Friday, December 25, 2009
Giggling sounds of children playing
Every time a soldier loses his life we gather at our headquarters to remember them, to honour and respect them and to pray for their family and friends. Last week, at the end of one such service, our brigade commander came off the parade and said to me 'listen to that Padre'. I wondered what he was talking about. I listened. I could hear the sound of traffic from the town that surrounds our base, but then I became aware of the laughing and shouting and squealing and the giggling sounds of children playing. The brigadier commented that we wouldn't have heard that three months ago.
I went to the garden outside our church and reflected on the sounds of those children. I allowed my mind to travel home to my children. Another Christmas apart. They are adults now but I miss them as, all of our soldiers miss their families. One of my daughters will give birth to my first grandchild in February. I will miss that too. I reflect on the many, many, conversations I have had with soldiers about the pain of being separated from loved ones. I think of the times I have been privileged to listen as soldiers record bedtime stories for their children.
My thoughts turned to the children I have met in the various places I have served with the army.
The orphanage in Bosnia that soldiers volunteered to repair.
The ragged slip of a girl that I met in Iraq in 2003. With all of the children of her village, she surrounded the vehicle I was on, to grab one of the sweets I was offering. When all the sweets had gone and the crowd has dispersed, she remained, sitting shyly on a sand hill looking at me. I made faces at her. She laughed. She slowly made her way towards me and held out both her hands. In each was one of the sweets she had fought so hard to win. She tried to give one back to me. I wept at the generosity of one who had nothing.
I think of the children here. The fact that they would prefer pen and paper to sweets. That they laugh and play as our children do back home when they have the security to do so. They exude hope. They are the future.
Hope. Not just a whimsical wish, but the belief and desire that things will turn out better than they are now.
This evening we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God's message of hope for us all. A child born in poverty of a single mother becomes our salvation. It is in the birth of this child that our hope rests.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”
May god bless you this Christmas and give you peace and hope.
Padre Mark Christian
Task Force Helmand