Did you hear the story about the Winnipeg bus driver who gave away his shoes to a barefoot guy he saw on the sidewalk? It was pretty hard to miss.
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of that story, which was picked up exhaustively locally, nationally and then internationally, was that it was news at all.
One of the first things journalists learn is that news is about what’s new and unusual — the “man bites dog” stories, not “dog bites man.”
But the news does reflect our society. What does it say about a culture in which a simple act of kindness generates a firestorm in the mainstream and social media that prompted a major U.S. network to fly this Good Samaritan to New York? The bus driver was most surprised of all. He said it was nothing more than anyone else would have done when confronted with the same circumstances. Apparently not.
And what does it tell us when agencies, including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, working to end hunger in the Sahel region of West Africa intervene early in an unfolding crisis to avoid mass starvation — only to see aid donations fall off? What, we need shocking images of distended bellies, dying children and dead livestock to convince us to pry open our wallets?
Thankfully we are blessed with many, many people living in our communities for which this is not the case. It’s hard not to get a shiver of pride running down one’s spine when reading about the success of this year’s CFGB growing projects scattered across Manitoba. It is clear that these folks find joy in the spirit of giving.
And who can’t feel thankful about yields pushing 78 bushels per acre at a time when prices are $7.25 per bushel or higher? It’s been a banner year for these projects, measured not only in the number of projects but in how well they produced.
These collective donations of time, inputs and labour — combined with a little help from the weather — add up to a contribution greater than the sum of their parts. It’s a community output of energy that in return, energizes the community.
It also forges a bond across the oceans to regions of the world that due to war, environmental collapse or a lack of social capital struggle with food insecurity.
It’s easy to say the problems are too large, too distant and they can’t be solved. Yet time and time again we are reminded that lasting change takes place — not by the large acts of a few, but rather through small acts undertaken by many.
We have a lot to be thankful for in our part of the world. Yes, it’s dry and the canola crop promised more than it delivered. But it’s bound to rain sometime and there’s something producers can do about those canola yields (think rotation).
Overall, it’s been a pretty good year on the farm for most, with some exceptions, especially hog producers. But despite the lack of rain, farmers here were spared the devastating drought that swept across the U.S. In fact, they’re benefiting from it. Those prices are making up for any disappointments in the production department.
Beyond that, we live in a place of peace, where law and order is the norm rather than the exception. We live in communities in which volunteers don’t say, “somebody should do something,” they just do.
Living as we do gives us as individuals and communities “response ability.” We don’t mean responsibility, as in the duty to respond. We mean it in the literal sense — we have the ability to respond to the needs of others. It’s a choice we are blessed with being able to make.
We hope that’s part of the discussion this year as families gather to celebrate their annual Thanksgiving feast. What are we thankful for, and what more can we do to share with others, be it our time or resources?
Reaching out to urban neighbours
The latest census data released by Statistics Canada underscores the growing challenge faced by agricultural producers trying to stay connected with their urban neighbours.
While the number of Canadians living in rural areas has remained relatively stable since 1991, the population living in urban centres has been rising steadily. As a result, the proportion of Canadians living in rural areas has dropped to just under 19 per cent or less than one in five.
That’s among the lowest in the industrialized countries. Here in Manitoba, 60 per cent of the population lives in Winnipeg, a fact that shapes both the cultural and political realities in this province.
There is significant growth in urban centres outside of the big metropolis, with Steinbach seeing a 22 per cent increase in population and Brandon increasing by more than 10 per cent, largely due to new immigration to the province.
It’s important the farming community reaches out to these growing urban centres as well.