I don’t profess to be an expert on the topic of Jack Layton and would never attempt to provide definitive commentary on his passing. However, I do want to share a few things that Mr. Layton (Jack) made me think about. It strikes me that Jack Layton would have appreciated knowing that he made us all think a little bit today.
Jack’s letter to Canadians offered a number of beautifully written passages that seem to accurately portray the passion Mr. Layton had for our country and its people. However, the line that stood out to me the most was not the eloquent final paragraph that has already become a household quotation. What resonated with me was Jack’s reminder to “cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey.” He wrote this in reference to the many brave individuals who continue to fight cancer, but I think the phrase has universal application.
In our lives we are constantly racing towards the next goal or the next moment.We often wish fervently for the future and miss the beautiful things that happen in the present. It sounds a whole lot like ‘stopping to smell the roses’, but I think that there is a much deeper sentiment to consider. It’s not just enough to stop and appreciate the moment. You have to find a way to become it. To feel your heartbeat, appreciate beauty and accept love for yourself and others. You can’t just smell the roses or the moments. You have to let them fit into your world and begin to open yourself enough to understand how they have changed you.
I’ll never forget an exchange I overheard on a Tuesday morning in a coffee shop earlier this year. Out of the corner of my consciousness I heard someone say “Friday couldn’t come soon enough for me.” It’s an innocent enough phrase, something that I hear everyday and something that I have been guilty of saying from time to time. I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a second voice say, “I love Tuesdays because Tuesdays mean that I still have the rest of the week to live. Life is too precious to wish it away.” Under normal circumstances I might have thought the comment to be just a little bit pretentious, but at that moment I couldn’t help but think about how right this second voice was. I haven’t stopped thinking about that moment and I realized that we should take advantage of, or as Jack reminded us today, cherish every moment with the people and things that we love. Don’t forget about the future, because the future can be great, but don’t forget to live in the ‘now’ because it can be pretty special too.
Jack’s passing also presents us with an opportunity to remember an individual who used his voice as a citizen to the best of his ability. Jack Layton did not grumble in a corner or hide his desire to make change at any point in his life. He put his thoughts, ideas and opinions into action and helped to move our society forward. He didn’t always do this from a position of significant public profile. He recognized that his voice was worth something, whether he had a title or not, and that he had a responsibility as a citizen of Canada to encourage change where he identified a need for it. Hopefully Jack’s passing will stir people to speak up about the things that bother them and help them to move towards solutions. It seems to me that we all seem to be waiting for the right time, when we have less at stake, to make our voices heard. Why wait? Stand up for something now, because you never know how many more chances you will have to do it.
In closing, I look at Jack Layton as someone that we should all respect. His courage, determination and strength should be admired. I like to think that he would not want to be deified or remembered as a man of perfection, but I think that he would want us all to believe that a world with a few more ‘Jack Layton’s’ would be a place where we’d all want to live.