“I love this country.”
I’ve said that many times and sometimes people ask me, “What do you mean? You love the country? The land? The government? What?”
“Everything!” I say. “It was a struggle to adjust at first, but I would never wish to live anywhere else.”
When I was six years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from Germany. I was just starting grade one. I was still pretty naive and thought everyone in the world spoke the same language, so at school, when I babbled away in German, the kids laughed and the teacher rolled her eyes discreetly. I tried again, but they didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand them either, so you’d think that made us even, but the thing is they understood each other. I had a few tough days ahead, but my parents were very supportive and encouraging.
I soon clued in that I had to figure out this new language. “Yes,” “no,” and “thank you,” became the first words I learned. I remember that in my first report card I had a “U” in Language. “U” stood for “unsatisfactory” in those days. My parents were not pleased but they were understanding. By June of that grade one year I had made my parents proud with an “O” for “outstanding.” Kids learn quickly and much of it is learned on the playground.
I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in Canada. Germany has an excellent school system, but in Canada, it seems that the spirit of education is freer. “You can achieve whatever you put your mind to.” If I had stayed in Germany, I would have had an excellent education too, but the mindset would have been different. In those days it would have been more like, “This is what you are suited for, so this is what you should do.” Subtle differences, but the freedom to think and create and choose are fundamental here.
I love this country, not only for its nature that seems to be everywhere because of the vastness of the land and the relative sparseness of population, but for the kind of people who live here. When you live in a harsh environment such as Dawson Creek was with its clay gumbo mud and its bitter cold -40 winters, you are thankful for the help of neighbours, friends, and even strangers.
The first time our car got stuck in that deep gumbo, everyone got out and pushed, but it wasn’t enough. The next car that came along, stopped and the people jumped out to help push us out of the mud. Most of us were splattered in mud, but everyone was smiling. After we thanked our rescuers, my mother said, “This would never have happened in Germany,” and she didn’t mean that they would have had the roads plastered instead of leaving them to get so muddy. “People would have driven past and not helped.” It’s not that German people are unkind or unsympathetic. Far from it. But in a small country with a large population, you become wary of strangers. She might just as well have said, “This would never have happened in New York, or Chicago, or LA.” But in a pioneer situation, and in harsh conditions, people help each other.
I may not always agree with what our government is doing, but I love that freedom to disagree without persecution. It’s having the freedom to think and speak for myself (while abiding by the laws of the country) that makes this a wonderful place to live.
If I had one thing to say to young Canadians of today it would be, “Be proud of your country and grateful for the privilege of being a Canadian.”