I spent the better part of the holiday season with a shovel in hand moving large piles of snow from the driveway. Whenever I thought my work was done, the municipal plow piled more snow at the end of the driveway for me to clear. The first day or two did not seem bad but after about two weeks of continually shovelling snow I started to complain about winter weather, the cold and the frustration of living in the north.
I had to take a step back and consider how lucky and fortunate I was to live in this part of the world when I saw the devastation that took place on December 26, 2004. At first I was surprised to see the news coverage of the earthquake and tsunami that affected the countries around the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. I think many people were merely intrigued with this story at first because no one knew the extent of the damage in the beginning. As the images and videos of the event were played out on the newscasts on television and video streams on the internet we all began to realize the extent of the damage and destruction that took place. I was shocked by the number of people that were victims of this freak of nature.
I was also alarmed at the fact that towns I had visited in Thailand in 1999 had been destroyed. During the month of February that year I travelled with a friend of mine to the southern part of the country and visited several areas including the island of Phuket. At one point during our travels we stayed for a week in a bungalow in Patong not far from the beach. Patong beach was one of the worst hit areas in Thailand. The tsunami took the lives of many local Thai as well as tourists from several countries. Southern Thailand is one of the most beautiful places in the world, which is why people from all over are drawn to this destination. The beaches are long, wide and the water in many places is turquoise and clear.
This tragedy made me think. We have snow every year and we have to deal with icy roads and cold weather. While I shovelled one day, I talked to a neighbour who was also working on his driveway. He explained that the snow was hard to deal with but at least we don’t have to deal with situations like the tsunami in southern Asia. I really realize now how lucky we are to five in a country like Canada, where we enjoy a great amount of wealth and prosperity as well as the fact that the majority of people are not in danger of catastrophic events like tsunamis, hurricanes or earthquakes. Most of the people in our country five in great comfort compared to the rest of the world. I once read that when a teenager in Canada or the United States receives his or her first job at minimum wage, they step into the top 10 percent or so of the wealthiest people in the world.
Even in First Nation communities where things are not always easy, fife is still better than many other parts of the world. Unfortunately, there are situations in many Native communities in Canada where life comes close to Third World conditions. I understand this because I have experienced both worlds. There are many events and circumstances that occur in Native communities that would not be acceptable in southern non-Native cities or towns. In my visits to Third World countries I was reminded that fife in some ways resembles the scene in First Nation communities in Canada. In a way First Nation people have much in common with a major part of this planet that fives in what we call third world conditions.
With this in mind any of us that can afford to should dig into our own pockets and send a donation to one of the many relief organizations. The Red Cross comes to mind. Even though this was a terrible event, there seems to be a great sense of hope and solidarity as the world pitches in to help those in need. It is just a shame that tragedies such as this have to take place in order for us to realize how much we all care about and depend on each other. Perhaps this will be one of those special moments in time and histoiy where we turn a corner and keep on with a more loving and giving way of living together.