November 11 is a day that we, as a society, remember the sacrifices of the many men and women who have died in horrific stretches of violent conflict in world history. We are closed today as we reflect on their sacrifice, and as I stood at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park today and reflected on their sacrifices, there was something new for me, and all of us, to consider – Does my remembrance extend beyond the physical sacrifice made by so many? Does my remembrance recognize the values that embraced such sacrifice?
Often we hear the word freedom, and yet freedom doesn’t seem to fully express the virtues and values that our ancestors stood for. They fought for the right to self-determination, to stand up for the oppressed, refused to allow for someone to be told they were less than human due to their ethnic heritage – It was the belief that all life is valuable, that all peoples deserve that freedom, and that the value of community was more powerful and necessary to uphold than the valuations of power and dominance.
As a staff of 9 at Carmichael Outreach, we see the realities of extreme poverty in our city – individuals struggling financially and socially with their life circumstances. Some come for housing support, many come for food or clothing, and all come for the value of community. It is paramount to everything we do. It is so important to honor the sacrifice of the many, and yet it is difficult for us to do so by closing our doors while seeing the struggle of many in our own community. It’s not that their struggle de-legitimizes the sacrifices of those who have died for our freedom; it’s that the very sacrifice of those men and women stands in stark contrast to our daily reality. Closing today means 270+ folks don’t have a warm meal for lunch, and that the 60+ individuals and families we are providing housing support to currently face another day of shelter instability. Being closed today, is a clear reminder to us of the call to uphold values previously affirmed through shed blood the other 364 days of the year.
The existence of the above mentioned circumstances causes us to reflect on the responsibility we have to honor those who gave everything for us by once again coming together as a community to stand for the values of self-determination, the power of community, and to stand in opposition to oppression and the historical de-humanization of those deemed “different” than us. To remember is to work towards these values, to remember is to work for peace*. We will be hard at work again tomorrow, honouring the sacrifices of our brave servicemen and servicewomen, and we invite our fellow community members to participate with us.
Together in Community, Together as Community,
Carmichael Outreach Inc.
* Mennonite Central Committee Canada