I don't think there can be much sincere celebration, of anything, without a sincere affirmation of gratitude.
Today is July 1st, Canada Day. As I do every day, I thank God I was born here, in Canada, next door to the great United States of America, a brother nation I have come to love as much as I do my own home.
We in Canada are lucky countless times over to have such a good friend as our neighbor. If only more of us up here could see that, remember it, and acknowledge it as the truth that helps keeps us free.
We in Canada are also lucky to live in a part of the world that is positively breathtaking in its beauty. From coast to coast, north to south, far and wide, it is easy to fall in love with our natural scenery
We're especially lucky if we've been taught to be grateful for all this bounty. Fortunately, there are no lack of teachers for this lesson... though increasingly there does seem to be fewer and fewer capable pupils.
In our small corner of the country there is a custom that sometimes even reaches today's jaded youth with the clarity of its lesson. You see, when a family has suffered the loss of a loved one, that family will sometimes donate a public park bench to one of our many scenic parks, in memory of their dearly departed. A small plaque paying tribute to the love that animates that memory is affixed to the benches, so that a weary traveler may reflect on the treasured blessings that may still fill their lives, the donated benches serving as helpful reminders of the wisdom to not take the good in our lives too much for granted.
One unforgettable day I happened to be sitting on one such park bench, when, as coincidence would have it, the parents of the son memorialized through that gift came along to pay their respects to the boy taken from them. At their gentle request I scooted away in order to give them their space, and their moment. I had just lost someone dear to me, not so long before, so I couldn't help but notice that for these parents there were no tears, just smiles... They shared their happy memories for a short while, first with each other then with me when I took this opportunity to thank them for their gift, mentioning how often I used it, and how far I come to do so. It was jarring to hear that my favorite place to sit and look at the mountains, was facing the very mountain that claimed their son's life, in a climbing accident. Despite their tragic loss, they seemed appreciative of their good fortune, to have been blessed with such a good man for a son, choosing to see the positive instead of the negative.
There's just something about that encounter, and the circumstances surrounding it, that sum up for me what it means to be Canadian.
I've taken endless photos of our park trails, and the donated park benches that fill them. Last year I put some of them to music, in a little video I made to renew my own appreciation for the wonderful blessings that have filled my life, come what may. It wasn't made for Canada Day, but I thought nonetheless that repeating it here would make a fitting show of appreciation for my country, on its birthday, as the video humbly tries to give shape to the peace that may come to any life, through the renewal of gratitude.
May God continue to bless Canada, and may God keep our land, glorious and free.