A few years back travelling on a high-speed train from Guangzhou to Shanghai we noticed a grand-dad keeping a close eye on his grandson.
Despite the top speed of 300km/h, the ride was very smooth and this little guy wasn’t up for sitting still. Back and forth he ran down the aisle and with each pass he came a little closer to me and two companions. Each of us having little folks at home, we laughed a little because it was something our kids would do too.
At one point he ended up in conference with his elders. Soon after, the grand-dad and grandson came toward our group. Not speaking a word of English, nor us able to speak their language, it became clear through hand gestures the little boy wanted a closer look at these “American” looking tourists.
As the only blue-eyed person in the mix the grandpa lifted him up for a closer look. Oddly, he reached out to grab our nose. He may never have seen anything like it before in that part of the world.
Happy for indulging his grandson, we got a big smile and eyes full of thanks. With hours left on the journey we were left to think about the encounter – sort of an east-meets-west moment. We wished one of our buddies had taken a photo but the three of us were a bit in awe as it happened.
The memory of that sweet, innocent moment has stuck with us. We have thought how much better the world would be if curiosity replaced cynicism and kindness replaced judgement. We are all human, despite race or creed.
Today, however, conflict circles the globe. The ongoing battle in Ukraine, turmoil in the China sea and the conflict in the Gaza strip are all festering sores. Within those adult manifestations of power and greed are innocent people just wanting to live in peace. They have no quarrel with others.
But as history has counselled over the generations and centuries, loud voices tend to drown out the quiet and content. Ruffians have their way with pacifists and generally good people are taught how to hate.
The desire by some to dominate always comes at the expense of someone else. This is a dreadful time in that sense and concerns us greatly when thinking of what follows for the next generation.
This Saturday, Canadians will gather to remember veterans of two great wars and the conflicts since. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of November the world should stop for that one minute, but it will not.
Their noble sacrifice and for the many soldiers who paid the ultimate price, remembering their purposeful opposition to tyranny is the least we can do. But that pre-supposes people know their history. We grow increasingly unsure they do.
The people of the Netherlands have not forgotten, and we see that locally with many Dutch friends who celebrate Canada and their Liberation decades ago. Their plight was so desperate they swore to remember.
Here in the land of plenty we have never known strife like other parts of the world. We don’t know what it is to live under an oppressive regime. We just don’t. That does not mean we can take our community or country for granted. Not by a long shot.
Let’s never break faith with those who fought so that we might be free. Cherish life.