Find­ing a way to 'yes'

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - FROM THE ED­I­TOR

Signs of spring have ar­rived in our great part of the world. Snow shov­els have been stored, tem­per­a­tures have be­gun to climb, and even the early-bird tourist can be found wan­der­ing the streets in search of an open busi­ness. Spring is also a sym­bol of change, new­ness and renewal, and there is much ev­i­dence of this abound.

As our great is­land wres­tles with the re­al­i­ties of an ag­ing and dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion, a short­age of hous­ing, a lack of child­care, a dearth of health­care and many other chal­lenges, there is a sil­ver lin­ing sprout­ing through the ground next to the cro­cuses.

The 2016 Sta­tis­tics Canada Cen­sus re­vealed that al­though Vic­to­ria County lost 26 peo­ple since 2011, the Vil­lage of Bad­deck pop­u­la­tion grew ever so slightly. It in no way con­sti­tutes a tide, but a small trickle of new blood does ap­pear to be flow­ing in. Some are new im­mi­grants, oth­ers are do­mes­tic trans­plants, and oth­ers still, are is­lan­ders re­turn­ing home from abroad. With this new co­hort, comes new en­ergy. A de­ter­mi­na­tion that the place they have cho­sen to come to, or come home to, should be the best damn place it can be.

Bet­ter still, this en­ergy is con­ta­gious, acting like a fer­til­izer for nearby plants long-rooted in the rugged soil. As a re­sult, I have wit­nessed the ‘renewal’ part of spring in which long-time char­ac­ters have be­come com­mit­ted to new ven­tures or found new en­thu­si­asm to take on lo­cal chal­lenges. For many, this en­ergy has al­ways been within them, it sim­ply be­came tem­po­rar­ily dor­mant.

Let me step out­side the metaphor­i­cal, and point to an ex­am­ple of this cross-pol­li­na­tion tak­ing place. For some time now, staff and pa­trons of the Bad­deck Li­brary have re­al­ized that the cur­rent space is in­ad­e­quate for the level of ser­vices and pro­grams that the li­brary of­fers, and that the com­mu­nity wants to see.

Since com­ing here three years ago, I have heard many ru­mi­na­tions about peo­ple or­ga­niz­ing a com­mit­tee or hold­ing a pub­lic meet­ing to deal with the is­sue. And then one win­try evening this year, some­one did just that. Bad­deck Bay res­i­dent Jim Di­fiore rented the Ma­sonic hall and in­vited peo­ple to come talk about what kind of li­brary the com­mu­nity wanted. The event drew out ap­prox­i­mately 25 peo­ple, some whose feath­ers were rus­tled be­cause they had been qui­etly or­ga­niz­ing a group to deal with the is­sue. They weren’t sure if an­other group was needed. But af­ter dis­cus­sion, the new folks, and the fairly-new folks de­cided to work as one.

This new group of peo­ple then held a big­ger pub­lic meet­ing at the com­mu­nity hall where nearly 70 peo­ple at­tended. There was lively con­ver­sa­tion, slides of li­braries from around the world, and that en­ergy that I spoke of ear­lier, filled the room. Young and old. From here and from there. All work­ing to­wards a com­mon goal. And for the mo­ment, dream­ing that money was no ob­sta­cle in cre­at­ing a new li­brary. From that meet­ing came a long list of ideas, wishes and names of peo­ple want­ing to stay in­volved.

Flash for­ward to this past week­end where an­other plan­ning meet­ing took place at St. Michael’s Hall. Only, this meet­ing didn’t seem to have the same vibe as the first. With ap­prox­i­mately fif­teen peo­ple around a ta­ble and a gi­ant ele­phant lurk­ing off to the side, pro­po­nents of a new li­brary met im­me­di­ate con­cern from a much older, more es­tab­lished group: The Bad­deck Pu­bic Li­brary So­ci­ety. Formed in 1891, this group lit­er­ally goes back to the days of Ma­bel Bell and her col­leagues who were in­stru­men­tal in see­ing a li­brary form in the vil­lage. At first, they were in­stru­men­tal in hous­ing and run­ning the li­brary. More re­cently, they have acted as stew­ards of the li­brary by pro­vid­ing much-needed sup­plies and fur­nish­ings. So, on this day, mem­bers of the So­ci­ety had come to ask why a new group was needed, when they had a fine one al­ready set up to help the li­brary.

At that point, the morn­ing could have gone one of two ways. And, in the mo­ment, I feared for the worst. But then a mag­i­cal thing hap­pened. Calmer winds pre­vailed. Peo­ple voiced their fears and as­sump­tions about the in­ten­tions of the groups, while oth­ers lis­tened. Ci­vil­ity reigned while griev­ances were aired, and un­in­tended wounds be­gan to scab over be­fore one’s eyes. In the end, the young and the old, the new and the not-so-new, came to re­al­ize that they could work to­gether un­der one um­brella, even as they seemed to main­tain dif­fer­ences on what a new li­brary should look like, and how it could be af­forded.

And while the new blood has much to learn from this fa­ble, I want to point out a trans­for­ma­tion that I think is equally im­por­tant for the fu­ture of our is­land. When mem­bers of the Li­brary So­ci­ety ini­tially be­gan to speak, sev­eral talked of their skep­ti­cism that money for a new build­ing could ever be raised. In other words, they started the con­ver­sa­tion with ‘No’. But by the end of the con­ver­sa­tion, as folks were shak­ing hands, I’m sure there were still those who doubted the pos­si­bil­ity of a suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing cam­paign. The at­ti­tude had shifted how­ever, to “let us give you the tools we have so that you can see how far you can get with the idea.” That con­sti­tuted a mon­u­men­tal shift in ap­proach.

When Guys­bourough County Fire Ser­vices Co­or­di­na­tor Shawn An­drews pre­sented to Vic­to­ria County coun­cil last fall, he said his county’s CAO in­structed him when he was hired to “find a way to yes”, any­time a fire­fighter needed some­thing. And that is the at­ti­tude we must all try to adopt. Say­ing we can’t af­ford it, or it’s too hard a task is much too easy an an­swer. And we all know it will get us no fur­ther along.

Whether it be a re­paired wharf in Bad­deck, a bold eco­nomic vi­sion for the tip of the is­land or a re­vised zon­ing plan in In­go­nish, let us find suc­cess here at home by at­tempt­ing to get to yes to­gether.

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