Aha Moment in India

UPDATE: Did you hear? YOU did it! 60,000 vaccinations donated thanks to your comments and social media shares. Amazing. THANK YOU! 

We must’ve been louder than I thought we were. My family and I were sitting in a corner of a restaurant of the beautiful and modern Ista hotel in Amritsar, India high-fiving and grinning at what we had done.

We had been on the road for eight months at that point. We had come through dozens of cities, conquered many fears and experienced many firsts, but today we had taken it to another level.

After hearing from our friend Prashant  at Liberty India that the “Beating Retreat” soldier ceremony that takes place at the India-Pakistan border is a thing that had to be seen, we had taken ourselves and our two sons  (ages 7 and 9 at the time) to see what the fuss was about.


Behind us, the Pakistan gate.


And on the flip side, the India Gate.


The event itself was thrilling; pomp and circumstance beyond belief .

DSC_0105 Bright colours and gates slamming and high kicks and back pats and cheering crowds


The gates are open and Pakistani soldiers face their Indian counterparts less than a few feet apart.

and finally, the firm handshake between two countries who agree to disagree on so much and the promise to repeat the whole thing the next day.

It was an incredible experience.


As we made our way through the crowds back to our waiting cab, adrenaline racing, I realized that the thrill was as much about what we had seen as it was about the fact that we had faced what the world had told us was something to fear and found it to be as safe as a baseball game outing at home.

The world became less frightening in that moment.

We couldn’t stop talking about it as we walked away, while we were in the car and now as we sat safely back in our hotel.

I know that we were loud because I noticed a woman dining solo across the restaurant looking over at us as she ate her dinner. I smiled at her, apologized, and a conversation ensued.

What incredible thing, she wondered aloud, had we encountered that had us so happy so late at night.

Fans and patriots of both countries cheer on their soldiers.

Fans and patriots of both countries cheer on their soldiers.

Us and Them| #Blogust

We explained:

How our families at home didn’t know we were here because we hadn’t wanted to cause any unnecessary worry.

How despite our initial fears we had trusted a once stranger who had become our friend and were having an incredible time in India because of it.

How much we had loved the ceremony.

How the thing we thought was so dangerous wasn’t dangerous at all.

And she laughed with us.

Yes, she agreed. The world is a funny place with its general ideas of people and places. As if one news story or even a dozen could ever do justice to the complexities of countries in conflict.

Where, she asked, were we from. “America?”

“No,” we explained. “We’re from Toronto.”


Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada

She stopped eating and her face paled.

She knew it?

“Yes,” she told us. Her son had been in school there but she had insisted he come home. It was not safe! There had been a murder of a foreign student at his university. Toronto, she told us while we sat miles from the India-Pakistan border, is a dangerous place.

And that’s when it hit me.

We are the same. All of us. Our desires. Our fears. We love our children. We worry for them. We want them safe at all times.

And sometimes that desire to protect becomes so overwhelming that we forget that on the other side of the world there is a mother trying to do exactly the same with a completely opposite package of information coming through her media outlets and often a lack of resources to do more.

It wasn’t the first time I’d pondered our similarities with people around the world, ( That was in reality one of the reasons we did the trip in the first place) but it was the first time that the perspective of my reality was so completely tested.

What I thought to be fact was in fact someone else’s  fiction. And what I knew first hand to be fiction was believed by this loving mother across the world to be fact.

And yet we both wanted the same things: To keep our families safe. To protect our offspring while recognizing that a part of that was showing them the world.

A Shot at Life |#Blogust

This is why I am so honoured to have been asked to be a United Nations Social Ambassador with the Shot at Life program.


The program works through the United Nations to offer vaccinations to children in developing countries who could not otherwise be afforded the protections that many of us take for granted in North America.

It offers a mother on the other side of the world the opportunity to provide for their child. It offers them a way to protect. It offers a “happy and healthy first.”

The shots are being donated by Walgreens, who will match up to 60,000 vaccinations through this education campaign.

How do you help? It’s simple.

Spread the word.

Comment on this blogpost. Share it through social media mentions and instagram photos. And continue to do so for the other posts being shared by myself and the 30 other bloggers tapped for this amazing initiative this year. For every share a child will be vaccinated.

There’s something else you can do to.



Get out there and meet the people just like us. The ones who you may think you have nothing in common with. The ones who you’ve been told are scary, or terrorists or animals. The ones you’ve been led to believe are unsafe.

You can go slowly – get to know the waiter in your all-inclusive or the neighbor who immigrated recently – but make the effort.

The opportunity to hear a new perspective on something that you thought to be a given fact and then to have it change everything you thought you knew is an incredible thing.

I wish you all that opportunity.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000). Blogust is one part an overall commitment of Walgreens donating up to $1 million through its “Get a Shot. Give a Shot.” campaign. The campaign will help provide millions of vaccines for children in need around the world.

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! For more information, visit shotatlife.org or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.