Monthly Archives: August 2011

“Go For It”

Reverend Brent Hawkes led the worship service which was the state funeral for Jack Layton, today.

I don’t know, exactly, what goes into a state funeral – though I do know it involves more nationalism and tax dollars than “regular” funerals.  Either way, it was a lovely memorial to the dynamic leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada – a fitting send-off.

Stephen Lewis and Brent Hawkes, along with Mike and Sarah – Jack’s children – offered words of praise for Layton’s accomplishments as well as words that called people to action: action and activism that would build on Layton’s legacy.

Jack Layton worked for justice and equality, and he did not rest when it came to matters of raising up oppressed people or helping those in impoverished circumstances.  And his work did not stem from a purely egotistical sense of self, but a deeper place of being part of a bigger picture.  Rev. Hawkes spoke of his conversations with Layton, and asking Layton whether it would be okay if he delved into the spiritual, even faith-specific (Christian) language about death at the funeral, and he remembers Layton saying “Go for it.”

Rev. Hawkes said, “It’s not about which spiritual path you choose, it’s about choosing a spiritual path and going deeper and respecting people on various paths. It’s about learning and growing and coming together. And, ultimately, it’s about making the world a better place for those who will come after us.”

Remembering his father, Michael Layton recounts a time when he went sailing with Jack, and the wind died down when they got to the middle of the lake and had to struggle to paddle back to land; his dad’s words: “‘You could wait forever for perfect conditions,’ he said, ‘or you can make the best of what you’ve got.’ That’s what he did every day of his life. He made the most of each moment.”

Stephen Lewis, a leader-politician himself, summed up Layton’s politics (and, arguably, Layton’s theological perspective as well): “if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed, social democratic message it would be “generosity.” He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.”

Layton was a statesman who loved his country and wanted the best for all people in it, as well as in the world.  For us, we are invited to dive into the work of just, compassionate, and generous living – we are invited to “go for it,” and live what we say we believe.

Thanks be to God for the life of Jack Layton.  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Love, Hope, Optimism

This morning, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, Jack Layton, died.  As of May 2nd, he was also leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons in Canadian Parliament.

This news breaks my heart.  Mr. Layton was 61 years old in July – he was not “old” by today’s standard’s of longevity; but he had lived for much, and he had much yet for which to live.

What is heart-breaking is the momentum he was able to build in Canada, and now he won’t see its culmination or effectiveness.  Regardless of one’s political views, I think many (most?) would say that Mr. Layton’s ideals were ones that put people first and fought for the well-being of all in society.  His views transcended a nationalistic pride of a country’s place to put human beings as the priority on any agenda.

He wrote a letter a couple of days ago – dated August 20th – evidently feeling that death could come soon, and he gave thanks for many people.  In it, he also gave words of perseverance and thought for the future, calling upon all people to consider how they fit into a bigger picture.  Again, regardless of political perspective or sense of nationalistic pride, I think these words bear repeating – and they are words for all of us to consider as we look to make our own marks in life.  I’ll copy them below…

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the 
world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where
there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about
change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you.
My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the
alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t 
let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us
be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Mr. Layton: thank you for your contribution to Canadian life – you will be missed.  To the Layton family: peace be with you, and thank you for sharing Jack with all of us.