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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