This past Sunday, my wife and I were looking for something different to do that didn’t involve too much time in the sun but would get us out of the house and into some fresh air. We ended up driving about fifteen minutes from our home, to the south end of the city, where there was a groomed walking trail through a woodland area. We probably walked about five kilometres for over a little more than an hour. We only saw one jogger and one other couple. Besides that, we were mostly left to ourselves with the trees and the birds and the mosquitoes. We looked at sunshine and shade and listened to the wind blowing through the leaves.
At one point, my wife remarked that we were having a very Canadian experience. We’d just been talking about Gordon Lightfoot’s current hairstyle. Walking in the woods in 2018 and talking about Gordon Lightfoot’s hair. Wow, eh!
We kidded about the possibility of getting lost or breaking an ankle in the forest and how we’d hoped we could properly communicate to Lassie that we were in need of rescue. But then, of course, we realized the error of our ways because the Littlest Hobo, the iconic and heroic tramp/dog of 1980’s Canadian television, would likely be the one to guide us to safety. Or at the very least, he’d find someone who could. Communicating our exact location in a well-enunciated bark or two.
And our speech pattern actually started to change. Our inner hoser/valley accents became stronger and with each birch tree or pile of pine cones that we pointed out to each other, we began to sound more and more like Bob and Doug MacKenzie. On purpose. Because it was fun and funny.
I had a dental cleaning today. As my hygeneist and I were catching up about the world, as is our habit, I readied myself for a little pain. There were two TVs in the small room, tuned into the CTV national news network. It played on a half-hour loop and in the forty-five minutes I was there, I saw the top stories twice. Kids in a cave and then kids in a cave.
This story reminds me of another time. A time of Lassie and the Littlest Hobo. A story that really only has one side. No one wants to see kids die and everyone is cheering for a happy ending. Left/right, Canadian/American/European/Asian… everyone likes a good rescue story. It’s like cheering for the child who fell down the well. That used to happen a lot. It’s like cheering for a mountain or an island or an airline rescue. No one cheers against that.
But it’s a dozen kids. A dozen kids just died in Africa in the time it took me to type this last paragraph because they lack clean water or mosquito nets. Or because their mothers were denied birth control. A dozen kids were just scarred for life in internment camps in the land of the free in the last half an hour. A dozen kids on the Gaza strip just suffered more anguish this afternoon than most of us will know in a lifetime. Children in Flint, Michigan and Puerto Rico are suffering due to a lack of clean drinking water, because their skin is too dark or they speak the wrong language. Innocents, all of them.
I’m pulling for these kids lost in a cave. Their lives are no less important than any other life in the world. But no more important either.
When my appointment was over, I signed my name three times and left my wallet in my pocket because I’m lucky enough to have insurance. I then waited for my bus across the street from Parliament Hill. It was a hot and sunny day. There were hundreds of people milling about on the lawn. They took pictures of the buildings and the statues and the Eternal Flame. Children and grandmothers and students. People of every colour and a dozen languages. And there wasn’t a gun or soldier in sight.
I stood right beside Terry Fox’s memorial statue. I wanted to sit because I was hot and tired and am feeling every one of my accumulating years these days and the best spot to sit would have been upon the base of Mister Fox’s statue, but I didn’t dare do that. Although I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded. More than anyone, he knew the need for rest, for respite. But if he could endure what he did, I could surely stand in the sun for another ten minutes until my bus arrived.
So in the space of twenty-four hours, I walked through a forest not knowing where I was going, not because I was escaping horrors or running to freedom, but because a leisurely walk in the woods was good for my soul.
I had an aspect of my health attended to simply by picking up the phone and making an appointment. I left the dental office richer, not poorer, than I had been when I entered it.
I awaited a bus while looking upon a lawn that offered a fair representation of how lucky I am to have been born where I was born. A place my immigrant ancestors escaped to.
I looked up to Terry Fox. A man who died young, who affected the world beyond his wildest imagination and in a way he would never know.
And I was lucky enough to joke with my wife. Dumb and innocent laughter. How precious.
Lucky, lucky, lucky.