My heart broke when I heard that a police officer had killed another Black man. My first response was “Not again!” When I finally saw the video of George Floyd’s death, I was upset and angry. I do not typically curse, but this time I did, and I prayed. It was unbelievable to see a white police officer pressing his foot on the neck of Mr. Floyd with a hand in his pocket in the presence of other police officers and bystanders.
Are you familiar with the ice breaker “Two Truths and a Lie”? The game requires participants to share three statements about themselves – two sentences that are true and one that is false. The rest of the group tests their knowledge of the individual in question and tries to spot the lie. For example: I’ve completed the Camino, I own a horse, and I love to rock climb. Which one doesn’t quite sound like me?
We spent most of January in our backyard, avoiding a virus. Yep, January. It was because of our puppy. She was two months old and unvaccinated, so staying home kept her safe from canine parvovirus, an infection that kills 91 percent of untreated dogs. But the risks of not socializing a puppy are also real: without being exposed to new people, animals, sounds and places at a young age, dogs react badly to new things later on.
The week that Bert Witvoet died, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Canadians began hoarding toilet paper. “At last!” I imagined him saying. “No toilet paper? This could be Christian Courier’s moment – people will need newspapers again!” The joke might look a little bald here, but I’m pretty sure Bert could carry it off.
When I was ten, my grandfather died. Our family was still in Holland. I remember the open grave, lowering the casket and taking my turn pitching dirt into a deep black hole. Adults said Grandpa died in the assurance of faith and the hope of the resurrection. It comforted me; my Grandpa was a child of God. There was no talk of Grandpa happily reunited with Grandma in heaven.
Every time I flip the calendar to a new month it is a subtle reminder that time is steadily marching on . . . and I am getting older. Add to that the more frequent aches and pains and that reminder of aging is no longer subtle. While youth has much to commend it, there are two things I now appreciate more with aging: the value of life experience and older people. The two are related.
We are told that young people don’t know enough to take part in church planning. Thankfully, I belong to a church in Hamilton, Ont. that has created a way to counteract this by creating young people’s Bible studies. These groups are run by and include young people, promoting leadership within the community and on the church board as well.
As we anticipate Random Acts of Kindness Day (February 17) and as we practice Purposeful Acts of Kindness (as Bob Bruinsma encouraged us to do in the last issue), we would do well to heed kindness mascot Mister Rogers’ advice: “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” In each moment of potential kindness, however, we must ask ourselves: What does kindness look like in this situation?
Our family started volunteering at a local soup kitchen last year. Because it’s in a basement, in facilities that the organization has outgrown, the place feels a bit grim – crowded and run down. They have plans for a new building to address the growing needs in the community. For now, there’s usually a line-up of people waiting to get in. One day, when we got there late for our shift and made our way to the door, a few people said “Not open yet,” and I realized they thought we were there to eat, too. Fair enough! You can’t tell by looking who is there to volunteer and who’s there for food.
“Who are you, little one? What sort of person will you be?” I mumbled out loud, tracing the distinct outline of a heel pushed against the inside of my rounded belly. There’s nothing quite like the moments that make new life tangible. The first kicks. The first cries. The first cuddles. Around this time last year, I was counting down the final days to the due date of my first born.
I went for a walk with Bob Bruinsma last May. He had picked me up at the Edmonton airport wearing the same hat he does in his columnist photo so I’d recognize him. We walked along the North Saskatchewan River and, the next morning, through Elk Island National Park. Bob is a terrific guide, peppering the conversation with stories about vegetation, local history and politics. He is precise.
My wife and I bought inflatable stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) this summer, and instantly fell in love with this newish sport. They’re a bit slower than canoes or kayaks, and the balance is trickier. But once you figure them out, SUPs are a great way to get out on the water. At the risk of a cringe-worthy pun, the SUP experience is more fluid than other paddle-propelled boats: they’re more immediate, immersive and elemental than canoes or kayaks because you feel more connected to the water and you will get wet. SUPs are also incredibly easy to get off and on, and to move around on while afloat. Need to cool down? Just jump in the water. Need a break? Paddle on your knees for awhile, or simply sit or lay down and float.