Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Year-End is a Time to Take Stock

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 10 / 18

Zack Gross

2018 is winding down, although the significant holiday season (shopping, eating, time with family and friends) is still on the horizon.  I had an interesting telephone conversation today with a close colleague and friend who feels burnt out from work and discouraged at the state of the world. Meanwhile, another colleague posted on Facebook that the work he does in the community feels like “re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

At a global level, we face a decline in democracy and an upswing in disasters.  At a personal level, we face one year of stress ending and another one about to begin.  Wow, that does sound bad!  In taking stock of these challenges, we can sit down and list all of the things that are bothering us, including snow and cold, traffic, short days and too many hours of darkness, and telemarketers.

But to maintain our balance, we need to also list the good stuff – what we are grateful for and what we are hopeful about.  This is a good time to do it (before the family arrives!) and to make it a part of celebration and stock-taking at year’s end.

There’s a Ford Truck commercial on TV where a fishing enthusiast is shown taking a young cancer-suffering boy out on the water in Manitoba to have some fun (with that Ford truck in the background, of course).  I know the kid and the family, and I know that the past few years have been utter heck for them, but now the treatments are done and hopefully they can move on.

There’s a lady we know who has come through a terrible year of loss of her spouse and her own life-threatening illness.  Her friends and family jumped in to support her, accompanying her to appointments, helping with driving and shopping, and offering her a place to stay so she wouldn’t be alone.  Now, things are starting to improve.

A friend has come through an abusive situation where the recognition and support needed was not always provided.  Now she is back on the job market, away from the wrong-doers, and hopefully will reap the benefits of her intelligence and hard-working attitude.

152 million children are exploited in today’s world through child slavery, including work in agriculture and resource extraction associated with Canadian companies.  The Canadian government has looked into the matter, as have other Western governments, and organizations such as Fairtrade Canada, World Vision and Save the Children, are aiming to bring about regulation that will end this practice.

There are bad things happening in our world with resultant action leading to good things in the push-pull, back and forth, of human history.  Several people I know have become Canadian citizens the past year in emotional ceremonies celebrating their transition from refugee or immigrant to contributing citizen.  My family, long before my birth, did the same, coming to Canada from the “old country” (Eastern Europe) around the time of World War I, seeking safety and opportunity.

I parked in a ticket-machine parking lot the other day and then realized that I had no change.  A young couple, clearly Latin American, with broken English, came up and offered some coins to cover my time.  Not long after, I found myself in the same situation, but this time as the donor, and an African gentleman about my age, the recipient of my change. 

Bad things leading to good things.  Pay it forward. I think we call this process “Canada”!

We all know the story of the starfish on the beach.  A young boy is picking up star fish that have washed in, one by one, and is throwing them back into the ocean before they dry up and die.  A man walks by and asks something like “Why bother?  There are so many.  You can’t save them all.  What difference does it make?”  Says the young boy as he picks up another starfish and throws it into the water, “But it made a difference to that one

So, as an avowed na
ïf (that’s a naive person!), I guess my answer to my jaded friends is hang in there, hope and work to overcome the difficulties that beset you and our world, and maybe ultimately enjoy the fruits of your caring and your labour.

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis Project and now co-ordinates outreach for Fair Trade Manitoba.

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