Monthly Archives: October 2014

Living in the Aftermath

Dear Pope Francis,

My reading week just wrapped up, and usually it’s an uneventful week, filled with school work and sleep. But not this time.

In the space of three days, Canada experienced the death of two men serving their country in separate attacks, one in Quebec and the other on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. We’ve also seen a surge of anti-Muslim hate, including a Mosque being vandalised in Alberta. And I really wish that I could say that I’m surprised and shocked. – but I’m not. I am sad and confused, but not shocked. It really was a matter of time until the terror came close to home.

This is not to say that Canadians deserved what happened or to belittle the heroes of the events. But, it is to point out that we have a natural tendency to assume that no one will hurt us. We’re Canadian, everyone loves us; we’re the peacekeepers, the friendly people. This was the basic message everyone gave me after the events of 9/11; those kinds of things happen in America, but no one will come and hurt us.

I’ve spent the days since the attack on Parliament Hill thinking about all the different ways that someone with malicious intent could cripple Toronto, and how that would impact so many millions of people. These thoughts haven’t stopped me from going about my daily life, but it’s sobering to hear announcements on the subway asking passengers to report suspicious activity to the authorities.

Naively, I wish there were simple answers to the hate that fueled these attacks and that moving on was a matter of deciding to do so. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s a process of accepting the reality that the world of today is different than the world of yesterday. Lives have been lost, horrible things have happened, but the world continues to turn. The challenge of living in the aftermath is how we can continue to live our lives without forgetting the past; how can we honour those events and heroes by the very lives we live?

While, this is true in Canada right now, this is the ongoing challenge issued after every tragedy.

In Christ,

Lauren

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A Simple Thanksgiving

Dear Pope Francis,

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving (which is the necessary way to write it since American Thanksgiving is at the end of November). Growing up, this was never a ‘big’ holiday in my family. Of course we celebrated it, but it was usually a smaller affair, likely with just the immediate family (whereas at Christmas and Easter, our ‘big’ holidays, the whole extended family would be together). We’d spend some time together and have a nice supper, but it didn’t always feel radically different from every other family dinner we had.

Now that I’m away from home, I appreciate the simplicity of the holiday. People generously welcome me to their celebrations, and I look forward to the opportunity to be with large groups of people, especially families, because it reminds me of home in general, but not necessarily Thanksgiving at home.

On Saturday night, I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving for myself. I went to mass, stopped on my way home to get something special for supper and dessert. My roommate happened to be cooking when I got home and we took the opportunity to hang out for a while, which we haven’t done in a few weeks. After finishing my ‘feast’, I called my parents, and then spent the rest of the evening working on a writing project. At the end of the night, I went to bed, having had one of the best nights I’ve had for a while, precisely because it was so simple. It was an evening of simple things to give simple thanks for everything I have.

Over the summer, I challenged myself to practice radical gratitude, to be thankful even when things were tough, but my Thanksgiving celebration last night reminds me that Thanksgiving doesn’t always have to be ‘radical’ and elaborate. Gratitude can also come in the small moments, like a burst of creativity or a spending time with only a few other close friends or family members. The gratitude that comes from these small moments is just as important as the moments of radical gratitude or the communal moments of thanksgiving at larger gatherings.

I’ve spent much of the last few months being completely overwhelmed with gratitude, and not having adequate words to express the sentiment. I am grateful for my trip in June and all that it taught me, the men and women who laid down their lives (and continue to do so) for our freedom, my privileged life in Canada, my family and friends scattered across the country, my school community, the fact that I have a roof over my head and I share the space with someone whom I consider a friend, and I’m grateful for all the experiences that have shaped me and my life into what it is today. In many ways, the activities of Saturday night were the best way I could express my gratitude, by simply enjoying what I have, and not spending the time wishing for more.

Off to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Meredith,

Lauren

Thanksgiving

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