Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mormon Pioneers - The Stories that Set the Compass of My Life

I knew I didn't have to go back to camp for camp clean up, but I knew I should.  If I hadn't gone, the consequences would have been minimal, maybe non-existent, but I had said that I would be there.  I didn't want to go.  I hadn't enjoyed camp all that much, and the thought of going back to clean didn't excite me.  other things excited me more.  Having time to relax, write, read and see friends; all of that sounded more fun than camp.  But it was part of my job.  I wasn't finished yet.
There was one problem, one big problem, I didn't have a way to get out to camp.  The rest of the staff were there already.  I didn't know anyone who could give me a ride.  I considered Greyhound, but the only bus travelled through the night, arriving near the camp at 2:50 am.  No one from camp would want to pick me up at that time. 
I was supposed to be there Sunday morning, but it was Sunday afternoon as I was sitting at home on the computer relaxing when I got a text message that changed everything.  My friend... no, she isn't my friend.  An acquaintance, someone who I didn't even know had my phone number, thought it a good idea to text me and let me know she was being kicked out of her house.  She had nowhere to go.  She didn't ask for help, but it was clearly a cry for help.  I thought of ways I could help her and found excuses so that I wouldn't have to help her.  I thought I could let her stay at my house, but my roommates wouldn't allow it.  Frankly though, I didn't want her to stay at my house.  Then I found myself browsing RE/MAX, thinking I could buy a house and have to open to people in need of a place to stay, no questions asked.  I didn't do anything for her; I didn't buy a house.  Rather, I bought a bus ticket.  I was supposed to be at camp.  I needed to get there.  After that I had a nap.  I had a long night ahead of me, so I slept when I could.
I woke up at 1l and rushed to get the last of my things ready.  As I walked to the city bus I looked up.  Overhead was Cassiopeia.  That has been my favourite constellation since I was a child.  I got on the city bus and started talking with the bus driver.  He told me of his trip to and around South America all on a bicycle.  Cool.  That trip shaped his life, it changed the way he thinks about things.  Because of that trip he's more likely to take the Greyhound than fly, because of the trip he doesn't own a car.  As we drove through a rougher neighborhood he said that people in Canada live like they are in poverty when they are not in poverty.  They always feel like they haven't enough when in reality they have so much.
Nothing remarkable happened on the Greyhound.  I decided against reading Just After Sunset by Stephen King, and spent the trip fixing my dreads.  Everything I had with me was packed in my large camping backpack, and I had a surprising amount with me.  I got off the bus, pick up my back and slung it on my back.  The bag was meant for hiking.  I had gone up mountains with similar packs.  Google told me it was 18 km to camp, so one step followed by another, I made my way there.  I had a lot of time to think.  I wondered why I was doing it.  What had me thinking that it was a good idea to walk 18 km in the middle of the night.  One minute I had been sitting contently at my computer, and then I had a greyhound ticket booked.  Why had I done it?
It must have been over a year ago when I saw a video about a Mormon pioneer.  I don't remember the details, but the story was about a guy walking miles every day to go and work on the Salt Lake Temple.  Up before dawn, home at dusk, but it was his job and he was faithful.  That guy isn't a hero.  He was just going to work, doing what was expected of him.  Such behavior should be seen as normal, not heroic.  I didn't do anything crazy, certainly nothing that deserves praise.  I got up and I went to work.  That is behavior we should consider normal.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Today I feel discouraged.  I feel like I'll never do any good in this world.  Moreover I am not even sure what good looks like.  I wanna squash disparity, but I don't want to do it by enabling the world's population to live like North American, that is both unsustainable and far from the best life.  Children in Chad play happily with their siblings.  Not because they have the newest toy to play with, I don't know why.  Making the world like us (the rich) would steal their happiness.  We really are not that great.  But some things that money brings - safe drinking water, food, education, are really great.  Perhaps we could have one world that is the best of both current situations.  The rich sacrifice their luxuries and clean water, enough food and some education are given to all.  That seems like a lovely world, but how do we get there?

"A linen shirt, for example, is strictly speaking, not a necessary of life... But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a credible day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, no body can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.  Custom, in the same manner, had rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England.  The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them"
Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations 1776

I think we could substitute smart phone for linen shirt.  Probably some other things too.  We have got to stop thinking like that.  What if having excess became shameful...  shame probably isn't the best way to motivate social change.