Benefits Of Small Town Living

When my wife and I moved from Abbotsford to Hedley a year ago, our friends couldn’t comprehend our reasons for turning our backs on the amenities and glitter of city life.  Living in a small community with no McDonalds, Starbucks and numberless quality restaurants, plus no Canuck games, nearby movie theatres or opera, was to them like departing from the known world.  They could not fathom an existence in a community with no doctors, banks, supermarkets, malls or automobile dealerships.
 
Moving to Hedley has made us aware of another way of living.  Instead of depending only on government agencies to look after them, people help each other.  If an elderly person needs a ride to see a doctor, almost invariably, someone offers to take them.  When a cancer patient needed financial assistance to travel to a specialist in Vancouver, there was a contribution box in the Country Market.  There seems to be an understanding that to survive as individuals and as a community, we need to be willing when help is needed. 
 
We have seen that there is a core group that strives to make Hedley an interesting, vibrant community.  One example of this is the pancake breakfast hosted by the members of the Hedley Seniors Center.  On the second Sunday of each month they invite the community to a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausages or bacon.  At $5 a plate it’s a delicious bargain.
 
This summer the Community Club again sponsored a barbeque and street dance.  Great food and wonderful music.  The band’s rendition of Johnny B. Goode wowed the crowd.  At only $10, it was another bargain we never encountered in the city.
 
In October the Hedley Museum Society sponsored a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. They spoiled us with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, pie, and more.
 
For some years the Hedley Grace Church has organized a bottle drive to send children to camp.  Throughout the year, people contribute bottles and cans, and sometimes money.  Twice a year the contributions are sorted and bagged at the fire hall.  This is done by church people, children who attend the camp, and others who consider it a good cause.
 
The Fire Department, like all the groups, is manned by hard working committed volunteers.  They practise every Tuesday evening to ensure the best possible skill and fitness level.
 
We love the abundant sunshine, enjoy the people and appreciate the clean air.  The amenities of the city we came from really cannot compare. These are just a few  benefits of small town living.

First Community Conversation A Huge Success

On February 10, Hedley’s Senior Centre was crowded with community leaders and advocates from Princeton to Penticton, Osoyoos and Kamloops.  They had come to hear Julie Fowler, executive director of the highly successful ArtsWells Festival.

It was the first in a series of “Community Conversations” organized by Angelique Wood, RDOS Director of Area G, and Kim English, a director of the Hedley Heritage Museum Association and Assistant Manager of the Grist Mill.

Purpose of the workshop, according to Wood was to “improve existing festivals and also to encourage networking among participants ”  She said “this type of meeting will enable us to form lasting bonds and grow our communities.”  English said she hoped people would hear something of value they could take back to their own community and apply there.

Fowler, who has been in Wells 10 years, told the group her passion is to support artists of all kinds. “I want to bring them together,” she said, “and I want to bring their art to the world.”

The Wells festival began small. “In the beginning we gave away a lot of tickets so people would come. And if an artist showed an interest we begged them to come. There was little money to pay them, but we did feed them.”

She advised her audience to use existing facilities and look for funding through corporate sponsorships and government grant programs, in addition to selling tickets.  “Publicity is important,” asserted Fowler.  ArtsWells has found the CBC to be helpful.

Fowler said last year the festival sold out and had about 2000 guests.  They require approximately 220 volunteers, most of whom come from outside Wells.  Many of the artists and guests stay in tents during the 4 day festival.  It is still “quite grass roots.”

Currently the Wells festival features over 100 musical performances on 12 stages.  It offers more than 20 different workshops teaching everything from Ukrainian dance to lyric writing, clowning and more.  Activities for children include a crafting station, a children’s stage and workshops geared towards children.

There are also screenings of independent films and local theatre productions.  A one minute play festival is always popular.  Added to this is a host of inter-genre literary performances and workshops, including story telling/writing, poetry and the unexpected.

Following Julie Fowler’s presentation,  Bob Nicholson of the Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Alliance participated in a panel discussion. He spoke about the Meadowlark Nature Festival which takes place in Penticton.  It features hikes, history, wild life and much more.  Each year they have an artist paint a picture, usually of a Meadow Lark, and put it on t-shirts which are sold to raise funds.  “We could use more help,” he said, “including a few additional people on our board, and we need money.”  He expressed a desire to work with other groups.  “A lot of the power is already in this room,” he suggested.  “Often we don’t know who has the experience, knowledge and skills.”

At the end of the workshop there was palpable excitement and enthusiasm as attendees exchanged ideas and contact information.  Angelique Wood described the presentations as “inspiring”.  Another Community Conversation will take place in April at a date to be announced.

 

 

 

“Great By Choice”: Strategies Of Successful Leaders

“Great by Choice:  Uncertainty, Chaos & Luck”
Why some thrive despite them all.

 

The authors, Jim Collins and Morton T Hanson began their research for this book with the understanding that “the dominant pattern of history is not stability but instability and disruption.”  It is their firm opinion that there will always be disruption and chaos and we should expect them.  They consider their research findings important and useful in that they suggest strategies, thinking and actions for preparing and dealing with difficult times.

  Although Collins and Hanson applied their research primarily to companies, what they learned can benefit each of us at various levels.  Whether we are searching for strategies to enhance our personal lives, family relationships, or leadership roles, this book provides specific approaches that will lead to increased effectiveness and greater success.

 The authors examined a number of successful companies, such as South West Airlines, Microsoft and Intel and compared each one with a less successful company in the same type of business.  The question they wanted to answer was “what did the great ones share in common that distinguished them from their direct comparisons?  What does it take to build a great company?”  The question I asked myself while studying their findings was “How can I apply these principles and strategies to build a satisfying, fulfilling life?”

The authors and their research team considered only companies that:(1) had achieved truly spectacular results (at least 10 times that of the industry),

(2) had achieved these results in particularly turbulent and difficult times, and

(3) had begun from a position of vulnerability.  They wanted to know, for example, why South West Airlines became so successful in the same unpredictable and difficult environment in which Pacific South West Airlines failed.

  They call the highly successful companies 10xers and outline the particular practises, strategies and thinking separating them from the comparison companies.

 The authors cite a number of examples of leaders who successfully applied the 10x principles and strategies.  They compare these companies with less successful companies that performed poorly in difficult circumstances, because they didn’t apply the 10x thinking and practises.

 At various points the authors refer to the  South Pole explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.  Amundsen prepared diligently and ensured that he had adequate and appropriate supplies.  Scott was less rigorous in virtually all aspects of the expedition and died on the return leg of the journey.

 Amundsen’s meticulous preparation and his rigorous attention to details while en route to the South Pole are exemplified in contemporary leaders like Bill Gates  (Microsoft),  John Brown (Stryker). Herb  Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Peter Lewis (Progressive Insurance) and others.

 In following segments I will write more specifically and in greater detail about Fanatical Discipline, (one of the Three Core Behaviours of the successful companies), the 20 Mile March, the practise of “fire bullets, then cannons,’ and the SMAC recipe.

  I am finding that as I apply the thinking, strategies and principles in Great by Choice, I’m increasingly aware of a positive change in my approach to life and leadership. My purpose in giving considerable attention to the ideas presented in “Great by Choice”  is to encourage leaders, especially those at the community level, to grow in leadership, wisdom and understanding. The next segment will deal with Fanatical Discipline and will be posted soon.

Vladimir Putin’s Move Into Crimea

How realistic is Vladimir Putin’s claim he simply wants to protect Russian speaking people in Crimea?  Isn’t this reminiscent of Adolph Hitler’s assertion to Neville Chamberlain he wanted only to unite all German speaking people?  Unfortunately for Europe and much of the world, Chamberlain believed the Fuhrer and allowed German troops to invade the Sudetenland.
 This served only to embolden Hitler and convince him the Allies didn’t have the will to oppose him. Surely it is foolish to assume power seeking individuals like Hitler and Putin will act in accordance with their words.
 

If we want to assume anything, a wiser assumption might be that Putin intends to breathe life into the former Soviet Union.  Like Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Hitler and others, Putin is not likely to be satisfied with one acquisition.  Crimea will almost certainly only whet his appetite for more.

 If there is an anaemic push back, he will conclude no nation has the will to stand in his way.  Only a determined, united opposition by the G7 nations will thwart his ambition. Appeasement didn’t prevent WW 2 and it won’t prevent another even more devastating conflagration.
 
 

Popular Abbotsford Blogger Inspired Many

 

A stranger might have assumed that a recent Celebration of Life at Abbotsford Pentecostal Assembly was for a political or entertainment celebrity. The spacious main floor of the sanctuary was crowded to capacity In a sense, popular Abbotsford blogger Kristin Erickson was a celebrity, but not for the usual reasons. She was a 41 year old wife, and the mother of 4 children.

On October 29, 2012 she was told she had cancer, and began writing in a wonderfully engaging and poignant manner about her battle against the illness. She wrote of excruciating pain, of radiation and chemotherapy, of surgery to remove a kidney, of her love for her husband and children and the joyous moments with them, of her trust in God, and much more.

Like thousands of her readers, I never met Kristin, but came to feel I knew her.  In the relatively brief time of her illness, there were approximately 150,000 visits to her blog, ( which you can find at canadiankristinconnected.blogspot.ca). In spite of the tests, many days lying in a hospital bed, the numbing pain, her diminishing strength, she had a powerful desire to communicate with readers.

To the end, she was determined to spend quality time with her husband and children. She expressed deep appreciation for the support of family and friends. She praised doctors and nurses for their attention and care. Repeatedly, her trust in God and her love for people crept into her writing.

She battled on courageously to the end, always clinging to hope, never allowing bitterness to overshadow her predominantly positive message. Kristin’s love of life and people, her humour and courage inspired readers around the globe. Many responded with notes of appreciation and encouragement.

She leaves behind a legacy that many celebrities would envy.

 

First Step To Senate Reform?

 

Even if Justin Trudeau’s decision to grant independence to the Liberal senators is politically motivated, as Minister of Industry James Moore has suggested, it could be a positive step toward true Canadian democracy. Like many fellow citizens, I’m hoping his bold action will persuade, or even shame, Stephen Harper to also release Conservative senators from the confining shackles of the party apparatus. This would allow them to genuinely represent us, if they have the will to do so.

Certainly such a change would not remedy all shortcomings in our political system, but it would be a welcome beginning. At this time it is probably little more than wishful thinking, but if Mr Harper hears from enough voters, he might acquiesce.

 

 

Mentoring More Important than Winning

Letter to the Editor

The boys basketball tournament at Robert Bateman Secondary demonstrated how skilled and competitive boys and coaches are at that level. With only one exception, I was impressed with the attitude of players and coaches. The one exception was a coach who, in the opinion of many spectators, appeared to be more intent on winning than on developing his players.

Early in the game his team was ahead by 6 points and he called a time out to scold them. Throughout the game he was loud and disrespectful in his instructions and comments to his team. Unfortunately, his thinking and attitude were reflected in rough play by the team.

I have long believed coaching young players in any sport is an opportunity to prepare them for adult life. They are developing attitudes and values they will rely on in adversity and also in success. Sports can teach discipline, commitment, respect for others, staying strong in times of disappointment, and much more.

I mentioned the negative approach of this coach to a longtime, highly successful coach of Abbotsford softball teams. He told me that at the beginning of each year he had a chat with the parents of his players. His primary message to them was “ don’t be critical when players make a mistake. They are young. Encourage them.” His teams won numerous medals. This coach wanted to help his players develop a sound foundation for all of life.

My grandson played in the basket ball tournament this weekend. I am pleased that his coach is an encourager. At his age, positive mentoring is more important than winning.

 

 

 

 

Committed Citizens Create A Vibrant Community

In mid-December, approximately a dozen highly committed members of the Hedley Senior Center worked feverishly to create a successful potluck experience for some 80 attendees. Very likely, similar events took place in other communities. And almost certainly, the number of guests far exceeded the number of those who organized the event and served. After the Hedley potluck, a member of the Senior Center said to me, “We’re getting old. We need younger bodies.”

Most small communities are kept alive by giving, participating citizens. For a community to be vibrant, it needs the ideas, energy, and skills of many people.

Having been active in volunteering roles most of my adult life, I know that when we give our time and talents to society, we will almost certainly derive unexpected benefits. We gain new skills and experiences. We meet other active people. My wife and I have gained close friends through volunteering. And the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from giving far exceeds any monetary value.

Community organizations can only survive and thrive if people participate. If everyone does something, no one needs to do it all. And by making a contribution now, we will pass on to our children a more interesting, compassionate and cohesive community.

A decision to volunteer would make a worthy New Years Resolution.

Words To My Dying Father

When I went in to see Dad Tuesday evening, I could not be sure he knew who I was.  He simply looked at me without expression in his eyes or on his face.  He didn’t speak.  My attempts to engage him in conversation were fruitless.  He drifted in and out of sleep several times.

After watching him sleep for about an hour, I decided to talk to him, in the hope that his subconscious might absorb something of my words.  In essence I said, “Dad, you have been a good Dad to me and to Vi and Linda.  You have been a wonderful example of how to live a good life, a life of integrity.  You have been a mentor to us and our children.  You have also been an example to our friends.” (I have many times repeated to him the positive comments made about him by my friends.)

“You have also been an example to your brothers and sisters.  I can tell that they have a tremendous respect for you.  What you have sought to accomplish with your life will be carried on, even though you can no longer do it yourself.  You have done your part.  Now it’s up to us to continue your work.”

When I ceased speaking I thought there was a flicker of a response in his expression, as though he was accepting what I had said.  I prayed audibly for him then, and again he seemed to acknowledge the prayer.

As I sat at his bedside that evening, I wondered if we would lose him that night.  His breathing was loud and he fairly regularly pretty much stopped breathing (I think this is called chain stoking).  It seemed that his life force had been spent and there was little left to sustain him.  I left when it seemed he had drifted off for the night.

Amazingly, Gail came in to an entirely different person the next morning.  He wanted to talk and recounted several incidents from his past.  He remembered having gone to a street corner in a rundown area of Vancouver to do music with Nick Klassen.  One of the songs they had sung there came to his mind and now he and Gail sang it.

At one point in their discussion, he asked “what does a man have left?”  He didn’t provide an explanation of the question, but I wondered if it indicated an awareness that the number of his days is dwindling.

In response to his question my mind went back to the morning when he went out to his machine feeling deeply disquieted by a longstanding misunderstanding between two men in the Mennonite church he attended.   They had not spoken to each other for some time.  Dad started his machine and let it warm up.

He had no peace,however, and so he shut it down and drove to the home of one of the men, in the hope of persuading him to seek a reconciliation.  When the man realized that Dad was willing to sacrifice to achieve a reconciliation, he agreed to go with him to find the other man.  That morning the problem between them was dealt with and they were again brothers.

Increasingly, I’m finding that I want people to know about Dad’s values and how they directed his thoughts and actions.  Having been positively impacted myself by his life, I feel a responsibility and desire to speak and write about how he has lived, in the hope that possibly others will benefit.

He said to me this week, “I want to carry on.”  It seems he still has reason to live and inspite of his hurting body and the dire predictions of the nurses, he is pressing on. His desire to live is giving a (limited) measure of strength to his body. He is sleeping a lot, but when he is awake he is alert and completely aware. Will he last until Christmas?

 

His Example Still Speaks

It is a fascinating experience and a privilege to watch my 95 year old father trending downwards. When I talk with my sisters, Vi and Linda, I realize that each of us is going through a precious and unique time with him. And each of us is increasingly impacted as we understand somewhat more completely who he is.

In his almost 6 years at Menno Hospital, we could say that he has a number of times teased the nurses and care aides, leading them to believe he was about to draw his last breath, and then reviving to virtually his former self. When he was in bed or in a Broda chair continuously for about two months, unable to speak above a whisper, he really was not expected to come back. But he did, and I can only conclude that his physical reserves have been quite extraordinary.

Now it seems that the battles of the last 5 years, including the prostate cancer and the various drugs, have depleted the reserves to a dangerous level. His PSA count is pretty much out of sight, his haemoglobin levels are low etc., his voice is again weak, he has little appetite, and he tires quickly.

Even so, he is still interested in the world around him, including American politics. Recently he asked me “What is Obama doing?” I need to pay more attention to what is happening on the other side of the 49th parallel so I can answer his questions.

He also asks about our families, especially our spouses. His frequent question to me is, “what is Linda doing today?”

Quite often when he appears very weary and is asked if he wants to go back to bed, he says, “I don’t know.” My sister Linda tried to sort out what he was thinking and he finally said, “I don’t want to waste my time.” This seems to suggest that he knows the number of days left to him is shrinking more rapidly than he would want.

On Sunday Vi brought her daughter Nicola and her boyfriend Adam to visit Dad. Adam, a PHd student in mathematics at UBC had not met Dad or the rest of the family before this. When we asked him about his studies, Dad became quite interested and asked a number of questions. It was evident he has not let go.

Yesterday he said to me, “what shall I do?” When I asked him what he had in mind he began talking about work. He thought he shouldn’t just be sitting in his bed. He should be accomplishing something. I reminded him of how hard he had worked as an equipment operator, the courses he had taken in night school, his involvement with his family and church. Then he said, “I guess it’s alright if I just sit here.”

Our friend Gail continues to do breakfast with him on week days. She has recently finished reading ”The Epicentre” to him, a book about the Middle East. It is pretty involved and requires some understanding of politics. He stayed with her mentally throughout the book.

Dad is used to being active and useful physically. He has always reached out to people, whether it was in his church, in the community, or until recently at Menno Hospital. The challenge for him now is to accept the fact that he can no longer make a difference in the lives of others.

I speak to him sometimes of the impact he has had, and still has, on the care aides. He has always shown an interest in them when they come into his room to wake him and get him ready for the day. Many times they have expressed their caring and respect for him when we talk with them.

I’ve been surprised at times when people at Menno Hospital who I don’t know address me by name and obviously know who I am. This includes both visitors and workers. I’ve come to understand that because everyone knows Jacob, many people also know me. Often complete strangers ask me how my Dad is doing.

Dad still says “I like to live.” He does not speak of dying, although recently he said to me “I miss Ann.” (my mom). I would like to know more of what is going on behind the scenes in his mind but I only get small snatches these days.

Much of the time he is uncomfortable physically, frequently he has pain in his back. It really is not a good time in the life of a once strong man who still wants to push onward,inspite of being totally dependent on others for every physical need.

I realize that in writing this, I’m attempting to more fully understand who my Dad has become. I’ve observed him as a father, as a skilled heavy equipment operator, as an active member of his church and community, and now as a man whose life is trending downward.

I really cannot adequately describe who he has become. I do know though that although his voice is very quiet, his example still speaks to those around him.