If there is any good to have come out of the wildfires that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray it is the outpouring of kindness and compassion from across the country and around the world. I was moved to tears watching a video of over 200 firefighters from South Africa singing and dancing at the airport in Edmonton after a grueling 22-hour flight from their homeland. They are here to help fight the wildfires that continue to burn and grow. There have been so many stories of people reaching out to help from little children raising money by setting up lemonade stands to Syrian refugees welcoming evacuees and providing lunch and more, to a First Nations young man walking across the country to raise funds. The embattled community of Attawapiskat, struggling with the high suicide rate there also came together to raise funds as did tiny communities in Nunavut and elsewhere. In a time of civil wars in the Middle East and in developing countries; in a time of change nation-wide as First Nations peoples struggle for recognition, it is amazing to see the unity involved as people help one another.
Fort Mac, as it is affectionately known by locals, is a multicultural city. At a workshop I took part in a few weeks ago the facilitator shared this little known fact: Fort Mac is populated with a higher number of peoples from around the world than Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver with over eighty different languages spoken by its citizens. At the library where I work there is a world languages section that is well used by patrons. And people are so grateful for the services we provide there, new Canadians are so profuse in their thanks it is humbling. The library itself is staffed by a wide range of nationalities and it has been an enriching experience to learn more about cultures from around the world, including the culture of First Nations Peoples through workshops and through interaction with my coworkers.
There have been many postings on social media that celebrate the city’s strength with slogans like “Fort Mac Strong” or “Alberta Strong” but the outpouring of generosity does not stop here, I think we are Canada strong and world strong. As an evacuee my spirits have been raised up and my hope for a better tomorrow has soared – not just for myself, but for all citizens of the world. Political differences have fallen aside and the innate goodness of the human spirit is in evidence everywhere. We are indeed all one race: the human race. Let us not forget that.