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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Using Your Gift for Good

One of the things that always amazes me is the nature of the social profit organizations in this community. They are tireless as they seek to serve this community, exploring innovative ideas and meeting new challenges along the way. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Annual General Meeting, an occasion that was enlightening in so many ways.

One of the realities is that as this region grows so too does the need for organizations like the Food Bank. Last year they saw a sharp jump in demand for their services, but this increase in demand is not always matched with an increase in donations. Unanticipated growth in demand can mean empty shelves and new challenges, ones that social profits like the Food Bank must rise to meet again and again.
The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is undoubtedly one of the social profits closest to the heart of the Intrepid Junior Blogger and I. We have both spent time volunteering for them (her more than I, truth be told) and we are always so impressed by the dedication of the staff, board members and volunteers as they work to meet their mandate. In our time at the Food Bank she and I have come to understand the “hand up, not hand out” nature of the Food Bank, a vision to assist those in need until they can provide for themselves and perhaps even one day provide that hand up for others.

The Food Bank is fortunate to have an incredible Executive Director in Arianna Johnson, a terrific team of staff members and a dynamic board that supports the staff and organization as they work to meet the growing needs of this community. It was truly a pleasure to attend their AGM and hear the updates on their new initiatives as well as begin to understand the new challenges they are facing.
It was also a deep surprise for me during their meeting to be recognized as one of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s Promoters of the Year. During their AGM they recognized some key supporters and partners, and I cannot quite explain how it felt to be recognized as someone who has promoted and supported the Food Bank and their mandate over the last year – but I also felt deeply unworthy of the recognition, too.

I know there are those who will think it is some sort of false modesty, but while I am proud of what I do (and I would suggest that anyone who is not proud of what they do, whatever it happens to be, should consider stopping doing it) I also know that what I do is easy. All I do is sit at a keyboard and tap out a few words, maybe attend an event or two and record my observations. It is what others do – the staff, the hundreds of volunteers, the board of directors – that truly matters and makes the difference. They are the ones deserving of all the recognition and praise, and yet far too often they are in the shadows, behind the scenes doing all the work while people like me simply write about it all.
When I was a child my father once told me that if you have a gift you have a duty to use it to make the world a better place. My father, a self-taught musician, used his gift to bring joy to other people, playing for friends and neighbours and colleagues. My mother, an excellent cook, used her gift to bring people joy through food, cooking for anyone she felt needed the comfort of a home-cooked meal (which in her world was everyone, really, and no heart-healthy stuff for this German woman – it was butter and cream and filling, rich comfort food to the core). After my parents died I heard from old friends I had not heard from in decades, recalling my father and his accordion, and my mother and her midnight “snacks” for my friends that were really full meals of cheeseburgers. They used their gifts to make the world a better place, and I believe they succeeded in every way that matters.

It has taken me some time to understand it and acknowledge it, but it seems my gift is this ability to write. When I began writing I thought about my gift and about how it could be used – as a sword, perhaps, to inflict harm to others, or as a mechanism to lodge a million complaints about the inadequacies I see. And while on occasion my words are a sword (although, as someone once pointed out, a blunted sword meant as more of a prod than a scythe) far more often I choose to use my words as a tool for education, a way to encourage change and a method for telling the stories of those who have stories that need to be told. My father has been gone for many years, but I like to think he would be proud of the way I have chosen to use my gift, just as I have such deep pride in the way my parents used theirs.
Today I encourage my readers to learn more about the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, and in fact about all the social profit organizations in our community. There is something special about the social profit sector, because while it can be a complicated world it is also very simple, based in the pure desire to help others in some regard. Every single person can contribute to the social profit sector, whether it is through donation of goods, money or volunteer time. We each have a gift in this world – and it is up to us to choose how we use it.

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