Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, there is a passage in the New Testament that speaks to charity in a way many of us can understand: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”
We don’t get to see a lot of the kind of charity Paul was referring to in First Letter to the Corinthians, at least not in the news business. Hardly a week goes by that our time is not put upon to traipse off to photograph some group of individuals or another holding a cheque the size of a sheet of drywall and often of almost equal value. Almost as if the giant cheque will somehow emphasize how generous the group is. But last week was different. Last week was special. Last week was true charity, the kind that seeks no publicity.
Morinville, along with the rest of the province, awoke last Monday morning with the news that a good portion of Slave Lake had been destroyed by fire, all its residents forced to evacuate to Westlock, Athabasca, Alexander, Legal, St. Albert and Edmonton. But through our shock at the sheer magnitude of the devastation there came the instantaneous and universal feeling something must be done to help.
By noon the Morinville arena was opened as a drop off point for donations for the two main evacuation centres of Athabasca and Westlock. Organizers from the Town of Morinville’s FCSS department teamed with resident volunteers and town staff to make it ready while word of the initiative spread mostly by social media and good old fashioned word of mouth. By Tuesday afternoon, volunteers were almost tripping over each other and certainly over the piles of articles donated and sorted for the evacuees – each item a personal act of true charity given anonymously from the heart with no recompense other than the internal satisfaction of knowing the donor had stepped up to help.
Without courting applause, residents and businesses simply gave or their material possession, their time and their hearts. And while the clothing, food, books and other items will be met with appreciation by the evacuated residents of Slave Lake, the other generosity that made it possible will remain largely unknown. The donation of a tractor trailer and driver by Champion Petfoods; the donation of sandwiches; coffee and doughnuts for volunteers from Tim Hortons; the donation of two RVs loaned by RV City for Morinville firefighters to rest in while they assist in Slave Lake; the donation of food and water from Sobeys to go with the trailers; the electronic efforts of the Morinville Public Library, Chamber of Commerce and other businesses and organizations that used their mailing lists to get the word out about the donation drop off.
Although Morinville is certainly not unique in Alberta in mobilizing forces to respond to the disaster, the fact so much could be done in just 27 hours is simply remarkable and worthy of praise, although none who were involved – from the child carrying in a bag of groceries to volunteers who spent so many hours sorting and packing items sought any praise.
For two days last week we were no longer a community divided on the secular and Catholic debate. We were no longer divided on those who were opposed to another liquor store and those who were for it. We were no longer divided on those who want a pool and those who don’t. No longer divided on any issue, but simply united in the one issue that mattered the most – lending aid to those in need.
It is that sense of caring, that sense of community that prompts so many to choose a small town like Morinville to settle in. it is times like this that reaffirm for many of us that that choice was the right choice to make.