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Tragedy helps us find sense of community

Tragic accident brings back memories of communities, and a new search for them

With the nation and a good part of the world riveted for a couple of weeks on the tragedy of the bus crash north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, in early April that resulted in the death of 16 members of Humboldt Broncos hockey club, there was one uplifting message: Canadian and, perhaps more broadly, human compassion is alive and well.

I found it remarkable how this serious accident touched the hearts of so many across the country and around the world and inspired so many people to take action, from hockey stars visiting survivors in the hospital to people around the world leaving hockey sticks by their front doors.

I live a long way from the Humboldt/Tisdale area and my kids were never “bus” kids when they played their city sports, but news of the Humboldt hockey team crash struck a chord with me. In this era of instant news I hear about many tragedies every day that hardly faze me. Dozens killed in suicide bombings, famines, flash foods, mud slides — there is no end to natural and man-caused disasters. These events cause me to pause for a few moments of reflection, but then it’s quickly on to the next dumb thing President Trump did today or what is happening with the Royal Family. I get conditioned, or even jaded.

But the Humboldt team tragedy hit home and stirred a real sense of compassion. And the feeling lingered. Maybe it’s because it happened proverbially “next door.” Maybe its because I grew up in a small community and experienced first-hand the gift of community support. If there was a death or some other sad event among the church crowd, my Mom was among the first to head to the kitchen to start baking a casserole or making egg salad sandwiches — people had to eat. She and my dad many times got in the car and visited neighbouring farm homes collecting money to help with someone’s loss.

This column was inspired in part by a message I received from a young friend Colleen (Morrison) Garries. She’s actually an old (30-something) married woman, mother, farmer and nurse living near Red Deer, Alta. She grew up on the Morrison family ranch at Wardner in southeast B.C.

Colleen wrote: Since the bus crash “what I’ve noticed is how much people are wanting to be connected to their community. In previous generations — my parents — communities supported each other (like people have for Humboldt) naturally or much more commonly. Someone had cancer and a spaghetti dinner fundraiser was held at the local hall. While there is a generation today that seems to be tuned out, the reality is it is a generation that is craving a sense of community. “With cell phones and social media keeping people more disconnected than actually connected, our generation is grasping this feeling of community that the Humboldt story has brought on. I see it with local hockey or 4-H associations — a new surge or new appetite for community engagement. Great young people starting to pick up where the previous generation gap left off — locally anyways. People need to feel connected and supportive of their people or to their village. This whole tragedy and story may serve as a PSA for “get off your phones” and meet your neighbours, slow down your life and reach out to those who may need your support. Get involved in your community. Don’t be afraid to meet your damn neighbours!

So I didn’t have to write too much, Colleen said it very well. There will probably never be any real meaning to this tragedy, but if there is something good, perhaps on some level, at least for a while, people stopped thinking about themselves as much, and reached out to others. And found a sense of community. Hopefully it will persist in good times and bad.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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