Your Finest Hour

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Thanks to COVID-19, we’re living in conditions that are almost unprecedented for many of us. Large swathes of the globe are living under the types of restrictions that many countries haven’t seen since the Second World War.

Students of history might be seeing additional parallels between the current pandemic and conditions during World War II. They might be calling to mind right now Winston Churchill’s famous line from a speech he delivered to the UK House of Commons in June of 1940, shortly after he became Prime Minister:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Amid the news reports of hoarding and panic-buying, there are also some uplifting examples of people rising to the occasion and showing care and kindness to others.

Allow me to share with you some accounts of what may be some people’s “finest hour”:

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We Still Have So Much

A little boy chasing bubbles: almost as cute as my neighbour’s son!
Photo by Beat Kung on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

The news these days is pretty depressing, isn’t it?

Each day brings reports of the latest closures due to the coronavirus threat. We’re seeing schools shut down, stores and workplaces shuttered, and restrictions on travel and gathering in groups. More and more aspects of our normal lives are being taken away from us.

Feeling discouraged after watching the news on TV yesterday, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw something shiny pass by the window. First one shimmery orb, then dozens whizzed by. I peered out to discover what on earth they were.

What I saw quickly dispelled my negative thoughts:

Bubbles.

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No Social Distancing With God

Social Distancing Due to COVID-19 Virus
Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ve all had to learn some new phrases recently. We’re now painfully familiar with terms like COVID-19, “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” and “flatten the curve.”

Social distancing is perhaps the most wrenching new practice many of us have had to adopt. After all, humans are a social species. It’s unnatural for us to avoid contact with other people, and to keep 2 meters away from those we do encounter.

It’s extremely important that we do so right now, but still….it sort of hurts, doesn’t it?

But there is some good news in all of this:

There’s no social distancing with God.

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How To Make Maple Syrup

Collecting maple sap the traditional way, in buckets

Sometimes the sweetest things take the most effort to produce, don’t they?

Take, for instance, maple syrup, one of Canada’s iconic products. We often use it atop pancakes or waffles, or in desserts (see below). This delicious liquid starts out as sap collected from sugar maple trees.

Right now it’s maple syrup season in Eastern Canada: as the weather warms, the sap in the trees starts flowing freely. Holes are drilled into the trunks of the maples, and buckets or tubing collects the dripping sap, which is then transported to a central location.

And then it’s ready to be bottled, right? No! Actually, the process has only just begun.

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Orchestra In Your Garden

Snowdrops, one of the harbingers of spring

Finally! At long last we’re starting to see signs of spring here in Toronto.

There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but the tiny snowdrops in my garden are already shyly blooming. The tulips are just starting to poke the tips of their leaves above the ground like a periscope, as if checking to see whether it’s safe to emerge.

“The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.” (Song of Solomon 2:12 NLT)

After a long winter, it makes my heart sing to see the beginnings of spring.

But do the flowers and trees themselves sing? And if they do, what is their song telling us?

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Volatility Index of Your Heart

Feel like pressing the panic button?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-2.0

If you follow the stock market, you might be familiar with something called the Volatility Index. Sometimes called the “fear index,” it gauges the market’s anxiety level.

When investors are fearful and markets are in turmoil, the volatility index spikes higher. Now happens to be one of those times, thanks to fears over the impact of the coronavirus.

It made me wonder, do our hearts have a “volatility index” of their own?

And if they do, what can we do to keep our emotions on an even keel, when our circumstances might give us every reason to panic? How can we find peace even in the midst of turmoil?

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Promises of Good Things To Come

Vintage seed catalogues from the 1890s.
(Publicdomainpictures.net)

When winter still has us in its icy grip, it’s hard to imagine that it will ever let us go. There seems to be no end to the frigid temperatures and snowstorms, and it can really get a person down.

What can we do to give us hope during a bleak, cold winter?

A favourite thing that gardeners do is to curl up indoors with some seed catalogues. They read about the promise of future luxuriant flower gardens and abundant crops of vegetables. It lifts their spirits and helps them hold on until spring comes.

Let me show you what I mean:

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Try Looking Up

People transfixed by their phones, Hyde Park, London
Photo by Waterford_Man on Flickr CC BY-2.0

The other day I went for walk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Even though the trees were bare of leaves and there was snow on ground, it was still a place of great beauty.

I noticed something strange, however, about the other visitors to the park. I must have passed at least a dozen other people as I walked the winding trail down the ravine to the river, but they were all standing stock-still.

Had I wandered onto a set for some science-fiction movie, in which aliens freeze people in place in advance of taking over the planet? Or had all these people been suddenly afflicted with a disease that left them immobilized?

No, the reason they were standing as motionless as statues was because they were all staring down at their smartphones.

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The Best Driving Tip of All

How NOT to park
Photo by Todd Dwyer on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

As a follow-up to last week’s post, “Life Lessons from Driving in Snow,” I thought I’d continue on the topic of driving and give you the best driving tip I’ve ever heard.

I learned this valuable piece of advice from watching the TV programme, “Canada’s Worst Driver.” There are various iterations of this show around the globe: perhaps your country has something similar. These “worst driver” shows are often hilarious but are also educational. You can learn a lot about how not to drive from atrocious drivers.

Before I present the best driving tip of all, here are some memorable examples of appalling driving as reported by driving instructors:

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