The Plague-Ground – What are you doing at 12 noon on Sunday?

GO TO YOUR PORCH OR BALCONY.

Like you, I’ve sung O Canada hundreds of times. Like you, I can remember nearly none of them.

But there are two that have stuck with me over the years, both joyous, chest-thumping occasions when our voices choked as we belted out a national anthem that ranks, like its nation, well down on the most memorable list, far below my favourites of France, Germany and Russia.

The first was in 2010. Jean and I were in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. During the Men’s Final hockey game, Canada vs. United States, we saw Sidney Crosbie’s near-invisible over-time goal that gave Canada the Gold Medal.

We saw it on the giant screen of a jam-packed downtown street. When our riotous cheering started to fade, someone in the crowd started singing O Canada. It quickly spread and thousands of us started to belt out the words that suddenly took on a new power. I remember glancing over at a couple next to us, a Sikh man and his wife. They were both wearing Team Canada scarves and even though they were a little wobbly on the words, their throats caught the way ours did on the incredible emotion of the moment, and how lucky we all were to live in a country like this.

Then on July 1st 2017, on Canada’s 150th birthday, we were heli-hiking with  a lodgeful of friends high in the Monashees north of Revelstoke. Our hosts decided to surprise us with ‘one final run’ of the day. They helicoptered us all up to a mountain ridge for a Canada Day barbeque dinner. 48 guests, 20 staff, one helicopter, many trips.  But it all worked out, and even the sun played its role, setting gently behind a mountain top as we all stood and belted out our national anthem to each other and any bewildered marmots and bears hiding from this strange noise. It was a perfect moment in a perfect setting.

It is neither today.

But national anthems don’t just lift our spirits in times of victory. They work even harder when our days are dire.  We saw this ages ago on March 22nd when the people of Italy went to their balconies to sing their national anthem, in solidarity against the pandemic that was crushing their country worse than any other.

So it is that Toronto marketer Geoffrey Roche was thinking “to get a way for people to thank front-line workers across the country. Even if they‘re out in the wide-open spaces, I thought, how can we have them heard by our heroes? At one point, Marie Claire [Roche’s wife] shouted out ‘Have them sing O Canada!’ Boom. Great idea.’”

So at 12 noon this Sunday, why not gather your family and go to your porch or your balcony, rooftop, backyard or even bathroom.

Then just belt out O Canada so they can hear it on the moon. Here are the words just in case, in English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi, Canada’s most popular languages.

When you’re done, applaud, holler, bang some pots, do that very unCanadian thing, make noise.

You might also want to record it on your phone so you can play it back when the fog begins to lift. Then post it to #thanksohcanada or send it to sing@thanksohcanada.ca.

Now, lest you blanche at the impracticality and evanescence of all this, after you’re done singing and posting and sending, you might also think of….

  • Calling your local hospital and seeing if you can send pizza or some other food to the ER staff or inpatient nursing/janitorial staff
  • Dropping off Tim Hortons gift cards to your local police station/ambulance station/firehouse
  • Asking the grocery clerk (checkout or stockist) if they need any help with getting their own groceries
  • Taking a meal to someone you know who is working on the front lines and thus does not have time to cook
  • Offering to get some groceries for a self-isolating neighbour
  • Sending a thank-you note or flowers to the local public health office

But before you do that, why not dial up your patriotism the notch it needs to thank the tens of thousands of Canadians who are saving the thousands of us who are sick or dying, or who are making our lives at home easier.

Because they deserve our thanks for sure.

But more than that, they deserve our true love, strong and free.

31 replies
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      My wife was speaking as I was writing this with one of her colleagues who is on the front lines.
      She didn’t mention who it was, citing medical confidentiality, but I think her name starts with an “N”!

      Reply
  1. Avatar
    Linda Granfield says:

    Super idea, and thanks, Bob. (Hi Jean!)
    One of my cousins (recent doctorate in nursing) has been working full-out at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her son, also a nurse (new one last year) was serving until he contracted the virus. (Okay now). I wish my voice could carry to Boston so they could also hear. Even if it is the Canadian anthem. 😉
    Lots of virtual hugs have gone to them from us. More go from us to Jean and her colleagues.
    I’ll check out chords for “O Canada” on the ukulele, the only instrument I can barely play.
    We’ll give it our all tomorrow!
    Take care.

    Reply
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    Robin says:

    Will join in, Bob. But I’m a bit perplexed at your comment that our anthem, “like it’s nation”, I is well down the most memorable list. Agree on the anthem, but certainly not the nation. I’m sure you didn’t mean to come out that way.

    Reply
    • Bob Ramsay
      Bob Ramsay says:

      Robin 00 I just meant that when most people are asked to name their most memorable nations, Canada is, as usual, somewhere in the middle!

      Reply
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    Louise Levitt says:

    Even though our anthem is, as you say, not a throat-catching one, it nonetheless can bring the heart to a choke on the right occasions. This will be one of them.
    My family has a modest foundation: mandate is to improve the quality of life for children and youth in Toronto.
    Today we did something out of our usual norm. (And uncharacteristically did it without rancor.) We zoomed in together and agreed to help the following organizations all of whom need help (like every organization that is needy) through this covid-19 pandemic.
    Youthlink to help get the word out they have special what’s app opportunities for counseling since now their services are not accessible in person – you know, to help offset suicide, depression, physical and emotional abuse, human trafficking.
    The stop (for hampers for street kids and meals for pregnant women)
    Youth Without Shelter to help feed youth who are trying to get off-and stay off the street
    Handup: which will be distributing to their downtown network, food boxes for families
    TFSS to gift grocery cards for those families whose income is below $20,000 and whose children are no longer getting breakfast at school (nor probably at home)
    FOODSHARE:another good basket/card donation program.
    This is definitely the time to step up to the plate, sing your heart out, wear a mask and self isolate when possible and give give give where you can!
    Thanks as always for all your cheer, Bob. And for your churchillian directness.

    Reply
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      Sue Dallhoff says:

      Louise, so happy to hear that YouthLink is among the organizations you are supporting. I chaired YouthLink’s Board 10 or 12 years or so ago, when Sandi Bernie was the ED, and the work they do with at-risk youth is truly exceptional! And their partnership with Pathways 2 Education took it even further.

      Reply
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    DAVID ALLAN says:

    OK Bob, but we’ll pass on the sending to sing@thanksohcanada.ca. bit out of shame for the sharps and flats. We’ll see if we can muster support in Cabbagetown – just the kind of neighbourhood that one would expect to respond to your excellent idea. Good work – Go Plague!

    Reply
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    joseph rosenthal says:

    count us in Bob and our hats are off to one and all we are weak in the vocal department but great pot bangers, well done in advance everyone joe and Diane

    Reply
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    Norine Baron says:

    Garth and I were also watching in Vancouver the day of the Canadian win – 2010. We sang out and will do the same at noon tomorrow.
    I am on the Board of Beaver Valley Outreach and we are semi open for emergency needs. When the Rotary club asked what it could do to help, we asked them to buy gift cards from our local restaurants so we can give them to those who need a meal. Win win for our town.

    Reply
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    joseph rosenthal says:

    thats great Bob cheers in advance to one and all, although weak in the vocal department we shall be banging those pots joe and Diane

    Reply
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    Dick Tingley says:

    The best O Canada I’ve heard was in Moscow 1972 after Paul Henderson scored by 3000 Canadians. What ie 100mtimes 3000 goingbto sound like Heart Warming !!

    Reply
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    Kathy says:

    I’m on it Bob! I was there, on the top of the mountain with you and the gang singing our anthem and shall sing it loud and clear tomorrow. Sending it out to all my contacts. We can’t wait until Canada Day! Thank you for puuting it in perspective.

    Reply
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    Wendy M. Cecil says:

    Hi Bob, I am self-isolating in a cabin in the woods 3-1/2 hours north of Toronto on my son Gareth’s property where five of us in 3 separate cabins (two couples in two cabins and I by myself in one) stay in touch only by text. The property is on total lockdown. There is only minimal internet (no wifi), no tv, just CBC radio. There is NOBODY around! However, in keeping with the spirit, I will get out my child-size, tiny, toy harmonica (which I have with me in case my very young grandchildren might arrive with Tess & Zach to self-isolate here too) – and I will play it (extremely badly) as you suggest. Nobody but a few blue jays, woodpeckers, returning stray Canada geese and possibly the nearby black bears, will hear me as I sound out Oh Canada!, but YOU will know I am doing it to join all of you wherever you may be, who read your piece and want to demonstrate gratitude to this magnificent country… Perhaps the rat-a-tat of the jays and the honking of the Canada geese will join my serenade and we will make up an ALL CANADIAN BAND! Loving your journal and many beautiful thoughts and ideas – please do keep at it. all best from Deep Woods Wendy.

    Reply
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    Jane Kidner says:

    Leave it to you Bob in these difficult times to find another way to educate, inform, inspire and bring people together. I am really enjoying your daily Ramsay Writes and the wonderful ideas and inspiration.

    Reply
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    Louise Levitt says:

    If a tree falls in the forest….
    I stood outside the door of our building and looked left and right along the laneway- no takers. Regardless, I stood on the threshold and sang to celebrate. Upon hearing it afterwards I was surprised that I had messed up a few words and surprise that it was sung mostly on key.
    For all of you who think you are unable to sing: ignore that. Just do it from the heart and out it will come!

    Reply
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    Meg Morden says:

    Hi Bob,
    In the High Park area, we have been having a nightly homage to front line workers at 7:30 pm for the last week and a half. I will sing Oh Canada tomorrow,
    Cheers,
    Meg

    Reply
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    Sharon Taylor says:

    Happy Monday. Geeze, behind on readings and missed this. Or did I?
    Note to self – SING O CANADA (badly or otherwise), share, (shared best on mute), but the point is RALLY and show our support. Donations and $ are likely best if seemingly cold, but when you follow the contribution and see how it supports needs of the community, that seems to me to be where heart and our privilege meet humanity. Giving time doing those good deeds as suggested, also amazing moments of our own humanity and humility. With all the war analogies, “Lest we forget” will surely take on new meanings now and in the future versions of ourselves.

    O Canada, for better or for worse – Will Do – Never too late. ST

    Reply
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    Alanna Quinn says:

    Approx. 11 years ago and approx. on July 1, a group on a Ramsey St. Petersburg trip stood in
    Gergiev’s busy restaurant and sang “O Canada” loudly. Proud of Canada and Canadians then and now!

    Reply

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