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Teaching moments

Dave 07Trayvon Martin’s parent are enduring what I cannot, nor do I ever want to have to contemplate. However, when President Obama says that Trayvon: “could have been me”, he should also acknowledge that it is far more likely that he could have been one of thousands of black youth killed by other black youth. In November 2008 I said that at least America could put race behind it with the election of an African American president. I guess not, when the president himself joins in torquing it up.

My last blog was about the floods in Southern Alberta. What happened then, what has happened since, and what is continuing to happen, sheds a bright light on the proper and useful role of government.

In the aftermath of disasters, governments always promise more than they can deliver; citizens deliver more than you expect.

When Hurricane Katrina, tropical storm Sandy, and the Alberta floods hit, politicians promised to spare no effort to get things back to normal. Leading up to and after Katrina, it was discovered that New Orleans’ mayor was in completely over his head – pun intended. At Staten Island; politicians showed up, promised to do everything necessary, had their pictures taken, and disappeared. Ordinary citizens pitched in and got dirty. 

In both cases it was not the government, but private citizens pitching in, and private companies focusing their expertise, that really got the cleanup underway; and got nature’s victims back on track physically, and psychologically.

On July 5th, the 101st Calgary Stampede Parade traveled the usual route; a route that two weeks before had been under four feet of muddy water. The Stampede grounds themselves were inundated with up to eight feet of water. Two weeks later they were covered with exhibits, and rides, and carnival booths, and, about four hundred kinds of food that can kill you. This year’s new feature was battered and deep fried butter – I kid you not! The foolhardy said it tasted good. MDs had coronaries just thinking about it.

The Calgary  Stampede has always been fueled by volunteers, so the rapid cleanup, while remarkable, was not unexpected. But in flooded residential areas, it was also tens of thousands of volunteers  – many of them young people – that hauled mud and sludge and soaked carpets and furniture onto the street, from where they were trucked off to city landfills. And I suspect that the presence of volunteers, and the “we’re in this together” attitude, contributed to the fact that there was no looting, even in areas with multimillion dollar homes with no electricity and no alarms.

High River, a community of about 13,000, 30 miles south of Calgary, had a completely separate flood. About 80% of the residents were affected, and some homes are just now, a month later, being assessed to determine if they are salvageable. I am spending Thursdays at our church, helping to prepare meals and delivering them to volunteers and contractors. High River will takes months yet, so if you live in the area, or would like to take a unique but highly rewarding “holiday”; they can always use the help. 

Or find a need in your community, and get involved! Less government and more self-reliance works. We can do most things ourselves; much better, and far cheaper; with the added benefit of an un-quantifiable, but very real lift to your spirit, and to the recipient’s spirits!

Disasters that provide such stark illustrations of the value of self-reliance are few and far between.  And unfortunately; “it is the government’s responsibility” – whatever “it” is; soon returns as the default attitude. So we must begin to change that attitude, and the sooner the better.

We can personally adopt a Let’s Do It Ourselves attitude; teach it to our families; model it in our businesses; and support and vote for politicians who actually demonstrate that they are working for smaller government. 

 Less government; more self-reliance. We can do this Margie!


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