A Trucker's Prayer
Are you there, God, it’s me, Charlie.
I’ve been sitting in this truck for two weeks, wondering if what we are doing the right thing. I wonder if it will accomplish what we are hoping for, but I’m missing my life at home, I’m missing my daughters seventh birthday and soon I will miss the annual family holiday weekend that has been our tradition for seven years.
My wife’s face once smiling and trusting, with the innocence of a child, has become less jovial over the last week, her full lips don’t curl up quite as much, her eyes are becoming a little glazed like the eyes of the residents here, now gradually becoming annoyed with our presence. I see my two young girls every night at six fifteen, our arranged time to virtually view each other, to ask the parental questions about school, which at present is in the classroom, and friends who have not been frequenting since the onset of the virus. They too, seem easily distracted when they see me in my vehicle, bleary eyed and rather crumpled in the process. I make jokes, which brings them back to me momentarily, but I sense that the home front is in need of my testosterone and a good dose of “daddy, the hero.”
I worry, God that I am not going to deliver that sense of protection to my family, or my community.
The drive here was a long four days from my home in Surrey to the capital city of Ottawa, but the most astonishing and uplifting experience for me was to witness the support, the rows of people who stood at the sides of the highways in treacherously cold temperatures, waving Canadian flags and homemade signs in support. This uplifting continued across the Prairies Provinces and into central Canada, but once we drove into Ontario the numbers grew and more people populated the overpasses, waving large red and white flags cheering, to which we responded with the loud ruckus blasting of truck horns. It was a spiritual journey.
God, I was guilty of feeling a little large at times.
The idea started small and the new mandate involved a small percentage of us who were not injected by the experimental drug, but it was another blow against our society, and though it was but a tiny ripple in the already stinking lake, it was 'our' ripple and it just happened to be the crippling last straw. We could not foresee the growth of the organization, which became massive. The organizers worked to maintain a peaceful but tenacious force, by educating those of us in the convoy, to remain calm at all costs. This was to be a peaceful demonstration but we did not anticipate such a huge and positive response from the Canadian population.
Is this what it feels like to have reverence, God?
The truckers are a fiercely independent group for the most part, many of us working independent of the Teamsters, but we do have a network and we communicate our distinct frustrations and celebrate our little victories no matter how small. We work long hours and are gone for days from our families at times, but despite this we do enjoy the freedom that the highway gives us, making us long for, and enjoy more completely, the times when we are at home. Like any society, the truckers have personality issues, but this convoy has been soothing to our souls despite the odd comment made by personalities sent here specifically, to create a problem. Our stay here is causing problems for the residents, and they have put up with the constant noise and the very presence of us here in their city. The fumes, the blasting horns, and the strangers, simply walking the streets, have become a burden to them. Yes, some of them strongly support our protest, but their patience will wear thin soon God.
We are treading on fragile ground.
The days are a blur here as crowds gather and then go home and we are left in our trucks, to sleep for the night. The windows are frost laced as the morning rays penetrate through, creating an almost cathedral like environment. Motors are cranked at the hint of dawn to warm the cabins where truckers had been tucked moments before. We emerge from our temporary homes, as our breath sends small signals that the temperatures are still far from enticing and the glimmering steal of exhaust pipes cause squinting as the grey fog of diesel fumes, escapes into the Ottawa centre. We are gathered on Parliament Hill but so far not a hint of the prime minister, who seems to have opted for a cowards retreat, instead of handling the concerns that brought so many to the streets of Ottawa.
Are we still right God, to think we might make a difference?
Yesterday was especially gratifying as I was surrounded once more by the masses gathered to chant, sing, dance and hug in the streets. People of all cultures mixed with the optimistic outlook that we can’t all be wrong, can we? I fell in with the native Canadians, who banged on deer skin drums and created a beat that infected and blossomed to those in the vicinity. Some donning traditional head gear of Inuit or Metis, but most, like the rest of us, were dressed in thermal boots, snow pants and fir fringed hooded parkas to protect them from the cold. The faces varied as I passed, blacks, east Indian, Mexican, and Anglo-Saxon alike each seem sincere in our community on the hill, here to protect what they deem most important, freedom of choice!
Is it wrong, God, to speak out like this?
I walked further down Wellington Street, admiring the rows of big rigs, standing at attention like sentient soldiers, and once again, I marveled at how far we’ve come from homes in hopes of making a difference. The country divided into the two courts of vaccinated and unvaccinated, of those complying with all the rules, and those opposed, and yet here in the freezing streets of Ottawa, the main focus has been on returning freedom to everyone. The vaccinated population well represented, also fear the governments reach and unconstitutional stand. It has been a pleasure to drive with, walk beside and even sing our national anthem together as one. The collection of Canadian flags both patriotic and abundant is a gratifying vision. The fluttering of these symbols has decorated the many streets around the capitol.
Is it wrong to care so much about this, God?
Instead of anger and fear, there has been a unity here that has quite surprised me, God. As I rounded Bank Street, I witnessed an East Indian man in a long grey beard, thick glasses and an over sized coat, surrounded by a group of young black men. He talked about his experience when he first came to Ottawa, how difficult it was but how the locals had made him feel welcome, how it bothered him to see the city so divided in recent years. They were smiling at one and other, the young men in short jackets and sneakers kicking the pavement to keep toes from freezing, nodded heads in agreement. I saw them shake hands with the older man before they parted and a feeling of such satisfaction overcame me, God.
Am I being too righteous, too virtuous?
The days can be long God, the wind howls down the city streets and yet the cold is not of great consequence when there are like-minded people here to support each other. Some offered steaming coffee, others, a cellophane wrapped sandwich, even barbeques had been set up to feed the many, but everywhere I looked, I saw a people, united. The weekend was a whirlwind of speeches by inspirational individuals who drew the crowd in while still maintaining a standard of decency, with perhaps a few jokes about the scarcity of our leader, whom, as it turns out, is incapable of standing up to the small ‘fringe’ population, to act like one.
Is it wrong God, to be this smug, this critical? Am I wrong to be here so far from my girls, to stand as one person, with the many to ask for something intangible, like freedom?
Tomorrow the streets will be less full, the outlook not so bright, the crowd will be dwindling and we, the owners of the fierce steel machines lined up on these streets will feel less supported. Meanwhile the clock ticks and our nation’s leaders squabble in parliament, at one and other, like spoiled school children, each accusing the other of something unimportant, while the honking of horns in the streets, goes ignored.
Yes God, I’m afraid of the ignoring of our efforts. I’m afraid to go home to my girls, unsuccessful and defeated.
Will all this demonstrating become a moot point, God?
Tonight the police have morphed from their once congenial personalities, their supportive nature and friendly slaps on our backs, to a firm, uncommunicative and domineering force. They have obviously been pressured to make our stay here unpleasant and as short as possible. The smiles have been replaced by grimaces and their conversation is now, a barking demand. Truckers are beginning to see a much less understanding force and the calmness that once prevailed is now, beginning to fray. Police are handing out tickets and even arresting the truckers and protesters alike. The GoFundMe account, set up to sustain our needs here, has been frozen so that the ten million dollars donated by Canadians in support, is now gone.
What will happen to us, God? Will we fail?
The fuel pipeline, a system of volunteers with trucks equipped with fuel tanks, filled our gas tanks at night to enable us to stay camped in the streets of Ottawa, indefinitely. This service allowed the truckers to remain a presence and a reminder that we are still here, waiting to be heard. But this evening police stopped anyone carrying a gas tank, and prevented the supply to the truckers, some of whom are almost empty. They also barricaded the larger supply of fuel stored at a location outside the center, thereby suffocating the truckers and forcing this peaceful demonstration into something ugly.
Is there a way, God, for us to solve this problem? Are we too demanding?
I need a shower and my bed. I need my wife, and my two beautiful daughters in my arms. But my work here, is not done yet, God. I need that freedom, for my wife, my girls, my home and community, for what is a life, if it is, without freedom? What good is it to live in a country where we do not have the freedom of speech, the freedom to demonstrate, the freedom to gather and practice our religious beliefs, the freedom to freely travel within and beyond our borders or the freedom to decide about our personal health? This is not the free country I was born into, God.
Am I wrong to be here God? Am I wrong to stand up for my freedoms, for my family’s freedom?
Are you still there, God?
Yes, I believe you are!