Earlier this week the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition celebrated the contributions of two of its founding members, Ross Findlater and George Green.
They have decided to step back from their longtime formal roles with the coalition as co-director and treasurer, respectively.
However, no one who knows them can imagine them stepping away from continuing to be, in some manner, fully engaged in the process of building a better community here.
From the food bank to the Whitehorse Homelessness Initiative, from the long pursuit of a territorial anti-poverty strategy to the outreach van, you can see the practical imprint of their efforts on the community life of Whitehorse.
Their volunteer efforts marked second careers for both of these gentlemen following their exemplary service individually as executive directors of the Yukon Family Services Association, now known as the Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon.
How do you build a commitment like that? Some say you have to be optimistic enough, or others crazy enough, to believe you can change your world.
This starts as those in the current Occupy movement believe, in “occupying” ourselves, coming to understand down deep in our psychic marrow that we are here for others. This entails seeing that quality of life matters more than the vain pursuit of the quantity of things demanded by our omnipresent, destructively prodding consumer society and that civic virtues of respect, honesty and compassion matter.
As Jeffrey Sachs writes in his recent book The Price of Civilization, a “mindful society is not a specific plan but rather an approach to life and the economy. It calls on each of us to strive to be virtuous, both in our personal behaviour (regarding saving, thrift, and control of our self-destructive cravings) and in our social behaviour as citizens.”
This stands in opposition to the national ethos that seems to be predominating now “one that leaves its impoverished citizens in degrading life conditions and almost completely ignores the suffering of the world’s poorest people.”
A mindful society, Sachs argues, “aims to refashion our personal priorities as well as our social institutions, so that the economy can once again serve the ultimate purpose of human happiness,” both here and abroad.
The task of rebuilding our local or global communities cannot be done alone. George and Ross certainly recognize this.
Their life partners, Hazel and Sue, and their families growing around them anchor them as well as the communities of concern they have been part of creating like the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. We all need the support of others to keep us on the right road.
As Dr. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City, notes, “We need to reconceive the idea of a good society in the early 21st century and find a creative path toward it. Most important, we need to be ready to pay the price for civilization through multiple acts of good citizenship: bearing our fair share of taxes, educating ourselves deeply about society’s needs, acting as vigilant stewards for future generations, and remembering that compassion is the glue that holds society together.”
George and Ross have been companions on this road for a long time. They continue to mentor and inspire others to join them on this journey. Let us hope that our journey with them towards that just, equitable and compassionate society continues for a very long time.
The next Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition sponsored Whitehorse Connects event, which reaches out to the needy in our community, takes place on Tuesday, May 29 at the Old Firehall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Volunteers are still needed. If you can help, call Kim at 335-1428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact email@example.com.