History begins at home

It’s amazing what Canadians take for granted, and what it takes to make us stop. Remembrance Day brings that reality home to me each year. On Nov. 11, for one brief moment, whatever we’re doing, we stop.

But we worry about this tradition of Remembrance. It seems fragile now, as the reality of time shifts our history, leaving names where there were once faces, and stories told second-hand lose their power somehow. We fear that future generations won’t appreciate or respect the sacrifices of the generations before them. Maybe we just need to change our approach, because sooner or later, our traditions will change.

It’s inevitable in a world that is changing. Don’t panic. The change is progressive. This is the technology generation. Students today have a world of access to research materials on their mobile devices. The interactive nature of education means history is no longer dull textbooks of facts and dates, it’s a multi-media landscape of engagement.

Parents and grandparents, the onus is on you. Your values are your gifts. If Remembrance Day matters to you, teach your children and grandchildren to value it too. Don’t tell them to have respect, teach them. Find the genre that inspires them, be it field trips to museums, documentaries, online footage and interviews or theatre. And let’s not forget books. From fact to fiction, there are some incredible voices telling Canada’s stories. Find a way to connect the past with the present. But you can’t be lazy about it. It’s up to us to make that connection matter. Don’t expect teachers to be the only voice of history in the heads and hearts of future generations. This goes beyond curriculum. This is “home” work.

Canada’s integrity was born on the battlefields in humanity’s darkest hours, when war and injustice, oppression and hatred threatened the values we hold dear. Our reputation as peacekeepers means those values are embedded in our place in the world. That’s our Canada, our story. Tell it. “Lest We Forget” can never be what we say if it isn’t what we do.

Every day I drive past the Wellington County Museum and Archives. It is often scenery I take for granted. Yet last week, there was a profound reason to stop: my teenagers asked me to. Once again the sprawling lawn was graced with 475 memorial markers. White crosses neatly laid out, each one with the name of a Wellington County veteran; men and women who bravely served their nation from the First World War through to Afghanistan. It was a magnificent sight. History brought to life in a poignant way.  You cannot ignore the relevance of war when it’s brought home like this.

My teens wanted to go at night, when the candles were lit, so we could feel the sentiment in a way that only the glow of flames would allow. Under the night sky, emotions are less obvious, but just as deeply felt. We walked amongst the rows, talking about our ancestry in the Great Wars, about their late Uncle Jim, a career soldier and a veteran who fought for the rights of his comrades.

They asked great questions. They wanted to know. It’s their history and they are forever connected. They will remember. This is a part of what our family values.


Kelly Waterhouse