Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taking Every Opportunity To Spread The Message

I wrote last week about the time I spent with Canadian actor/comedian Shaun Majumder and his fiance´ Shelby Fenner. We had dinner together on Thursday evening, and on Saturday we once again spent some time together. This time it was a little different, though, as on Saturday Shaun asked if we would be willing to film a "chat" with him focused on our thoughts on life in Fort Mac. Shaun is doing a television series called "Majumder Manor" which will appear on the W Network. The series is about his mission to build an eco-luxe inn in his hometown of Burlington, Newfoundland. Shaun is also beginning a business initiative in Burlington to provide training, advice, and microloans to small businesses in the community.

Shaun asked us to appear on the series for a couple of reasons. The first reason was simply that we had bid on the eBay auction to win dinner with him, and the proceeds of that auction are going towards the business initiative program. The second reason, though, is that apparently during the course of our dinner on Thursday Shaun had been listening to how we spoke about Fort Mac - not just about the issues in the city but also about the things we love about it, and the opportunities it presents.

I must admit I am an extremely camera-shy individual. I can barely stand to do still photography so the thought of being filmed made me very nervous. I agreed to appear for two reasons. One was because Shaun is a great guy and I was happy to help in whatever way I could (people of passion and vision tend to inspire that sort of helpfulness in others). The other was because it was an opportunity to spread a positive message about Fort Mac - and people, I will take EVERY opportunity to do that whenever it presents itself, even if it makes me nervous.

I have now lived in this city for almost a decade. Over those years the continued negative press coverage of the city has begun to slowly drive me insane. It's not that I'm blind to the issues but the fact that those issues receive all the focus of the national media and all the positives are ignored is enough to drive any sane resident mad. I spoke to Shaun about how journalists who come to Fort Mac and head straight for the bars to do interviews are truly getting only one side of the Fort Mac story. They aren't speaking to the families who live here and who are involved in the community. They aren't speaking to the children who attend the local schools and are involved in science fairs and sports and leadership programs. They sure as hell aren't speaking to me, because I would dearly love to show them my Fort Mac.

My Fort Mac is a place with growing pains, but also with great potential. It is a city that attracts some of the best and the brightest to work in an industry that desperately needs them. It is a city that attracts those coming from have-not provinces to achieve a lifestyle of which they previously could only dream. It is a city where residents don't just take from the community but also give to it. They volunteer for Interplay and Festival of Trees, they act as coaches for local teams, and they mentor our youth. It is a place where people of vision can see that there are great possibilities in this city. It is a place where people see the problems but instead of throwing up their hands in despair they get those hands dirty and try to find some solutions.

Shaun and I spoke on camera about why I began to write this blog, and about why I am so passionate about this community. He told me that he had been in Fort Mac a few years ago and had formed a very negative impression of this city, but that meeting me and my family had helped him to turn that opinion around. At that point I no longer even cared if the segment we filmed ends up on the cutting room floor during production. All that mattered was that I had made a difference in the opinion and feelings of one person. If I have to do it one person at a time I will, which is why when I travel I see myself as a representative of this city. There have been times when I thought it would be wiser to not say where I come from when meeting someone, but I've always decided in the end to claim my residency with pride. I've always taken every opportunity to explain why this community, so often abused and maligned in the media, is my chosen home, and why I try to do everything I can to make it better. I will take every opportunity to spread the positive message about Fort Mac, and what I thought would be a frivolous and meaningless dinner with a Canadian performer turned into one of those opportunities.

People, take every opportunity to show the world that we are so much more than what we are portrayed to be. This is our city. This is our home. This is our time to shine and to show that we are becoming something special. Get out there and spread the word.

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