An Appreciation for Freedom

I feel freedom is something I can understand a little more than most. Though I have never been in jail, I have had psychiatric problems that have made it necessary for me to be secured in an institution for a number of months on different occasions.

Something I have heard at from the church I wish I had the chance to go to more often (Sacred Heart) is to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison, and bury the dead.” Visiting someone who is sick is something that I have tried to do as much of as possible because I know how hard it can be to not be able to take care of yourself and need 24-hour treatment.

One of the volunteer jobs I have had was to visit patients in a veteran’s hospital around 17 years ago. I really loved this work because I had two grandfathers, but one never spoke English or travelled outside Europe, and the other lived in Montreal. These men were incredible gentlemen, always offering me free coffee and snacks (even though they were already free) and they loved to tell their stories. There is such a power in telling a story – the symbolisms you can use, the descriptions and arguments you can weave into the text. I heard so many interesting things that I eventually decided I would try my hand at writing short stories. A couple of times I have used little scenes from these men’s stories and even their names to honour them.

These men, who now were old and infirm, lost their freedom despite the fact that they had done so much for our freedom: to choose our own path in life, to raise our children, to vote for our own leaders, and much more. It broke my heart one day to see that one man I visited often had lost his freedom to the point where, for his own safety, he had to be secured to his bed.

So now I look at freedom in a different way. I take great pleasure in cooking my own food, and in going shopping and picking out the things I like that are healthy for me. I no longer have to line up for second-rate institutional food. I have the freedom to stay up all night writing or to take two hours and go for a long, relaxing walk in the fresh air. I have my freedom now, but it comes with a price. It was a price paid by the men and women who fought for us in our many wars; it is a price in dollars that we have to earn for ourselves and our families five or more days a week; and it is a price we also have to pay in following the laws of this great society we live in. Freedom is really a very fluid and difficult thing to put a finger on, but after what I’ve been through and now am able to do, it is something I find is worth every penny, every drop of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to quote Winston Churchill.

Leif is a writer living in McCauley who has self-published 10 books, which are available for free in paperback and digital ebook through the Edmonton Public Library.

More in this issue

Neighbourhood Views

  • New Mural in Chinatown – A new mural on 97 Street near 107 Avenue was unveiled in February. It was created by artist Kris Friesen with the full support of McCauley Revitalization/City of Edmonton. Paula E. Kirman

  • More Music from Musical Mamas – The Musical Mamas, a group of women singer/songwriters who meet and mostly live in or near the area, released their second volume of original music in March. Pictured is performer Sylvia Khoury. For more information visit Shauna Specht

  • Mercury Opera’s La Traviata in McCauley – A scene from Mercury Opera’s production of La Traviata at one of the matinees at Studio 96 during March. The opera also played to sold-out audiences at Chez Pierre Cabaret. Cecilia Ferreyra

  • London Villas Hub Grand Opening – London Villas Hub’s grand opening on March 14 featured food, entertainment, and the chance to experience the new space for the first time. It is located in the former church at 9620 109 Avenue. Paula E. Kirman

  • Welcoming the Year of the Dog – Lunar New Year celebrations took place in Chinatown on February 17, organized by the Chinatown and Area Business Association. Pictured with Lion Dancers, from left: Kerry Diotte (MP Edmonton Griesbach), Frankie Lee (Director with the Chinatown and Area Business Association); Brian Mason (MLA Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood; and Mayor Don Iveson. Paula E. Kirman

Around the Neighbourhood

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Next Issue . . .

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