Thursday 16 November 2017

My Little Evacuees...

I think there will always be something I find very precious and emotive about my children dressing up as evacuees. I remember the same sense of heartache when Ava celebrated VE day in costume three years ago... the idea of packing up my little tribe and sending them off to the great unknown is almost unfathomable. And yet in 1939, over the course of a three day period, 800,000 children over the age of 5 were shipped off to the country to escape London, away from their parents for an indefinite amount of time.

On Saturday, in commemoration of Remembrance Day, our church hosted a tea for the older folk in our community. They've been running it for a few years now, but I had never been before. It was an impressive affair... beautiful sets laid out like a 1930s home, poppies hand crafted by the guests, cake and tea served by volunteers in costume. When we were asked if the children would be prepared to sing this year, I grabbed the opportunity. There are so many life lessons for our children to learn from understanding a bit more about the war, beginning to think through what it would have meant for them, and meeting some of the people who really were impacted.

It was humbling.

The children were truly marvellous... I couldn't believe how confidently they got up on that stage and sung their little hearts out. Even little Jonas, who spent most of the time admiring the microphone, belted out the last line "my heart's right there!" with gusto. It's a memory I will cherish forever.

The guests were delighted at the little people, waving at the children as they walked passed, and the children responded enthusiastically. I heard one man point at Jonas and say - "I was about that little lad's age when I was sent away"... incredible. And mind-blowing. And heartbreaking.

And yet I think the thing that always strikes me when I talk with people who lived through the war is their resilience. No feeling sorry for themselves... they just got on with it. Our generation has so much to learn... we can be so demanding, feel so entitled. There was a humility and a community spirit - a coming together - which I sometimes look around and feel is lacking when you look around the world today. We see glimpses of it - the volunteers who descended on Grenfell Tower in the aftermath for example - but it feels all too often that we are out for ourselves.

How would I have felt sending my children off? How would I have responded if I was suddenly expected to take some strangers children into my home? They are good questions to ponder...

And then came Sunday... and the service, and the silence, and the opportunity to reflect and remember the many thousands who sacrificed so much on our behalf.

The freedom we know today is a gift... bought at a high price.

And a reminder of the one who paid the ultimate cost in sacrificing himself for us.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
- Robert Laurence Binyon -


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