This week, for most Albertans, the thing on our minds is the devastating fire raging in Fort McMurray. This has been a nightmare of a week for residents of this northern Alberta city. Up until this week many would have said that it has been a nightmare of a year – with oil prices low, job loss high and morale drooping. But those problems pale in comparison to what has happened in the last few days.
I read a Facebook post this week from a man that I do not know. I copied a portion of it:
“It's funny because as I stare in the dark I keep telling myself that the words running through my head aren't true. The words "it's all gone" won't pass. But I keep reminding myself of what I know to be true more than ever. I have everything in this room with me. When I was leaving our home I looked all around and tried to decide what was important enough to take and the answer was nothing. Nothing mattered except my family. It still doesn't. And I feel so grateful because when I tried to leave town south bound I was delegates from my wife and my daughter Olivia, and I had my daughter Emma with me. I got to a pint where I couldn't go further and the highway was covered in flames and I didn't think we would make it out. I looked at my angel and I have never felt such a fear. Such dread thinking I wouldn't be able to save what I hold dear. That's what I can't shake. What I can't let go. And while I trembled and shook; my little girl in all her innocence smiled at me and was laughing and wanted to play.
I'm not writing this for help or for sympathy. I have what I need and we will be just fine. I'm writing this for two reasons. One because I need to let some of this out of my head, and two because I hope it will make everyone squeeze your kids a little tighter this week. Read them and extra bed time story. Give them and ice cream and watch them smile. Call your sister you are angry at and make up, or your brother you haven't had time to chat with in a while and say hi. Tell your loved ones they are loved and make time for a family dinner. Everything else is bullshit. It does not matter.
I came to Fort McMurray in 2008. I already knew wen I got here I didn't like it and I was just gonna make a few dollars and leave. This place has became my home because I found out everything I heard about the town was wrong. It is friendly, happy, and a great sense of community. And it has given me everything. My wife. My children. My career. My friends. My greatest memories and milestones. And tonight as I write I still have all those things”.
There is more to his post, but I think the part that I copied captures the spirit of what I have been thinking about this week. That is, when we find ourselves in desperate situations with our backs to the wall, our true values surface. For this man, he has discovered, or perhaps he knew this all along, that one of his highest values is his family, and the relationships he has with others. He also speaks of his value of community. And reading between the lines, I think I hear the value of him being willing to embrace the unknown, as he did when he arrived in Fort Mac in 2008. What is important about this is that when we clearly know our values, they help us make every decision we are faced with. And more importantly, following our values allows us to feel some peace with the decisions we make.
Just writing this down will help him in his journey of healing and rebuilding. Because he has now has a crystal clear vision of what he values, he will know what he is working toward once his rebuilding phase begins. For now, he and all the evacuees will need some time to absorb the shock.
Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve. It must have seemed like an impossible mountain to climb in the beginning. There must have been days when the setbacks felt insurmountable. I think that this father from Fort McMurray must be feeling a bit the same way. He can picture the life he wants, but the work, the resources needed and the time to rebuild it seem insurmountable. What I saw at Mount Rushmore was the result of what happened when one man, also facing a massive task, stayed true to his values, received help from others and put one foot in front of the other. Over and over, until his masterpiece was revealed. I believe that there are masterpieces waiting to be revealed by the residents of Fort McMurray. The rebuilding plan will be held by the citizens of Fort McMurray, the values will be theirs too, the helpers will be all Canadians, and the masterpieces will last for an eternity. Stay the course my friends.