November 24, 2006

Walk a mile in their shoes - big shoes to fill

Day 3 of the Season for Giving.

One of the girls at work is helping to run a charitable venture that is very close to my heart. She is organising a "Shoe boxes for Troops" campaign for our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Take a shoebox.
Fill it with inexpensive trinkets, knick-knacks, toiletries, goodies, small toys etc.
Include a card or letter (optional)
...and presto!
A little something from "over home" for the boys (and girls) "over there".

In addition, for $20 we have Canada Tee's...and for every one purchased we are sending a police tee in it's place to the gang over there.

I am mid-fill on my shoebox and I am running out of me to use one of the boy's size 13 monster shoe boxes and not a small kiddie size!

So I dropped by the Legion this week to pay my annual membership dues and pick up a few more ideas as to what the old boy's would have liked to receive from home when they were fighting overseas all those years ago. The times have changed - but the needs and wants basically remain the same. They just wanted to hear a friendly word from home, to know that we were keeping the home fires burning.

I came across this poem...not the greatest poem to hit literature buffs this century...but the usual patriotic, flag waving and heart warming stuff. It feels appropriate to share it here and now. Maybe I'll print off a copy and include it in the shoebox. Or maybe they'd just find it all too hokey - I dunno.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So slumbered I, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Ranger, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts...
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red and the white ... a Canadian flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother...
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

- Author unknown

Pass me the Kleenex.

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