We all have things we end up collecting, either because they catch our eye or capture our heart.
Close friends know that I have a rather extensive collection of miniature mice; although they’ve been packed away since we moved to Ottawa seven years ago.
A friend of mine has the largest collection of cufflinks of which I’m aware. And, he wears them!
These trinkets, trophies and treasures either begin with or acquire a certain amount of meaning for the collector. For me, and mine, each tells its own unique story.
On a much smaller scale in size of collection than either the mice or cufflinks noted above, I have a rotation of lapel pins that manage their way onto jackets and coats. These are placed almost always in the left lapel; the traditional placement above one’s heart that says, “This has meaning to me.”
Some of my pins have more obvious meaning. The silver diamond jubilee medal pin for service to Canada, the Canadian flag gift from an MP friend, the crossed flags of Canada and Israel from this past January’s trip to Israel with Prime Minister Harper, and the maple leaf made from copper that adorned the roof of our Parliament Buildings’ Centre Block from 1918 to 1996 all speak to me about special years of public engagement with hoped for benefit to our nation.
Others have a less obvious background to the casual observer. The twin poppies and gold maple leaf provided at my stepfather’s funeral by his brother; a reminder of Lewis Irvine Wallace’s service in WWII. The gold “Q” is a gift from a fellow Queen’s University alumnus and current campus chaplain. The pre-born feet-sized-and-shaped pin given to me by a young pro-life advocate whose courage I admire and cause I support. The flower sprouting barbed wire pin in remembrance of the Holocaust, placed on my lapel by the executive director of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem – “Never again.”
These, and others, all have special meaning to me. But my thoughts on a snowy Ottawa day turned primarily to two.
The first was a gift from my father. My parents made their way to Canada from beautiful Barbados in the 1950s. Like many immigrants to this great nation they were searching out new opportunity for themselves and their children. With two older sisters, figuratively born with their feet on the beach, I was the firstborn on Canadian soil. My father’s immigration was eventually frustrated by, among other things, the falling snow like that outside my window as I write. In time he chose an employment opportunity that took him southward to the U.S. of A., where his citizenship transitioned again.
When I came of age my Dad gave me the pin I treasure. The unique gold maple leaf has been affixed to my left lapel for appearances before numerous parliamentary committees and countless receptions.
“Thank you for coming to Canada and creating for me this wonderful opportunity,” is the message the little leaf communicates from above my heart.
The second is a gift that was handed to me at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier Airport late on this past Saturday afternoon.
The shaking hands of Trinity Western University’s president uncoupled the pin from his own lapel and placed it gently in my hands. It states simply, “Trinity Western University Alumni.” I have not attended nor graduated from TWU. In fact, Bob Kuhn’s school was to me just one of dozens of private Christian universities in Canada; except for TWU’s Ottawa campus, known as the Laurentian Leadership Centre, and TWU’s definitive 8-1 victory in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 that secured the right for Christian universities to operate professional schools with their graduates to be recognized by the requisite professional associations.
Then, Trinity Western University proposed and was approved by both the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education to establish a school of law. A changing climate saw Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia law societies ignore 2001 and turn on the tiny university; denying TWU law graduates the right to practice and forcing the school back into the courts.
Bob is an accomplished lawyer and community leader. In fact, among his many accomplishments in the legal profession is that 2001 Supreme Court of Canada win. Bob and I also share a love of the motorcycle. This past summer he completed the 50 CC Ride – San Diego, California, to Jacksonville, Florida (coast to coast) in under 50 hours; a feat that would require a speed of 50mph/80kph to accomplish non-stop. I’d say it’s a good thing he’s also a pretty good lawyer!
What makes the seemingly unstoppable Bob Kuhn’s hands shake as he hands me his alumni pin – yes, he’s a graduate of TWU – is not the attack of law societies or too much time on a motorcycle. It’s evidence of a 2006 diagnosis that he has Parkinson’s Disease. His under 50 hour ride in the summer of 2014 was a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
I’m not an alumnus, one entitled to wear the lapel pin in that capacity, but it is treasured. It is treasured because of the man who’s it was, as well as the institution it represents. When Bob accepted the interim presidency of TWU in 2013 he could not have envisioned the battle that lay ahead for its proposed 60 seats per year law school. Standing fast in the fight, after a search for the best candidate, Bob was installed as President earlier this year. I’m honoured to add his lapel pin to my little collection, and to stand alongside Bob Kuhn in the fight for TWU’s law school – a practical expression of Canada’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.
It’s not so much the trinkets themselves that are treasured as the people and their stories that give them value. A value reflected in their placement close to the heart.