When I was at the grocery store last night, and a very sweet elderly man very carefully pinned a poppy on my coat lapel, I started to think about Remembrance Day. Very quickly, I started reciting “In Flanders Fields” in my mind. I still remember an elementary school teacher very painstakingly (and patiently) teaching us the poem so that we could recite it for a Remembrance Day assembly. I’ve never forgotten the poem, thanks to that teacher.
The whole poem is beautiful and moving, but the lines that jumped out at me last night were:
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep…
[We shall not sleep]
How impactful is that? As a kid, I never truly understood the significance of those lines. I just remember our teacher coaching us to say, "The torch; be yours to hold it high" loudly and with gusto. Now, those somewhat haunting lines to me serve as a commission, a decree or a perhaps even desperate demand to not only remember but also act.
Of course we all know the purpose of Remembrance Day: to remember that many, many, many people have fought for the freedom many of us were born into today. We must remember, lest we forget, and forget at what cost?
The more I pondered Remembrance Day and the above excerpt from John McRae’s poem, however, the more that commission to act impressed itself on me:
All the people who fought for our freedom have done their part; now, the torch is ours to hold high.
In terms of war and freedom, we must remember the past so that we can perpetuate our victories now and into the future, until we are ready to pass the torch to the next generation. We are the now generation; we are the ones responsible now for carrying forward our ancestors’ dreams and successes and fights; we are the ones responsible now for preparing the way for the next generation’s life on this earth. This commission is much broader than just war and freedom, though: this does not just have to apply to politics. What about society, culture, philanthropy, technology and the environment?
What can we do—what are we doing right now—for future generations?