Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jack Layton

This won't post until Sunday, but as I write this, I'm watching Jack Layton's state funeral on CBC. I've teared up a few times already, just like I did when I first read last Monday's shocking news that he had passed away. That day, I found myself having to explain to my kids, who are five and seven, why I was crying because someone I didn't know was gone.

"I had a lot of respect for him," I told them. "He was a good man."
"Was he nice to people?" my daughter asked.
"Yeah, he was. To everybody. And he just wanted to make things better."
"How?"
"He wanted everybody to be able to be happy," I told her.

It was a simplified five-year-old version of what made Jack Layton great. But when I think about it, his simple view that things could be better was why I respected him. He maintained an optimism that I sometimes worry gets trodden out of too many people too soon in life. I've heard him called an idealist a lot, and I suppose he was, but that's what I admired about him. He was a smart, well-educated man--he knew about everything wrong with the world and the country--and he still believed that you could take away all the "buts" and just do your best to make the world better.

I've seen a lot of people, in the media and elsewhere, asking how the NDP is going to replace Jack Layton. I don't know how Canada is going to replace Jack Layton. I'm pretty young, but I don't remember a time when the name Jack Layton was not virtually synonymous with the ideas of inclusiveness and caring, and with the importance of always working to improve this country for everyone. And, maybe I'm naive, but I don't think that needs to be an exclusively NDP disposition.

I hope that someone will replace him as a voice of LOUD optimism with a plan, as someone who reasons the imperativeness of generosity and helpfulness and paying whatever cost it takes to make the country and the world better. I hope that Canada gets a new beacon of hope.

More importantly, though, I hope that the outpouring of support and regret over the past week will become something more than last week's news as we move forward. I hope we all keep with us the knowledge that his optimism is something we need.. We can't all be the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, but we can all be the kind of person Jack was, in whatever we do.

Near the beginning of the state funeral, Myer Siemiatyck read from Isaiah 58:12: "You," he said, as he stopped to glance at the casket draped in a Canadian flag, "You shall lay foundations for the coming generations."

I hope so.

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