From 2011-2016 I had the pleasure of writing a weekly column for the Brandon Sun. Often focusing on the political scene of the day, every so often my editors would allow me the opportunity to wander into other realms. To give thanks, to recognize accomplishments, or to look towards the horizon. That little weekly op-ed piece still ranks up there as one of the greatest professional opportunities I have been blessed with, and when I ‘hung it up’ in 2016, I knew it would always be there for me, as an outlet, should I need to revisit it. The column, dubbed ‘As I See It’, was precisely that; it was the world, as I saw it. Tonight, I take up that ‘metaphorical pen’ again to share a few thoughts.
Like many of you, the past couple of weeks have given plenty of opportunity to reflect, stress, laugh, cry, and most importantly wonder what tomorrow many bring. I also, like many of you, have been given plenty of time to be ‘present with my thoughts’. For me personally, my thoughts continually drift to making sure our community is safe, ensuring our most valuable commodity (our healthcare teams) are safe, and most importantly, like yours, that my family is safe. I have found these three pillars have been incredibly important outlets to channel emotion into action.
I took a drive around our community tonight. I had the radio off and the windows open, I looked, I watched, and I listened. In the present, we are met with darkened lobbies, shuttered doors, and absence of activity. It is a stark contrast to what our community has maybe at times taken for granted. That normal life we knew now exists in a state of ‘suspended animation’. What has replaced it is laser like focus, a strong sense of resolve, and a collective prairie sensibility that has us awaiting the storm with an eye to our neighbours wellbeing as much as ourselves.
As we go into a weekend that is usually marked with celebration and a time of joy for family, connection, and togetherness, our community is silent and in a place unlike any one of us have seen in our lifetime. By no means though should the physical limitations of togetherness be a barrier to letting others know you care. Continue to reach out virtually. Pick up the phone, offer to help, or just say hello. It is the little things that will mean the most at this tremendously trying time.
We have been given a challenge though. By being apart at this time, we can better bank on a future together. Through social distancing, staying at home, following public health orders, and hunkering down, we can arrest the spread of an invisible enemy gripping communities throughout the world. Although it may at times feel helpless, we are far from it. We are more empowered today to do something for the greater good, than at any other point during our lifetime. This is our war, and our country has called us to the front lines to support those who are fighting it. We owe it to our healthcare professionals who are that true frontline infantry, we owe it to our elders, and most importantly, we owe it to our children to answer that call. We must focus on the greater good, and that means staying at home and flattening the curve now and for the weeks to come.
Flattening the curve is not without its monumental challenges though. I’m incredibly empathetic to those in our community who have lost so much in such a short time. Businesses that are the very lifeblood of our community have been forced closed for that aforementioned greater good. The truth is, some will never open again. For that I’m truly dismayed for what could have been. The challenge lies ahead though. We must, as a community, commit to investing in our business sector and supporting them now and wherever possible once this challenge is behind us. Our access to funds in many households are drastically reduced, but when the sun rises again, that promise of opportunity will again be something Brandon can hang its hat upon. I know that will be a much greater piece of my role on city council moving forward. We need to have an eye on the rebound and again find prosperity in our community, for that prosperity will bring jobs, growth, and a better life for us all. As municipal leaders, we may have to get creative in our approach, but we must be committed to bringing back a sense of optimism for the betterment of our entire region.
Second, as always, I intend to continue to work with all my being to bring back an optimism for our residents as well. This current crisis will not brand us unless we allow it to. The lasting memory of COVID-19 in Manitoba should be how we rose up to the challenge. Decades from now the actions we undertake in the coming weeks will be our defining historical moment.
I know at times this may have seemed like rambling, and the clock notes it is past midnight so maybe it is just that. I have always taken great comfort though in expressing my thoughts like this, so I thank you indulging me in the wee hours of a new day.
I’ll close with this, Winston Churchill once said, “it is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” We know what is necessary in the days and weeks ahead. I believe in you.