Opinion » Editorial

Strength in community



"Tell them Chrissy sent you."

Those are the words shared by the parents of social worker Christine Archibald of Castlegar hours after learning that their 30-year-old daughter had been run over and killed in a terrorist attack in London, U.K. on Saturday, June 3.

Even as they suffered through this horror, they thought of all the people needing help and support — the very people Chrissy had spent time helping during her own life — and encouraged people to go to local shelters or non-profits and offer to lend a hand.

"She had room in her heart for everyone and believed everyone was to be valued and respected," said Chrissy's family in a statement.

"She would have had no understanding of the casual cruelty that caused her death.

"Please honour her by making her community a better place. Volunteer your time and labour or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you."

In response, people around the world are now using the hashtags #chrissysentme and #chrissysentyou on Twitter to honour Archibald. It's a haunting sentiment and perhaps especially poignant this week as 12 people were honoured for their volunteer work in our community by Canada's Governor General at a special ceremony on Friday, June 2.

The people honoured helped build our recreation centre, our newest community at Cheakamus Crossing, they have stood up for and protected our environment, mentored our children, fostered history, culture, music and art, helped those with disabilities, rescued those in need, fundraised for needy causes, supported sport, and so much more.

Everyone has something to share in a community — and while no one is naive enough to imagine that terrorism around the world can be stopped by community spirit, it is nevertheless a powerful weapon in our arsenal.

The images of police dancing with teens, and the fact that thousands turned out for Ariana Grande's One Love Manchester Benefit concert on June 4, less than two weeks after a suicide bomber detonated a weapon at the end of her original concert killing 23 children and adults, exemplifies the power of community — as does the good work done by our Governor General's winners and all the unsung heroes in Whistler, of which there are hundreds.

A community can be defined in many ways, but at the centre of most of the descriptions are its people.

Here in Whistler, we are incredibly fortunate. I cannot think of a circumstance where help has been asked for and not received. If anything, the giving and sharing can almost overwhelm those in need.

Volunteering is part of the fabric of our community. Look around any workplace and you will find people quietly helping out a charity or a not-for-profit or in any number of other roles that mentor or grow our home and people who live here.

The most recent Statistics Canada figures show us that more than four in 10 Canadians volunteer — in 2013, 12.7 million Canadians, or 44 per cent of people, aged 15 years and older, participated in some form of volunteer work.

In fact, those aged 15 to 19 were the most likely to volunteer, which speaks to social cohesion found amongst many of our youth — though older volunteers put in many more overall hours. Canadians are generous with their time, volunteering close to 2 billion hours a year. 

One can only hope that volunteering stays with our youth, as they grow older, so that it becomes a life-long commitment.

It is well recognized that as important as volunteering is to those in need, it is also imperative as a contributor in building social cohesion, and, of course, it gives meaning to many people's lives.

And it is not just the large acts of giving and sharing that are important to our community, honour also the small acts of kindness — helping a friend out with babysitting, tutoring a child, helping a neighbour cut their grass or taking a lost pet to WAG.

Only together can we stay strong, and create a community that embraces everyone.