Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thoughts for our students on Remembrance Day

When I was a little girl, I attended Remembrance Day services at my school every year, just like we do.
I found our Remembrance Day services interesting, but mostly they were a way to get variety from being in the classroom all day.
I remember we tried very hard to be quiet during the moment of silence, but I don't think we always stayed as quiet as we could have. In fact, one year, just before the moment of silence, our principal reminded us that we didn’t all need to cough during that time.
Yet in my own little girl way, I did try to take the services seriously. Mostly, however, I was glad that war had only happened long ago and far away.
I was glad to remember and pay tribute to those who’d served in it. But I was also glad it was all over.
There would be no more war in Canada, I thought.
And in our country at that time, in my small town, in my school, in my neighborhood, in my family, there was mostly peace. No war. Only peace.
But as I grew up, I learned what you already know -- that there isn’t peace everywhere in the world.
When I became a teacher and spent a year teaching in a beautiful but difficult country on the other side of the world, I learned what it feels like to live in a place where you can’t count on having peace around your home.
I was never hurt by any of the conflicts there, but I did feel afraid sometimes.
Living there, and seeing how hard it was for the local people during times of conflict, helped me to understand a little of what it’s like for people who live in places where there isn’t always peace.
These days, it seems like there are wars and conflicts in many places around the world.
Sometimes, it seems like there’s conflict in most places.
And I’ve learned enough to know that war hurts everyone around it.
It hurts the armed forces personnel who get hurt or give their lives.
It hurts families who lose their homes or their crops or their jobs.
It hurts children who have to leave their parents in order to move to a safer place.
And it hurts everyone who lives with constant fear, because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them, and because they don’t know whom they can trust.
All the problems that go along with war make me even more grateful I live in Canada.
I’m grateful there are no official wars going on in our country.
One people group isn’t fighting another group of people, at least not officially.
I’m very grateful for my home in Alberta. And I’m grateful for our school.
I feel blessed every day that I get to teach here, to be with you.
Most of the time, we Canadians live in peace. We enjoy freedom and we enjoy safety. Almost every day.
But the incidents in Ottawa, our own capital city,
just a few weeks ago,
when two soldiers were killed simply because they were Canadian soldiers,
keeping the peace in Canada,
reminded me that, even in Canada, we don’t have peace all the time.
as we remember the many soldiers who fought in various wars throughout history,
and the many Canadians who go overseas to help people find peace in other countries--
we also remember Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent,
who died in those senseless attacks in Ottawa just weeks ago.
We’re grateful the Canadian government is planning to make stricter laws,
so they can prevent those kinds of acts from happening again.
But here in Alberta,
in our school,
we are safe.
We’re at peace.
The events in Ottawa have nothing to do with us.
Actually, they do.
The events in Ottawa, when those soldiers died, have important lessons to teach us.
They remind us that making peace, and keeping peace –
building safety in our province, our country, and every other place around the world—
has a lot to do with us.
Peace and safety start with you and me—
here at our school,
here in our neighborhoods
and at home in our families.
When we’re kind to other students,
even kids who don’t seem as cool as we want ourselves to be...
When we accept an invitation for friendship from a classmate,
even if that person isn’t exactly the person we were hoping to be friends with...
When we’re kind to someone who’s younger...
or older...
or from another class...
or from someone who has special needs... 
When we’re kind to someone who has learning challenges,
or who doesn’t always know how to make friends
and sometimes goes about it in the wrong way...
When we speak kindly about others behind their backs,
even if those people don't always speak kindly about us...
When we take time to help each other—
instead of rushing by to play outside --
or instead of making fun because that person can’t do it on their own...
When we say “Good job,” because someone tried hard,
rather than pointing out that they didn’t do things perfectly...
When we stand up to someone who’s being unkind, perhaps acting like a bully,
and when we tell them to STOP...
When we solve our problems in a positive way,
and encourage other people to do the same --
instead of getting people into trouble or paying them back for how they’ve hurt us...
And, surprisingly, even when we think kindly about others,
trying to understand them
instead of putting them down or complaining about them...
When we do those things, you and I are making peace.
We’re building safety.
We’re building peace and safety in our classes.
In our school.
On our playground.
In our neighborhoods.
In our families.
We’re building peace in our relationships.
We're building peace in our hearts.
And we’re building the habits of peace.
As we continue to practice the habits of peace where we are now,
at the age we are now,
we’ll make those habits stronger.
And as we grow,
we’ll take the habits of peace-building to other schools we attend,
to relationships with more and more people--
--here in Alberta,
across Canada---
and for some of us, maybe even around the world.
So today, as we look back and remember, let’s also look forward and remember –
let’s remember the kind of future we want to have.
We do want a life of peace and safety for ourselves, for our families, for our friends.
So let’s keep building a world that has peace and safety in it.
Let’s build it--
one thought,
one word,
one action at a time.
-      Laureen F. Guenther