Compassion key to community success

First published: June 13, 2008

It is far too easy to forget the compassion of people. Two events last week rung true with heartfelt empathy as people gathered around to support those in the community who are suffering at the hands of circumstances far beyond their control.

The first event involved a network of friends gathered at the Lion’s Centre in Cobourg Saturday night. Known as Val’s Pals, nine amazing women, led by Kim Shortt, raised $15,000 over the evening through ticket sales and a silent auction to help their friend Val Curran, who is fighting multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood. It was a family-oriented benefit, which also doubled as a birthday party for Curran, who is currently in Princess Margaret Hospital undergoing intensive treatment.

The group also started a bank account at Scotiabank where people can make donations for a trust fund that has collected $5,000. Already, Tara Hart, director of Alice in Wonderland, donated the proceeds from a performance in March. And, a group of girls held a joint birthday party, raising money in aid of Curran instead of giving gifts.

What made this night special was more than the money raised. There were many contributions from the heart. The children in the Simple String Orchestra played wonderful music, while the Premiere Dance Academy sent some very special dancers. Two sets were presented. Each was choreographed as a tribute to Curran, making them even more compelling.

The music provided free by several local bands was incredible, mainly because it was nowhere near a formal concert or dance. Children piled on to the floor, with some getting on stage, rocking right along with the musicians. Everyone, young and old, bopped to the tunes as the families and friends had a great time.

Yet, the most moving moment of the evening was the moving speech given by Curran’s husband Jon. In expressing his thanks, he provided a long list of people, from friends to co-workers. It was unbelievable. He mentioned at one point how a group of people came over to the house recently to help clean up the garden. It is not something one would usually think about, but something that needs to be done.

Then, came the phone call to Curran lying in her bed at the hospital in Toronto. Everyone sang a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. Inside the Lion’s Centre cake was served on her behalf.

In a quiet moment of reflection, it is easy to see the generous spirit of all these people. From those who donated money or gifts to those who grabbed a rake, this network of friends reached out, exemplifying the bigheartedness that is a hallmark of this community.

The second event was the tragic deaths of three young women killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer near Warkworth. The village of Colborne reached out to the families of Kandas Derry, Erin Reed and Robyn Taylor. Managing Editor Eileen Argyris aptly described the tight-knit community in an editorial last week. She would know best since she was the long-time editor of the Colborne Chronicle.

It is worth noting how the community banded together to provide support for each other. The large numbers who attended the visitations and funerals speaks volumes. Just think, the community used its largest venue, the Keeler Centre, in order to accommodate all the people. It would be impossible to list all the acts of kindness, from the smallest to the most obvious, as parents, family, friends and strangers reach out to console the suffering.

Both these events exemplify the heart and soul of a community. Far too often, we are led to believe that no one cares. We are fed a litany of dreg that calls on each of us to “pull up our bootstraps” or “suck it up” when times get tough. And, certainly, there are moments when we must rise to the simple challenges in life in order to survive.

Yet, in the face of these recent hardships, it is vital to see how people can coalesce around each other. There is no cure for Curran, but her treatment will extend her life. Hopefully, she will go into remission long enough to enjoy watching her daughters grow up and be with her family to share in the joys of everyday life for a while longer. Then, there are those in Colborne who face the almost unbearable grief of losing the three young women. For the Taylor family, this is even more painful, since it is the second child lost in a deadly accident. These are dark days shared by the community.

Maybe this is why we cherish living in neighbourhoods, small towns or villages. There are so many examples of family, friends, neighbours and strangers reaching out. The recent sympathy expressed in a letter to the editor for the family of Lizzie Corbeil, of Colborne, who died in an ATV accident. And, then there were the more than 200 people to came out to support the family of Alex Rutherford who died in a canoeing accident in August 2006. And, what about the community support for the victims of a fire in Port Hope, who lost everything when several storefront and apartments were destroyed in 2007. The list goes on.

It is important we never become so cynical that we lose our compassion. As all these examples show, we are not alone. And, community is more than just a word.

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