Growing up in Europe exposed me to many different cultures, history that is thousands of years in age, the beauty of landscapes and architecture like no other. When I moved to Canada over 15 years ago, I immediately fell in love with the people, their warm welcoming ways, the possibilities for anyone wanting to lay a hold of them. And who can beat jaw dropping clearance sales? Yet there was something missing... I grieved the richness of Europe, and I missed little things, like admiring homes with rather short front doors, a building date of over 800 years past above it. It's taken me years to allow myself to discover Canada, to learn about it's youthful beauty, it's multicultural diversity, all scrambled into one big pot. Today, I love this country, even it's winters, with snow so high you can't help but get out into it. I love that we are so welcoming, I love that we have freedom to raise our kids just the way we feel is best.
Summer day trips in Europe are still amongst my favourite childhood memories. The steep Swiss mountains with it's clean, crisp valley lakes. Not far from these same mountains, cafes in bustling cities. Riding street trams for shopping expeditions, visiting museums, and my favourite, old castles, some in ruins, many perfectly restored. Now that my own girls are at prime day tripping ages, we have taken full advantage of this, every free Summer day, we are on our way, discovering and loving this country, Canada.
One lasting favourite is St. Jacobs, Ontario, where Old Order Mennonites live as they did many years ago. A personal Mennonite heritage on my father's side sparks additional interest, one can't help but feel curious about these plain, simple folk. Aren't you? Is your first impression one of admiration, or do you wonder why they would live such deprived lives?
I have had to assure my husband on many an occasion, I would not attempt to reform to an Old Order, still I can't help but feel fascinated by these people's priorities, and how they are amongst the healthiest and most satisfied in the country. While I can't imagine a life of plain dress, no cars, or the comfort of electricity, I admire with all my heart their love for community. So I ask myself, why are they amongst the healthiest in our large country? Theirs is a life without daily trips to the gym or grocery stores filled with quickly accessible fancy health foods - to me, it's proof in the pudding that all these new health craze studies, all that fancy gym equipment, might not be what we should be striving for. So what do Mennonites do differently? They work physical jobs and they are loyal to family and community. They even take Sundays off, no questions asked. Could it be that simple? That, plain? Can we take some of their ways of life and incorporate them into our modern ways, creating a New Order of living? Should we prioritise community over our careers, just one day out of seven? Can it profit us all, even studio apartment dwellers in high rises, to get our hands a bit dirty, to learn about our land while we work it and profit much more than a few home grown vegetables and herbs? And rather than spending money at restaurants, might it be wiser to gather in people's homes after Sunday worship, filling long tables with a Thanksgiving-worthy feast through combined effort, every week? When our neighbours are in need, are we the first to drop everything, and gather others to help where we can?
I hope your heart warms when you think of community, as does mine. Open your homes, your hands, your resources.
And buy your boys straw hats, your girls cute bonnets. Pinching cute cheeks may just out last that fleeting baby stage.