I was down at the beach yesterday morning, just about the same time the Olympic torch passed by through White Rock. Pink streaks of light filled the morning sky, a sliver of moon still hung above the sea.
The crowds who’d come down to witness the torch were already trudging up the hill, heading for their cars, the busy-ness that would be their day.
Alone against this tide of people, I wandered along the railway tracks, snapping too many photos of sky, sea, trees, and birds.
Walking past the band shell in the park, I noticed a small group of people who looked as if they were waiting for something.
Approaching them, I asked, “Where’s Gordon Campbell?” After all, our premier’s been popping up almost anyplace where there might be a photo op. They point to each other and laugh, as if one of them might be Campbell in disguise. Then one claims instead to be Stephen Harper. “Oh yes, of course, he’s on holiday. He should be out here any day now.”
As it turns out, they’re going to have a prayer of peace for the Olympics. When they invite me to join them, I do.
Organized by a local group, called the Awakening Heart, the people here represent various faiths and belief systems. Among us, there is an imam, a few Jainists, several Buddhist monks and a nun. The representative from the Unitarian church is charming. She makes the claim that her church has ‘borrowed’ from everyone else. Many, like me, are of no particular affiliation, yet all of us clearly respect one another.
The prayers are multilingual – in Arabic, Sanskrit, and, luckily for me, English.
My place in the circle is beside a man from Sydney, Australia. I can tell by his headpiece that he is likely Muslim. When we are asked to join hands, I have the sense to hesitate, realizing that he and I are probably not permitted to touch. He smiles and indicates for me to hold on near the cuff of his sleeve. This makes the link. We are respectfully joined to the rest of the circle.
At one point the sound of helicopters is too loud for any of us to hear what the other might be saying. We stop, and though I realize this is the noise of the omnipresent Olympic security forces, I think of the many places in the world where this might be the sound of an attack.
When we resume, the angle of the sun reaches into the band shell, shining on us even though we are standing beneath the structure’s overhang.
As the circle of prayers nears its conclusion, a chorus of birds revs up with a glorious morning song. And then a dog jumps up on the platform, sniffing us in turn. It’s as if the animals understand what we are asking, and try to say that they want peace too.
As I leave, I carry a flame in my heart, one that burns stronger than the Olympic torch possibly could.