Editorial: Reaching out

Trent Ernst, Editor

The response to the fires in Fort McMurray have been nothing short of inspirational.

In fact, I just got back from tonight’s Council meeting, where Council discussed what they could do to help people displaced by the fires.

While they don’t have a lot of money to toss at the problem, there are currently 2400 structures, many of them homes, that have burned.

There’s a lot of people who are going to be looking for mid- to long-term places to stay while Fort McMurray re-builds. Tumbler Ridge has the infrastructure, and it has a whole bunch of empty houses. We’ve got schools with empty classrooms, a daycare that is struggling, as out-of-work parents have no need of anyone to watch their children.

So the District is going to send a letter to the companies doing business in Fort Mac, to Alberta Emergency Services, to the Red Cross, to anyone who might know people who are looking for a place to live for now, and tell them that Tumbler Ridge has low rent and lots of space.

Okay, so it’s a little self-serving, but it is just another example of people helping out during this crisis.

My inbox this week has been filled with press releases from companies donating to the cause. My news feed full of stories of heroics, of tragedy, of loss and generosity, of people pulling together to help other people.

Some of the most powerful stories I’ve read recently have been stories of the Syrian refugees who, just scant months ago were fleeing from the devastation in their own country, reaching out to help people in Fort McMurray.

People like Rita Khanchet in Calgary, who moved here just five months ago.

These are people who have little, but are willing to share what they have with people who have lost everything to the flames.

When he heard what was happening, Rita’s five year old son went and collected his own toys and said he wanted to give them to children who didn’t have toys anymore because of the fire.

Or people like Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee whose chocolate factory was destroyed in the war.

He and his family moved to Antigonish in January, and, being chocolatiers, began to make chocolate. And they began to make sales. Lots of sales. So for the next few weeks, Hadhad and family will be donating all their profits to help the Canadian Red Cross in Fort Mac.

And it moves me close to tears. Not only because of the generosity of these people, but double-y so in the face of the response many of these refugees were given when they tried to come here.

They were opposed at every turn, insulted, mocked, and the butt of racist humour and yet they are willing to sacrifice what little they have to help others, despite the other’s political leanings, race, creed, colour, gender or social bias.

Because for these refugees, those things are all far less important than the fact that we are all humans first. That no matter how you try and divide us along lines of skin colour or belief or language, that we are all part of the human race.

When I look back at our response to the Syrian refugees coming to Canada, and then look at their response to the crisis in Fort McMurray (which I am dubbing the Big Mac Evac), I am both humbled and ashamed and filled with hope.

Because if these people, driven from their country by violence and war, driven from their homes by hate can respond to this situation with such love and compassion and concern, maybe we also have it in us to do the same the next time others need our help.

Heaven make it be so.