When I turn off the computer today, I will have written 52 columns for two local newspapers this year, some personal, some political, most based on conversations with exceptionally motivated and focused individuals. I think of them as “special ones”, people not content to sit in restaurants drinking coffee and complaining about everything they consider wrong in the world. They rarely say “someone should do something about that.” They are busy making a significant difference in their community. Reflecting back this week on 2015, I began pondering what it is about these people that sets them apart and seemingly lifts their lives to a higher level.
I feel that keeping values and culture alive and vibrant is one of the significant contributions made by some of the special ones. At the Pow Wow put on by the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, I talked with Lauren Terbasket, a member of the organizing team. I sensed her passion for infusing future generations with pride in their heritage. I saw children bedecked in brightly coloured regalia. Beautiful teenage girls and lithe young men had invested considerable time and funds in their outfits. It was a celebration of friendships, culture, and values.
Another key function of special ones is to set a positive, uplifting tone. Graham Gore, pastor of the Hedley Grace Church, is viewed by some non attenders as pastor to the community. Less involved publicly, Myrtle Gore’s smile and encouraging words are like a balm for the troubled soul. By their attitude, words and actions, Graham and Myrtle are mentors to some and an inspiration to many. Their love for people fosters a more gentle atmosphere.
I’ve observed that some of the special ones help keep local stories and history alive. Jennifer Douglass and Andy English have carried out extensive research into the largely forgotten Hedley men who enlisted in the Canadian military in World War 1. Except for their research, this important story might have remained buried, possibly forever. Presently they are raising funds to refurbish the Hedley cenotaph. Others, in the community and outside Hedley, have caught their vision and are supporting the project.
The origins of the Allison family and their contribution to the opening of the Similkameen Valley might also have been lost if several local great granddaughters had not delved into that intriguing piece of history. I became interested in this story when I heard about Nora Allison and her pack train of horses. She transported food, mining supplies and other items from Hope to Greenwood. Lori Thomas of Princeton and Nancy Allison of Hedley patiently provided me with details of the life of John Fall Allison, his indigenous first wife Nora and caucasian second wife, Susan. It is because of individuals like Lori and Nancy, and also Susan’s book, “A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia,” that we have some understanding of the early years of white settlement here, and the role of indigenous people.
Often we are too busy to notice unique contributions being made in our community. One example is Ruth Woodin in her role as Hedley Postmaster. She will listen patiently to a tale of woe, but don’t be surprised if she advises a change of perspective. If someone comes in with an unfounded rumour, she is quick to put the kibosh on anything that might tarnish a reputation.
A number of the individuals I interviewed this year demonstrated tremendous strength of character. Angelique Wood’s attempts to introduce fresh thinking and ideas into the Hedley community have earned her the strident opposition of a small cadre of detractors. Fortunately there are many who appreciate her generosity, desire to serve the community, and courage to consider innovative strategies.
The contributions of special ones are varied. Ken Helm of rural Cawston has assembled and lovingly rebuilt an array of delightful vintage vehicles. Lydia Sawicki is passionate about putting an end to wilderness dumping. Don Armstrong of Hedley and Darryl McDonald of Keremeos organized a Hedley BBQ and Summer Festival. Each second Sunday of the month, members of the Hedley Seniors’ Centre host a delicious, $5 pancake breakfast. Most communities benefit from the efforts of such local organizations.
Our lives are enriched when we become aware of the special ones in our midst. Usually they are quietly performing some function that benefits the community. In 2016 we should notice them, honour them, protect them if necessary, and consider becoming special ones ourselves.