Monday, April 24, 2006

These are the Moments....

I spent a restless night worrying about Pearlington.

Will there be enough volunteers to do this job? Has the world given up caring and moved on to the next big thing? Is anybody other than us aware of the devastation that still exists?

As a Canadian, I don’t agree with what seems sometimes to be the Canadian consciousness about America. Big Brother living across the thin line that is the 49th parallel. Loud, brash people who are generally unaware of the world beyond their borders, who think they are the centre of the Universe. People who outnumber us ten to one and don’t let us forget it. People whose knowledge of Canada is that all it does is snow here and perhaps we live in igloos and all speak French. People who think we produce really funny comedians but have an enormous inferiority complex.

Maybe we do.

Marshall McLuhan, the famed Canadian communications professor once wrote: "Canadians and Americans are generally indistinguishable from each other - and the only way to tell the difference is to make that observation to a Canadian." I personally have long known that Americans are much like us, individually, despite the different directions we might take internationally. Caring, sensitive people who are just trying to feed their children, love their neighbours and get to Heaven intact.

In Pearlington, I have been proud and honoured to stand beside my American brothers and sisters. Today, I write these words using the Canadian spelling because I wish to make a point: that we ARE the same, all of us, all over the world, despite an extra vowel or two. We care what happens and I have seen that first hand. I wrote in early September that if you want to know if North Americans really care, have a crisis and you’ll find out.

We inhabit this world as a family and we are not going anywhere unless we ALL go together. "Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind. Therefore send not to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." * Every time the village bell rings to announce the passing of another of our family, we are the less, all of us.

That’s why we must find a way to inspire our countrymen and women to come to the aid of Pearlington. Because they are family and because they need us. It could be our town or city the next time. It could be you or I who loses everything and needs a hand up. It could be our children scared and unsettled, looking for some sign that our lives and our pain have even been noticed. It could be our homes that need the help of Perfect Strangers to restore some sense of normalcy to our lives.

People in Pearlington ask me all the time why I would put my life on hold and come half way across a continent to help people I do not know. My answer is always the same: "I do it because I believe you would do the same for me." Their response to that is also usually the same: "I may not have before this, but I sure would now."

Small deeds and large, they all make a difference. Each reminds us of our connection - one to the other - and we are changed. We learn and grow and understand that life is a series of making a difference in the lives of others, for good or for ill. Katrina has invited us to the Dance and we have a unique opportunity to make that difference. I for one will not pass it by, not let the chance escape.

Laurie Spaschak sends this, this morning, in response to a call I put out for a special chair for a senior disabled resident of Pearlington:

"Jon....delivered the chair this morning... it was another one of those almost tearful moments.... seeing him laying there in bed, in a cramped FEMA trailer on his oxygen machine, telling me he was just too tired to get up today as we brought the chair in. I know the driver of the truck (Ray Meyer) felt the same way. He said if he had known it was so badly needed he would have brought it much sooner. So please extend a huge thank you to the folks who arranged for its arrival. I have some photos of the event to share. He had fallen in the bathroom a few days ago and has some bruising. I am going to get her [his wife] some cream for him, and help her move things into the house next week."

Thank you, dear God, for eyes to see, for ears to hear and for a mouth to speak my truth. These are the moments I thank You that I’m alive.

"Canada Jon" White

* John Donne, 1571-1631


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