In the past month or so I’ve been bowled over a few times with gratitude for the time and place in which we live.
Recently, Stephen and I watched the movie Remembrance:
A woman topples into memories of her past when she learns that the man who helped her escape from a Nazi death camp 30 years previously, the lover who risked his life for her and who she thought was dead, was actually still alive and living in Poland. We are given flashback glimpses into that horrific time.
That movie still haunts me.
Man’s inhumanity to man — the long-ago theme of our Grade 10 literature unit — is as incomprehensible to me now as it was to the 16 year old me. And it is equally haunting that there are still places in the world where similar atrocities continue.
But not here. Not in our little corner of the world.
Last Thursday, we attended a one-woman play — Jakes’ Gift — written and performed by Julia Mackey, an astoundingly talented artist. Profoundly affected by a visit to the Beaches of Normandy, she wrote this story about the pain and hardship of that same incredibly difficult time in humanity’s history and its aftermath — the way in which it has rippled through the decades to affect people generations later.
Our little corner of the world continues to enjoy the benefits of the sacrifices made by all those bright young men, lost to the cause.
And then, a little closer to home in both time and space:
When I was author visiting in Manitoba, my friend took me to a House Concert. We spent a wonderful evening in an antique-filled home listening to the music and stories of folk-music troubadour, Spook Handy. The late Pete Seeger was one of his mentors. Spook played some of Pete’s songs and told many stories interesting stories about this Musician Activist.
Pete Seeger was one of the musicians brought to trial in the McCarthy era. Apparently, entertainers were the first wave of possible traitors brought in front of the government with accusations of communist leanings. Among other things, they would be asked if they had ever entertained communists.
Where most of the people pleaded the Fifth Amendment (the right not to incriminate themselves), Pete invoked the First Amendment (freedom of association). He was blacklisted. Radio stations were forbidden to play his music. He ended up going overseas in order to continue performing.
When the blacklist lifted a decade later, the first album Pete released had his well-known folk song, If I Had a Hammer, on one side of the 45 and a storysong called Waist Deep in the Big Muddy that was, for those who were listening with unclouded ears, a clear indictment of the Vietnam war.
You can’t keep a good activist down.
I loved the song. I loved the story behind the song. And I’m sad that Pete, and many other innocent, humanity-loving people, had to suffer from the paranoia of others.
Which makes me wonder.
Was that same sort of thing also happening here in our little corner of the world?
Is that sort of thing happening right now and I’m blind to it?
Also this month, my yoga teacher brought in a story about a woman who started a home for widows and their children in India. Apparently, when a woman becomes a widow, she is abandoned even if she is a child.
In India, girls are betrothed at a very young age. If a girl’s husband-to-be dies before they are married, she is still considered a widow. She cannot remain with her birth family for reasons of ‘honor’ and the in-laws won’t take her because she is a financial liability. So she is abandoned which, for a young girl with no other options, most often leads to prostitution.
A woman started a home for these widows. She called it Maher, which means ‘mother,’ and it has changed the life of countless widows and children in India. Other Mother Homes have sprung up in India and around the world. A woman by the name of Darcy Cunningham has written a book about Maher, which is essentially a guidebook for setting up similar NGO’s around the world.
You may ask what an NGO is. I did. And Google told me.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.
But we wouldn’t need that book would we? That sort of thing doesn’t happen here in our little corner of the world, does it?
Except it does.
In various guises.
That’s why we have Women’s Shelters, for one.
I recently learned that there is such a thing as rural homelessness, something I had never ever considered in my safe and warm sanctuary of a home nestled in my small, Alberta town.
And once you know these things, you can’t unknow them.
Not in any little corner of the world.