Building Resiliency Through One Positive Action Every Day

by Mark Zaugg 9. July 2013 13:52

Why do I believe in doing one thing every day to make Calgary a better city?

It isn't because I have had a long abiding love of the city. If you do not know the story, I was planning on staying in Calgary until 2018 and then leaving it behind for good.  "Calgary had become too big, too unfriendly, it had lost touch with what it what it had been," I once thought not too long ago.  I had struggled to find good work, I had felt the slow crush of debt and the difficulty of finding a decent home in a tight rental market.  I have lived bunkered in my home against the horde of strangers in the neighbourhood who cared nothing beyond complaining of how horrible we all were as neighbours. 

Aspects of that may still be true for many people in this city.  That is a part of Calgary that may exist literally anywhere in the city, it's just a mentality and not a place.

I hope everyone who lives in that part of the city finds the place where I live now, where we like our neighbours and love our neighbourhoods.  A place where even if we took a hit we have a thousand people showing up to help.  Sometimes quite literally.


Over the past month many Calgarians who have discovered what it means to be Calgarian.  If you were flooded, neighbours volunteered to help.  If you couldn't volunteer to tear out drywall or lift heavy things or make sandwiches you found a way to donate or contribute.  But the most important thing is that you contributed!

It goes back to a tweet I received long ago.  "Report to yourself.  Take the ownership to make change.  Don't wait for permission."

That created my new address in Calgary and I know precisely what it means to get what you give.

We will get through the flood because we haven't questioned if we should participate, we just helped.  We got through the immediacy of helping Calgary and then responded to the surrounding areas because it is the right thing to do. 

It remains so because we've baked it in that way.  You need to report to yourself.  You need to take ownership of that sphere of influence around you and change it for the better.  Nobody else is going to say yes or no, so just take on what you can.  You can't fix everything, but you can make it better, and only you will know what "better" looks like once you are finished.

That is what builds resiliency.  That is what makes us strong and keeps us moving forward.  The next phase is where we develop those immediate relationships we have formed, check in on our neighbours and rebuild our city.  Yes, we are up to this.

I saw it yesterday with Thomas, the Gutter Doctor who took pride in his work to fix the slapstick mess left behind by someone else.  I saw it with friends who simply appeared in order to make things right and are determined to see it through.  Pride in your work, giving a little extra, helping a friend: This is the better Calgary I envision. 

It happens by doing one thing, each and every day, to make Calgary a better city.  Take on the challenge for yourself.

Stampede Spirit - the real stuff.

by Mark Zaugg 6. July 2013 01:56

"Hello all,

We have been approached by the Stampede Parade organizers, who would like to have a section represent those who have helped our city and residents in a time of need."

That's how the letter to those of us involved with began.  We got it Tuesday.  Like just about everything about this whole flood response, we threw it all together in a hurry and made something special of it.  We had no idea if we'd have enough folks be able to attend.  We have people with major tugs of emotion both ways.  "I'd like to do this.  Against all my other instincts and workload, I know it is important to be there."  We have folks anxious to be able to say thank you to Calgarians at large and specifically to the volunteers who have thrown so much time and effort selflessly into making Calgary better again.  We have follks that know the needs of High River and chose to go south and help out the good people down there instead.

No matter what, thank you all.

I had the opportunity to attend today, and so I chose to be part of today's Calgary Stampede Parade.  This is the first parade that I have chosen to participate.  I did so for the volunteers of Calgary.  Those who have helped their neighbours.  Those who have fed the workers.  Those who have organized and managed donations.  All of you, all the volunteers, all of my friends and neighbours.  I walked to say thanks to you.

Someone along the way asked if some of the responders dress in clean up gear.  Yes, I have my comfy pair of cowboy boots, but I chose to dress as I do while going out to help my Flood Friends.  I wore my dust mask and my safety glasses, my steel toed boots, and the new jeans that replaced the tattered pair I've worn all week.  Jereme, our wonderful parade marshal, put me up front with the phenomenal Christina Smith to represent those of you who have put in the time and effort to help our friends and neighbours.  Thank you.

Christina told me of when she marched with the athletes in 2002 and the incredible feeling of energy you get from the crowd.  I have never experienced such a thing, but it was astounding to see the standing ovations, the cheering, the clapping, the amazing response from a remarkable city.  Christina, thank you for sharing your story and your time with me.  Thank you for being a remarkable person on your own.  You are a hero.

I walked with Girl Guides, with Red Cross workers, with EMS and with firefighters and I am so incredibly proud to have been included with them.  You folks are the heroes.  You have done remarkable things to keep Calgary safe daily, to rebuild.  You are tomorrows leaders and you are strong.  Thank you for allowing me to be among you today.  I have never been prouder of what you do each and every day.

Perhaps you, the reader, recognized me.  I'm just the same as the literally tens of thousands of Calgarians who have come out to help.  Men and women.  Young and old.  The one single theme is that every single Calgarian who has come to help has cared about their city and has shown their dedication to making it better.  Today I was just an average Calgarian, but an average Calgarian is an extraordinary person.

And I thank each and every one of you.

I know there were hundreds of pictures taken of me today.  I'll share a few of them below.  Behind the dust mask was the single biggest Stampede Smile you could imagine today.  Gratitude for Calgary.  Thanks for everything you bring to the table.  There are two photos I don't have - I'm not sure they exist but I sure hope someone got it.  Please send it to me if you find one ( blog a t or use the contact form).

Twice during the parade I saw hand written signs thanking the volunteers, the first responders, the people who helped as best as we could.  I ran to those folks and hugged them.  It was the single best feeling of the day knowing that we have genuinely and truly touched the lives of our fellow citizens.  A wavering voice of thanks, a half a block of blinking tears from my eyes.  You people are the reason I am proud to be Calgarian.  We will not stop until Calgary is whole again.

Those who stood, those who applauded and cheered, those who whooped and hollered and Ya-hooed! through the parade, I thank you for your enthusiasm, your joy, your appreciation of our city.  Prime Minister Harper, Premier Redford, I genuinely thank you for being part of parade with me.  Mayor Nenshi, I kid you long and often, but this is a truly heart felt thank you for leading this great city through a rough spell and keeping the Calgarian spirit alive and kicking.  A sincere thank you for helping me become an active and engaged citizen of this community, who cares about my city and wants nothing but the best for my friends and neighbours.

Keep Calm and Stampede On, my friends.



From @AmpCalgary


Christina Smith as we passed in front of Prime Minister Harper.  From @KelleyCryderman.


Our Flood Relief First Responders.  From Paula Worthington.  My personal favourite photo of the day.


The REAL heros.  From Phil Kallsen.


And just a thank you from me.  Just a Calgarian doing one of my 3 Things for Calgary.


We are Calgary

by Mark Zaugg 25. June 2013 04:20

There is only one thing I could title this post.

This morning I lined up at McMahon Stadium with a couple thousand of my best friends.  We are the resolve, we are the determination, we will help each other and we will make a difference in our city.

We got our forms, we signed our forms, we ran out of forms.  We lined up to get approved, we lined up to get on buses, we ran out of buses.  We were sent to communities, we found our way to communities, we self-organized to get into the communities and make a difference.  We drove, we walked, we biked, we found our way to meet good people and make a positive difference in their crappy week.  We did one small thing today, there are many, many more days ahead.  We stand resolved to make it better.

There were tears.  Each sickening splat of my hammer hitting wet drywall ("drywall" - what a terribly ironic name today) brought a tear to my eye.  Taking out the kid's toys and the strollers and unceremoniously dumping them in a trash heap brought a tear to my eye.  The photos, the Christmas cards, the personal letters saturated and destroyed brought a tear to my eye.  Gutting the bottom floor of five beautiful homes in Sunnyside brought many tears to my eye.

But the smiles far outshone the tears.  The smiles were incandescent.  Knowing that an army of volunteers stood by to help brought out the smiles.  Just to see the faces light up knowing that Calgary cares - that brought out more smiles in all of us.  Even when we grimly pounded hammers over and over into soggy walls, working in a mindless rhythm of deconstruction of destroyed homes, every once in a while we'd look up at each other and smile.  We had come from just up the hill, we had come from Killarney, we had come from DouglasGlen, we had come from Albert Park, we lived in Sunnyside.  We are Calgarians first, and something needs to be fixed.  Just the knowledge that we've made a difference makes us smile.

This resolve is simply amazing.  It is more than enthusiasm, it is a deep determination and we will make it right no matter how long it takes.  Calgary is simply an incredible city.

I did learn a few lessons today.  I wish to share them for those who wish to volunteer in the days ahead.

1.  When you volunteer, you have no idea what you will face.  At the very least, bring gloves, long pants and wear proper shoes.  I wore steel toed boots - they were excellent.  Gum boots are good, be sure they're comfortable to wear all day.  If they aren't, bring an extra pair of shoes to give your feet a break.  Gloves may or may not be provided.  Bring your own if you can - it gives someone else a chance to help.
2.  Safety is crucial and critical.  Be safe, be smart.  Be willing to step up and show others around you how to be safe.  I worked in one home where the kids who lived there wanted to help.  They're completely invested in the process - teach them to be safe and do it right, but let them participate safely.  Let them learn what Calgarian means.
3.  Not everyone will work construction.  You wonderful people that brought me food and water are amazing.  You helped me keep working longer, you kept me inspired, you kept me grateful that I had the privilege to help someone else.  Allowing me to work more means more people got help.  Thank you for your kindness and your generosity.  Please, circle your calendars and try to schedule your food donations.  We don't have electricity where we were working - we don't have refrigeration.  Circle your calendars for two or three days from now and plan to that day.  Ask when you drop off food, please don't let it go to waste.
4.  Working local is best.  Self organize.  I rode my bike to the area of Sunnyside that I was told was the most affected and started asking people if they needed help.  It took almost no time for someone to say yes.  It took nothing to help them.  I have met many wonderful new friends today.  I want to ensure their lives are made better again.

There is a long, long way to go.  The true test will be if our resolve remains solid not just today but in three weeks from now.  I'm betting it will.  I feel terrible to destroy five lovely ground-level floors today.  But I know it is only the first step to restoring the lives of five fabulous families in Calgary.  I cannot help tomorrow or Wednesday.  We have thousands of Calgarians willing, able and eager to take my place.  Be one of them.

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