I love watching children’s faces during the singing of Canada’s national anthem. During school assemblies and on Remembrance Day, I catch myself sneaking a glance at their upturned little faces.

They are so entertaining to watch. Some of them clutch dirty ball caps to their chest, proudly belting out the words – mostly correctly. Others shuffle uncomfortably, not sure where to put their feet, and quietly sing the words they learned from teacher. The older ones try to look cool and a little detached. All of them face the flag singing the proudest words of our nation.

I find myself wondering if they know how lucky they are to be singing that tune. I hope they have no idea how children in many nations don’t enjoy the same level of freedom, health, and education the average Canadian child does. I hope they don’t ever experience the feeling of a land divided, where singing one anthem over another is dangerous.

The kids I see around me are so proud to march in Canada Day parades, and attend ceremonies honouring our Nation’s Veterans. They wear poppies and make beautiful art in their classrooms. Their teachers weave pride in their country through fun and varied lessons. I know that by the time I see the youngsters all lined up in orderly rows singing, that they have had a lot of practice and coaching.

Another side of me wonders if they really understand the nation they live in yet or our interesting history. They couldn’t possibly when they are so young and free of heart. How can a ten year old understand what Vimy meant to Canada or the true cost of our nation’s engagement in Afghanistan? They can’t I suppose, nor should they. They are young, and it is our job to teach them.

So we can work on the basics. The first thing the little ones accomplish is getting the words right for “O Canada”. They can learn to value and love their country as they grow up safely in it. There will come a day when they suddenly see the whole picture. That is the day they become the next generation to stand on guard for us all.

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