Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To Serve One Another

I have journeyed home to Ontario for the holidays. After about eighteen hours of taxis, airports, planes, more airports, bigger planes, and car ride home I safely made it back to the province of my birth. I find when you travel like this your brain condenses time. Back in Fort Smith I could feel the four months I had spent there, but soon as I got back to Brampton the time collapsed and it feels like some sort of strange dream. Before departing I was repeatedly reminded by my coworkers that I do have to return.

Here is a short list of the things I have missed about Ontario (besides from the obvious stuff): take-out Thai food, naan and hummus, fast internet, speed limits between 40 and 90 km/h, fully paved roads, temperatures above -20 (it was 0 when I landed and I started sweating).

Given that today is Christmas Eve I wanted to take a moment to encourage my readers to consider those around you and the work many people do every day to make our modern lives possible. The afternoon after I returned to Ontario the ice storm arrived. For many hours straight rain fell from the sky and quickly froze to whatever surface it found. When I went to bed around midnight I heard the first branches breaking as the weight of the ice shattered limbs of stressed trees. The neighbourhood I grew up in is a mature neighbourhood with many trees well over 20 meters tall. Some are dying, or rotten, or just old and the storm overtaxed them and virtually every property in my area is affected.

The power went out not long after. The next morning, devoid of anything to do, and still suffering from time difference, I wandered my childhood neighbourhood and joined in the efforts to clear debris from the road. Neighbours helped each other where they could, but in many cases heavy machinery was needed that brute muscle power could not deal with.

It should come as no surprise that the devastation was great, but government workers and private individuals/companies pitched in to ease the burden to make things normal in time for Christmas. I know people are upset and worried, especially if their homes are still without power, but there are too many who have not given thought to the people trying to make this happen. Power in some neighbourhoods will not be restored until Thursday, or so is said, but that means that power workers will be working day and night over Christmas. People forget that it is another person who makes the service work. The public utilities would much prefer to be home or with family and friends than fixing power lines and transformers.

The storm offers a stark contrast, but the same is true with most services. My flights home were delayed. I was impressed not to hear people complain, but stoically and agreeably work with the airlines to get things moving. Having worked in retail, or entertainment over the holidays meant providing people a service they wanted at the expense of your own time. People are frustrated and stressed, but that is no reason to forget you are dealing with a human being and everyone is doing their best to deal with constraints imposed by supply/demand, companies, weather or the million other random circumstances of life.

To borrow a line from The West Wing we should endeavour to be better servants to one another. We should try to find ways to make the lives of others easier and perhaps more meaningful, and have greater compassion and empathy for those whose lives we touch. Most of us now work in the service industry, which means we routinely deal with people. It would be a wonderful gift, or resolution if we worked to be more patient, caring and understanding to one another, especially those who work to serve us. We are not alone and I think we would find great comfort in the community of our circumstances rather than the outrage of our personal suffering.

Brampton couple walk hand-in-hand after the ice storm.

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