Loud. Clear. Robust. Slightly off key, but with so much heart it was palpable.
At Baby Girl #7’s high school graduation last month, with over 500 graduands and about 2000 parents, grandparents, and friends present to witness the ceremony, we sang our National Anthem. I have to admit, I think O Canada is a beautiful and moving anthem. I am always disappointed when we only sing the first verse, because the remaining three are exquisite. The sad truth is – most Canadians can’t even get the first verse right and don’t know there are three more. Canadians may be polite to a fault, but we are also largely apathetic. We don’t get up in arms when our government does something stupid. Oh, we may grumble a bit under our breath for a brief moment, but you’d almost never see us staging a vigorous, well-attended protest. Heaven forbid we should do anything more drastic to let the government know they’ve messed up. When most of us sing OUR national anthem it’s without feeling and quite monotone. I will admit that I lip-sync the anthem. I can carry a tune quite well, but when I sing the anthem out loud I always end up in tears. I love Canada. I don’t often love our politicians, but I do love Canada.
At any rate, I digress. We were at Baby Girl’s grad. We were standing at attention and singing (or lip syncing in my case) O Canada. Directly behind me a male voice was singing. It wasn’t a practiced and polished voice. It wasn’t a voice that I would want to hear in concert. It was a riveting voice. It wasn’t an awful voice, still I dared not turn around to see his face. It wasn’t an English voice. I would have put it as probably from Taiwan or China or maybe Korea. What made it riveting was the feeling with which he sang.
Most of us in Canada have not had to defend our country in any way, shape, or form. We’ve sent soldiers and peacekeepers into all kinds of conflict, but not since the Second World War has there been any real threat to Canada. Because we haven’t had to defend our homeland we have, in my opinion, become soft and lackadaisical in how we feel about it. At least that’s what it looks like.
The voice behind me had a feeling in it that reverberated with passion. He was singing his truth. He meant every word of that anthem. He sounded like he had sacrificed much to have the privilege of singing it.
O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee;
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
I would have loved to have had the guts to turn around and ask him what his story was, why he was so impassioned about Canada. It is clearly not his native land, but I have no doubt he stands on guard and is ready to defend his new country.
Yes, he was loud. Clear. Robust. Slightly off key. He could teach the rest of us a thing or two, I’m sure. I hope he never loses his passion for the country he now calls his home.