On a quiet, unpaved street in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the small tidy homes with big gardens reflect the working class nature of the neighbourhood.
In the 1970s you could still buy a narrow two-storey wood-framed house on a Manitoba maple and caragana bordered double lot for $12,500.
It seems the city fathers had forgotten this section of town in an effort to service rapidly expanding crescents and bays in new subdivisions of homes with twice or three times the square metres.
When Eva and I moved onto 29th Street East as a young couple we found ourselves immediately accepted and enveloped into a community of care and concern. Our neighbours, who had already raised their families, patiently assisted us as we learned how to parent as well. An open breeze block wall separating our backyard from Clara and Romeo Bourassa’s garden hosted many conversations in the 14 years we lived next to them.
Clara and Romeo served as surrogate grandparents for our children. Their door seemed always open to them for a few hours if community activities took me away from my primary fathering duties. Clara whether in her garden, knitting in her favourite chair or leaning over her stove with preserves, baking or cooking the Hungarian meals she learned from her mother, welcomed our son and daughter.
Her unflinching hospitality offered us a practical example of the steadfast optimism that got Prairie folk through many tough times.
Over the last few years our visits back to Saskatchewan have grown more infrequent. Exchanged Christmas letters have just maintained the thread of our relationship. But our fondness for them built on many acts of kindness has not dimmed.
Here in the Yukon the e-age has generally lessened the communication gap with Outside friends and family.
However if mail via Canada Post is your main method of contact it still sometimes can take a while for word to reach us.
Last Wednesday we heard that Clara had died last month, after a short illness, at 81 years of age.
I am sure her death is mourned by her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and Romeo, her husband of 58 years. However when I think of her a feeling warmth exceeds any sadness. Her life touched ours and quietly enriched it. Here in the Yukon and in communities right across Canada you can look around you and find many Claras. They, like warm baked bread, nurture us physically and emotionally.
Volunteers will gather early tomorrow morning at L’Alexandrin (the old Legion Hall) at 306 Alexander Street. They will be preparing for the 17th annual Global Village Craft Fair. Box after box of handicrafts from co-operatives and self help groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be unpacked.
The fair trade goods crowding the tables there represent untold hours of patient, skilled labour by women and men unknown to us. What is known, though, is that they, like Clara, work tirelessly on behalf of their families and communities.
Though the challenges confronting them and all of us may seem overwhelming their unwavering commitment to life models for us lives that overcome despair. The sum of their seemingly ordinary efforts offer us hope.
In those many small daily acts that foster hope and healthy communities you can see greatness. While optimism maybe momentarily inspired by the inspirational rhetoric of a leader, it is those myriad selfless acts that build the better world we long for.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact email@example.com.
Saturday, November 15 – Herman of Alaska, the patron saint of the Americas, who died on this day in 1837 near Kodiak, Alaska is remembered as a pioneer Eastern Orthodox missionary dedicated to protecting the Aleuts from exploitation during the Russian colonial era.
Sunday, November 16 — 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew: 24:36; 24:14-30.
Sunday, November 16 — The International Day for Tolerance, an annual UNESCO observance, seeks to raise public awareness of the need to renew our commitment and action in support of tolerance which is essential for peace and for the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
Thursday, November 20 — Universal Children’s Day marking the anniversaries of the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 seeks to promote the welfare of the world’s children.