KAMLOOPS — I often wonder why it takes tragedy to bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in people. I am constantly heartened by the way people come together in times of adversity and work with others to ease the pain and distress that come with things like floods and wildfires.
In June, we saw it during interior flooding, where people from one end of the Okanagan to the reaches of the North Thompson and Shuswap worked together to sandbag properties, move valuables, and help people who were in danger. Some of these people were paid employees, but they went above and beyond their normal call of duty. Most were simply volunteers, who saw someone in need and helped them out.
It may have been helping move things like personal heirlooms out of flood danger, moving animals, providing help to those more vulnerable and unable to help themselves. And now these past few days, as wildfires spring up all over the province, we again see the spirit of coming together. People offering their homes for people to stay in, people providing a spot for farm animals escaping the flames, businesses providing extra food and necessities for those who had to leave their homes in a hurry.
The Tk’emlups and Whispering Pines Bands providing the Pow Wow grounds and farm land for people and animals.
Emergency personnel risking their lives to warn people of imminent danger.
Some businesses opening their doors so people evacuated could have a shower and perhaps just relax.
It is these acts of kindness that I hope will continue to define us as a people.
Sadly, not everyone takes the high road. Thieves create issues in evacuated buildings, or stealing possessions from cars packed with personnel belongs as people try to find a place to stay. But most are great.
We in the media have our part to play too. While we all fight for viewers and listeners, this is also a time where we come together for the greater good, sharing information so that everyone has it, so that victims of these tragedies get up to date information no matter which channel they watch or which station they listen to. And sometimes just listening to someone who is trying desperately to get information, even though there’s a looming deadline on air, or all the other phones are ringing.
These are the times when a little kindness goes a long way.
In 50 years of broadcasting news and information, I’ve seen more than my share of tragedies, and more than my share of people helping others rise above adversity. I remember the floods of 1972, when we would be out all night reporting, then spending several additional hours driving around to the dikes where people were working, seeing if everything was all right, or if they needed anything, delivering coffee and food and helping out where we could. And the entire community was doing that. I often think that if the good in people is there in these troubled times, why it can’t be among us all the time.
Guess Schoolhouse Earth has a bit more to teach us yet.