Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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StephenVance 540The calendar has flipped to the month of September, the kids have returned to school, and scarecrows have begun appearing throughout the downtown this week – all is right in Meaford's world.

While we're concerning ourselves with scarecrow displays, school supplies, and canning some vegetables before winter arrives, the folks in Houston are wading through several feet of water as they try to pick up their lives and move on post-hurricane Harvey. The folks in southern Florida are bracing themselves for hurricane Irma which could be even more devastating than was Harvey.

And while the media in these parts have given extensive coverage of the devastation in Texas, many don't even realize that major flooding has left thousands upon thousands of people homeless in India and Nigeria in recent weeks.

It can be easy to not take time to pause every now and then to reflect upon just how fortunate we are to be living where we do. No hurricanes to worry about, no earthquake danger, no barrel bombs dropping from the sky. Sure we receive a tornado warning here and there, but thankfully, they for the most part amount to nothing. Not to minimize tornadoes – I lived through the big tornado in Barrie in the mid '80s, and they are no fun before, during, or after they've left the area, and they leave devastation in their wake, but I'll take my chances with a tornado over a hurricane any day.

We definitely have a harsh winter season here and there, but winter storms, though at times full of bluster, don't kill many folks, and they don't leave very many homeless - though those winter storms do give us an opportunity to complain that our roads haven't been perfectly plowed by 7 a.m. when we want to pull our cars out of our heated garages.

A few times each year we hear the bang and boom of bombs during exercises at the military base, but when we hear those sounds we don't have to worry if our friends or family across town are okay.

I like to try to balance any frustrations I might have with local, provincial, and even national issues with the thought that for we spoiled Canadians, things could be much, much worse.

Perhaps that's why I don't tend to get overly worked up if I encounter a pothole in a road, or if the trash collector misses my recycle bin. I seem to save my outrage for true injustice, or human rights abuses, not small inconveniences to my already privileged life thanks only to the place of my birth.

Given that we're only in the first week of September, we're still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, a time when many of us carry on the tradition of expressing the things we're thankful for. But I don't need a holiday to be thankful, and I am very thankful for many things, not the least of which is the peace of mind that comes with living in a safe, free country like ours, void of war, and far enough away from the potential for most natural disasters.

When I encounter a pothole (or five of them) I think of the horrible roads I tromped along in central Russia for several years. When I'm feeling broke, I think of the swarms of children that would surround the vehicle whenever I found myself stopped at an intersection in India. And when a tree branch falls on my car after a windy thunderstorm, I think of homes lost to wildfires or floods.

That's not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about issues here at home, but it's helpful to put things into perspective every now and then. I have grave concerns about our infrastructure issues, not just here in Meaford, but provincially and nationally. I have serious issues with income and wealth disparity and the reality that someone working hard for 40 hours per week at minimum wage can't cover the basic costs of living. The lack of electoral reform, our lollygagging on tackling climate change, and the safety of our food are all issues I mull frequently, but all of these issues pale in comparison to what could be, and what could be is far worse than our reality.

So if you find yourself getting frustrated about this issue or that, take a moment to think about where your issue ranks in the grand scheme of things. Anyone in the news business hears a constant stream of complaints from people on issues ranging from crumbling roads to flower boxes on bridges. I've seen people work themselves into a shaking rage over two dollar garbage bag tags – would people prefer choking on the smoke from garbage burn barrels as they do on the streets of some cities in places like Asia? Perspective.

We should be concerned about the issues in our own backyard, and we should fight to fix those issues and to find ways to improve our quality of life, but we shouldn't be blinded to the fact that for the most part our issues are relatively minor. Very few of them are a matter of life and death, and we should all be thankful that they aren't.


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