OUT OF LEFT FIELD: On the strike, random acts of kindness and family
I’ve been in a total funk for the past few weeks – all the negativity and rage surrounding the current city strike have been so disheartening and demoralizing. I keep thinking, What about after the strike? We’re all going to have to go back to working together, shopping in each other’s stores, attending our children’s hockey games together. How to do that, when accusations are flying around, charging community members with everything from ineptitude to flat-out corruption? Even the most optimistic forecast says we’ll be a long time in healing the wounds inflicted over the past month.
I was also embarrassed, having lost my own temper, more than once, over some of the things being said.
Part of it was disillusionment, too – Castlegar has always been so cohesive and community-minded. If you had told me a year ago that my town could be home to such horrifying enmity, I simply would never have believed it.
At any rate, I found myself looking at Castlegar and its residents differently, interpreting comments with more suspicion, becoming quicker to anger. I lost the joy I usually feel, just being a part of this charming little town.
Until one lovely stranger pulled me out of my tunnel vision and reminded me that this conflict is but a tiny part of the larger Castlegar, its history and its values. You may have already read this story, I plastered it all over Facebook with this post: A personal post from Kyra: I was at the Gift Box in Castlegar. I was buying a maple sauce that’s more expensive to make yourself, but I was admiring a pair of earrings. I have NEVER spent more than $10 on a pair of earrings in my life, I was admiring the craftsmanship is all, and this lady said I should buy them for myself. I said no, I don’t see food as an extravagance, but amber earrings aren’ta line item in our budget. She absolutely insisted that she pay for half of them so I could have them. I said, no, no, I don’t need them, but she would NOT let up. She absolutely DEMANDED I have those earrings, because she said it’s important to be good to yourself, and all she wanted in return was that, if circumstances allowed, I pay it forward someday. I have never seen anyone do anything like before. I TOTALLY intend to do it myself, and soon. I am blown away. Floored. Gob-smacked. After all the recent hate, this was exactly what I needed – and I don’t mean the earrings.
I’m sharing this story again in a column because it taught me an important lesson that I value. I always loved the idea of paying it forward – I know how it can brighten someone’s day, put a spring in their step, and add a smile to their face.
It never occurred to me that it could literally shift someone’s world view, get them looking at the world through happy, accurate lenses when they’ve stopped seeing things clearly, for whatever reason. I had been walking around with a knot in my stomach for weeks, my city had lost its lustre – and in just minutes, a total stranger got me seeing a warm and friendly home again – and it wasn’t due to acquiring new bling.
To that lady: here’s what you made me realize: communities are a kind of family. My brother and I used to fight tooth-and-nail (although that was 30 years ago). I’m 43 now, and still I never pass up the chance to take a funny cheap shot at him, if one comes along (and he’s no slacker on the zingers, either). But we’re also very close. We’re family. I’m his and he’s mine, and that trumps any disagreement we may have. All those fights we had as kids never changed that.
So, too, it should be with community. I think the current dispute has the potential to get much worse before it gets better, and lots of people (myself included) have used terms like, ‘tearing our community apart’ and ‘destroying our community’.
I no longer believe that – the strike has certainly torn apart friendships and damaged working relationships, but it can’t tear Castlegar apart. Our community is made of stronger stuff – compassion, neighbourliness, love and giving are all hallmarks of our citizens, and no dispute, no matter how heated, can take that away from us.
That may sound a little Pollyanna, but it’s true. That being said, I’m off to commit a random act of kindness, and wishing you peace and warmth this holiday season.