Earlier this morning, my wife, who is also the ad sales person here at the paper (which makes this whole separation between editorial and advertising a difficult trick to maintain), handed me a list of all the important days and events coming up this year.
The list includes all the typical high points: Christmas, Easter, International Kissing Day (July 6, if you’re curious). But it includes all manner of awareness days and weeks and months: World Downes Syndrome Day (March 21), World Penguin Day (April 25), Lefthanders Day (August 13), and, of course, Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 13).
While perusing the list, I noticed that today (February 22) is Thinking Day. And I thought to myself (because, it is after all, thinking day) that what a great thing to have: a day dedicated to practicing thinking. And then I thought about all the people I knew who could use some practice in that department. And then I thought that wasn’t a very nice thought.
And then I thought, “what is Thinking Day about, anyway?” Turns out, it isn’t what I thought.
Thinking Day, as anyone who grew up in the Girl Guides can tell you, is a Day for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to think about their sisters and brothers in all the countries around the world.
It is also the birthday of Robert Baden-Powell, who was the founder of the Scouts and Guides. It is, ironically enough, also the birthday of his wife and Chief Guide Olave.
As time has gone on, the date has taken on more significance. Instead of just thinking about sisters and brothers, Guides and Scouts have adopted a theme for this worldwide day of thinking. For this year, the theme was “Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.” These are not random thoughts, but are based on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This is the fifth year that these Development Goals have been used as guidelines. Previous themes have been around Millennium Development Goal 6: Stop the spread of AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and Development Goal 1: Ending extreme poverty and hunger.
Nadine El Achy, Chair of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, writes that “7.6 million children and 287,000 mothers die each year, most from preventable causes like pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria or lack of access to appropriate healthcare.
However, says El Achy, “we believe this situation can be changed, and it must be changed.” And indeed, there are 37 percent fewer child deaths today than in 1990, the baseline year for the Millennium Development goat. This is still well below the goal of 67 percent fewer deaths by 2015, which is when the goal was set for.
Thinking about child mortality especially is not exactly the most fun topic to turn your brain to, but it is important, something that the Girl Guides and Scouts have realized. Because if we don’t think about these things, who will? If we don’t think about these things, the only thing we will think about are our own problems and our own desires. And when we think about the fact that 7.6 million children die each year from preventable diseases, maybe it will cause us to reframe our own issues, like the fact that our sled has a broken track and we won’t be able to get it fixed for at least two more weeks. That’s not a tragedy. The fact that in the time you’ve taken to read this editorial, two dozen children have died because their parents couldn’t afford clean water or food or basic health care? That’s a tragedy.
Patrick McDonald, founder of the Viva Network, a group that works to educate children and keep them safe, asks:
“Why is it that a child’s death amounts to a tragedy, but the death of millions is merely a statistic?”
It’s sobering food for thought, and while we work through our (very valid and real) issues here in Tumbler Ridge—HD Mining and Temporary Workers, the cost of housing, the lack of space for businesses, the fact that there is no home for the arts in Tumbler Ridge—perhaps we need to think about these in the context of these larger issues and be thankful that we’re worried about these things and not whether our children will survive the night.
Think about it.