have accomplished exactly what people are supposed to be accomplishing by wearing pink.  I pray it will be so.

Remembering my brother

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Yesterday was my brother’s birthday.  He’s celebrating in heaven.

This is the second birthday of his since he’s been gone.  I started thinking about something I could do to celebrate his memory.  He was a man who loved Jesus, loved his family, and loved life, in that order. He was so much fun to be around, but he also had a serious side.  He was frugal, yet generous.  I wondered what I could do in his honour.

My daughter suggested an organization in Calgary, where my  brother had lived.  She commented that he especially made a point of helping the people around him.  I plan to look into that one.

The thought crossed my mind that since today was the Terry Fox Run, maybe that would have been a logical thing for me to both participate in and support.  While I do support this at my school, I haven’t been able to embrace it as something that represents my brother.  Yes it was cancer that took him, but cancer did not define him.  It was something he fought valiantly against for eight years.  But it was not his cause.

My brother’s cause can be described in these words from Matthew 22:37-39, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  My brother looked for opportunities to share his faith.  He also quietly grabbed opportunities to do good for others, in very practical ways.  Some heart-warming stories of these were told at his funeral.  I could have told more stories (but not at the funeral… it’s a hard thing to be in the front row at a funeral).  One time when he knew we had a financial need he just gave me a cheque.  He said it was part of his tithe, even though it wasn’t through any official channels and wouldn’t get a tax receipt.  When my son graduated from Bible college,  his uncle gave him a cheque as a gift to encourage him.  During my daughter’s college years she lived closer to my brother than to us.  Her uncle gave countless hours of his time to help her fix and later sell her car.  This was despite his ongoing treatment and limited physical stamina at the time.  I could go on.

My brother did not do any of these things for recognition.  In fact, he tended to avoid the spotlight (except to be goofy).  He was not a saint in the way one tends to think of saints.  He had been through his own challenging journey in his younger years.  He loved to play sports like hockey and basketball.  He took joy in fixing and riding his dirt bike.  He took trips with each of his kids, and tried to build meaningful memories that they could hold onto.  He also had a knack for trash talking anyone who supported a rival sports team.  He was an ordinary guy who knew what Jesus had done for him.  He showed his gratitude in the way he lived his life.

I’ll find a fitting way to pay tribute to his memory.  If I could talk to him today I’d say, “Sorry about the Roughriders!  And I miss you.  And thanks.”

Recollections from my Parents’ Childhoods

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My parents were visiting us for a week over Christmas.  Toward the end of the visit I remembered a question I had been wanting to ask them.  “You were both children during World War II.  What do you remember, or how did that affect you at the time?”

“Sugar rations,” came my dad’s quick response.  My mom remembered some things related to patriotism at school and seeing newsreels before the animated movies.  We talked at length, and both of them seemed to have vivid recollections.  Listening to them talk gave me a glimpse of them as children, because all of their anecdotes contained the kinds of details that reflected a clearly childish perspective.  My father also talked about his father’s responses to certain aspects of the situation.  I had never met my paternal grandfather, but he had been a soldier during World War I.  I asked if my dad thought that experience had affected his protective response with regard to my dad’s older brother.  This seemed to be a new thought to my dad, and it was interesting to watch him contemplate this in a way he had obviously not done when he was younger.

My mom wondered what had prompted the question, and as I explained, I sensed that she appreciated my interest.  In a way, asking this type of question had been such an easy thing to do and had brought about such a rich conversation and connection with my parents.  The thing that so often prevents this type of interaction, though, is failure to take the time to just sit and talk, and listen, like this.  I’m glad that this time I remembered the question while they were still here and that I took the time to ask and to listen.

Anticipation and reflection

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I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It feels like a gift – a week when I’m not working and there is no prescribed agenda and very little in the way of expectations. When I was a kid it was the week that I spent with my grandparents. It was the week of taking a break from the expectations and chores placed on an oldest child living on a farm. It was a week for playing with my Christmas gifts and watching my grandmother making delicious New Year’s cookies (raisin fritters).

It’s still a time for playing with my Christmas toys (such as the e-reader I got from my daughter), as well as a time for random visits with friends or staying in pyjamas until mid-afternoon. It’s also a time of anticipation of the new year, a time to reflect, reassess and plan. It’s a time to be thankful for the many blessings despite hardships in the year just finished, and a time for hope that the year ahead will bring fresh opportunities and renewed focus and energy.

I want this week to go slowly so I can savour it.

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