Since living in Canada my wife has been ineligible to vote. For a politically minded person this has definitely had its downside. Today is the Federal Election in Canada and I will go out later today to vote. In my riding area we have the Green Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Communist Party. I’m not going to take the opportunity of blog space and lecture the few people who read this article about what party they should, or should not vote for, rather it is more of a reflection on my ability to vote.
In the past there has been typically (and sadly) very low voter turn out on election day. In our corner of Canada early voting days made headlines with disgruntled citizens having to stand in a line up for up to an hour in order to cast their ballot. Oh the horror. It strikes me that many counties have people lining up to vote for days on end, waiting long hours in burning heat to cast a vote for a party that probably will never get elected due to corruption of a process. Yet we refuse to wait an hour in line.
Voting has been the talk around our family table for the last couple weeks, as our children will be taking part in their own school ‘mock election’ for the riding where the school is situated. The teachers at the school have done this before with mayoral elections and provincial elections as a way of education the children. It is with keen interest that Hannah and Lucia debate different party platforms. Anke and I have seen the girls shift from simply liking a leader because of the way they look, to getting into the meat of issues and values which are now making their decisions much more informed.
Soon our family situation in regards to eligibility to vote will shift so that once again Anke will be able to cast her ballot in Germany, whilst I will likely be the keen person interested in all the politics, but without the ability to vote. However, I have heard that I may be able to vote for municipal elections in Germany.
We will wait to see what happens in this country…the breakfast table discussion should be colourful nonetheless, and we look forward to having future conversations, debates and talk about our personal values when in Germany.
As our relationships continue in Victoria, some have come to a tasty end. Each week our girls help out on a small farm which friends own and over time we have added to the stock with our own chickens, rabbits, geese, turkeys, and sheep. As we live in a small house we don’t have the necessary space for farm animals, not even an urban chicken or two. Yet, both girls have done the hard work of raising animals and several have made it to our table. I figure it teaches our children some responsibility as they care for and raise the animals, as well as some business sense, as they either sell, or eat what is produced. There is a large 4H Club on the peninsula that the girls have never participated in, but have come close to competing with in shows for best chicken.
As a young child, my own dog and I rounded up someones unwanted chickens from a local park and we brought them home to look after. The Plymouth Rock Chickens were great in the garden at my childhood home and it trained my Springer Spaniel on retrieval. Unfortunately the chickens were illegal as it was against the village code in that area. The chickens went to greener pastures.
Our chickens and Quail have produced loads of eggs and provided us with many soups. As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, a new addition to the fridge has appeared after our children came home from their work on the farm…a massive turkey!
The turkey will certainly provide a feast, as we will be 12 people for supper tomorrow night. There is a plan with all of this too, as our friends will help to load a small rental van with some of our furniture that we will be storing in Vancouver. Ironically, the old furniture is from Hamburg and came as an inheritance.
Of all the animals on the farm, the one we will not eat, but we have recently sold to our friends on the farm, is our Black Faced Welsh Sheep. The small herd of three sheep has certainly grown on our two daughters. It amazes me that all our daughters need to do is call their names and they trott on over to nuzzle the girls. It makes me reflect on the gospel parable in which Jesus refers to himself as Shepherd and us as sheep. It certainly looks like we will know our name when called, and come running.
We are well on the way of clearing out our house and have tried to follow tight rules about what we might store with my folks in Vancouver, what we can part with either by sale, or by recycling/throwing away, and what we should bring.
Easier said than done.
In the last week I have done a large (200 plus people in the service) funeral where the fellow had collected a lot of ‘stuff’ in his garage. His wife and and family now have to sort through it all and determine what stays and what goes. I end my day today having visited a lovely 90 something woman who lives like she is 30 something. She has broken her hip and is having a difficult time in the hospital. She has, years ago, made all sorts of arrangements for her own care and what will happen to all of her possessions if she should become too frail. Each of these people make me think about the importance we hold to our ‘stuff’.
Over time, I think that the pull of sentimentality to items has decreased for me, as I now have more of a relationship with the people, than with the item that they may have given me in the past. I speak directly about some of the things that I collected whilst I was in the Solomon Islands as a Deacon in training. There is deep significance to all of them, but mostly now it is the people that I have stayed in touch with over the many years that brings a smile to my face. However, how many other clergy have a pectoral cross made of sea turtle shell and dolphin teeth?! You see how difficult it is to give things up.
There is another dynamic to having lots of stuff to get rid of, and I question myself, “why did I ever need this in the first place?” This question becomes more focused as I prepare for the Harvest Thanksgiving service in the parishes and at home. The first reading will be from Deuteronomy and is a reminder to give God the thanks all the time, not just when times are bad, or when times are good. I read myself into this passage and think of the house I live in and the stuff that we as a family have accumulated over the years. Yes, there are some things that distract me from God, like a crow that is easy distracted by the small shiny trinkets that it can find on its journey. For me the caution is never to forget God, and that even when it seems tough going, God is there. When life is good, God is still there, and we need to thank him too.
One of the things that I am determined to take with me are my small black sketchbooks that span many years. They document my life and my interests and spiritual journey. Store, sell, bring…the piles get larger and larger. I am confident that I will collect many more ‘things’ on a new stage in life and ministry. What I am really looking forward to is the collection of more lifelong friends in Freiburg and beyond. Just like the people I have loved in my parishes before, they have travelled with me from place to place, (not in a box on a shelf!) in my prayers.
My wife and a few of her friends came over for tea and cake, as they are known to do on a weekly basis. This time it was a bit different as they spoke in hushed tones so as not to wake the children. The sound of crunched newspaper filled the room as they set to work packing up all of our old dishes that Anke inherited from her grandmother in Hamburg.
As I write this it is now a day later and we are waiting for a couple of hours for the next ferry crossing to Vancouver. Intending to sail on the 7 PM ferry we arrived with a good 40 minutes to spare only to be told that the ferry was full and that the next sailing at 9 PM was already 30% full! Things didn’t get better as I opened the back of the car to retrieve something out of a bag only to have a box full of plates fall to my feet. Nothing broke!
We make the most of the time helping the girls finish their homework and watching the stars come out of the darkening sky.
With all the changes that are happening I feel a bit like that old plate in the box, a bit fragile at the moment, yet fully wrapped up in prayer. It is heartwarming to know that friends in the two parishes in Victoria, as well as new friends in Freiburg are praying for us at this time.