The Canadian Peacekeeper
In December1987, I was on United Nations duty in the Golan Heights, and starting to feel the loneliness of the situation. As you know, on Christmas Eve, CBC Radio hosts a special broadcast of "As it Happens". They ask service members at remote locations around the world to send special messages of love and longing back to their families. Carols are sung. Jokes are told. A great show.
What you probably don’t know, is that CBC phones these locations well before the show. Personnel are chosen, put into a tiny room and their voices are taped, then magically edited for the show that has folks from around the world seemingly sing together and send home their messages on Christmas Eve.
That year, I was one of the lucky five from my camp. I remember being handed the phone. My turn, but what to say? In my mind’s eye, I saw all that I would be missing: my family gathered, laughing and chatting, gifts, smiles, and parties with so much food you would bust. The joy of togetherness. The true enormity of it moved me so close to tears that I couldn’t speak.
"What's your message for home?" the fellow on the other end of the phone asked repeatedly. Then I knew what could remedy my longing. "I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas," I blurted out. "Go out tonight and look up to the stars. I'll be looking at them too and somehow we will be together for Christmas Eve". That was my message. The fix. It wasn't great, but the best I could do. Well, Christmas Eve came around.
As luck would have it, I was on duty. A buddy and I sat at the camp gate in darkness on a very stormy night and watched for anyone trying to enter. I proposed a wee little Christmas present:
"I have the key to the Headquarters. How about you go and call your family. Then I'll do the same".
“Brilliant!” he said and set off, key in hand and smile on face.
He returned about 45 minutes later in obvious bliss.
It took over 30 minutes before the phone finally rang. I was surprised to hear my wife say “I can't talk to you right now, you're on the radio. Call back in 10 minutes".
Then, dial tone.
I walked out with disappointment in my heart and rain pouring down my back. I thought of my family all listening to the radio, all having a good time. I was cold and lonely and wet.
Then I remembered my message. Jeesh ... how was I going to see the stars in this muck?
I raised my face and spoke, with utter frankness, to the heavens. I remember my words.
"I haven't been talking with you lately. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I know you've been here. I need some help. You know that message I left? Well, I'd kind of like it if I could spend just a little time with my family. Would that be too much to ask?"
What happened next is the honest truth. There were no lightning bolts, no iridescent clouds, no booming voices, nothing "Hollywood".
Instead, the rain stopped. The clouds parted around an unseen boundary in the limitless beauty of a starry sky.
For about 30 minutes, on the Golan Heights, I felt the peace of being caressed by the Divine.
Then the clouds came back. The rain resumed. But, it was a warm rain. All part of that gift for me, my family and my soul:
While serving as a Canadian Forces member on peacekeeping duty, I spent a Christmas in abundance.
With a Maple Leaf on my shoulder, I was honoured by so many.
With privilege, I was afforded the opportunity to share Canadian values. With humility, on a rocky road in the midst of a hostile land, I was bathed in love.
It was a good Christmas.
By: Timothy D. Brodie, C.Med, Q.Arb, PCC, CEC, MMM, RCMP