None of us survive the challenges of this world by ourselves. Without a large village to raise us, most of us would simply just not make it. Who do you have to thank for the good fortune you enjoy? As stressful as you might feel right now it would have been much worse but for the contributions of countless people to your life and business affairs.
I live next to Bragg Creek, in the foothills of Calgary, just as it flows into the Elbow river. I was not ignorant of the flood risk when I bought a house so close to two mountain streams, but we were unprepared for what was to come when the rain started on January 19th, 2013. On the morning of the 20th Tania decided to turn back part way into her drive to work. She was concerned about our dogs and had a bad feeling. I continued on. By that afternoon they closed the only bridge between our home and my office in the city. Biblical level floods were underway.
She was stranded at home in the middle of rising water and I was stranded in the city. My first "refugee" experience was staying in Brett Wilson's Mount Royal mansion with my youngest child who I rescued, while Tania watched the water swamp the basement of our house ruining ten years worth of stuff stored under the main floor. Thankfully it stopped just shy of the main floor and the possibility of massive damage. We were very lucky.
Also stranded in the city was another Bragg Creek resident named Brad Krusky, a pediatric dentist I had been coaching over ten years at that point. I got a text message from him the evening we were allowed to cross the bridge to get back home to our families. He simply said, "I have four guys and a huge trailer, we are coming over to your house tomorrow morning to help you clean out your basement. What time works for you?"
The way he worded this message has stuck with me ever since then. He didn't ask if we needed help. I think he understood that most Canadians would politely decline the offer of help. He only asked what time worked for us. We had our basement cleared of junk and over to the dump in a few short hours and then I joined Brad for the rest of the weekend helping other poor souls dig their way out. It was a long couple of days but we got dozens of houses cleared.
Brad has been a key figure in a doctors-without-borders-style dental operation called Dentistry for All. I went down to Guatemala with Brad and my brother one year and we spent a week in the jungle putting smiles into the faces of hundreds of people who otherwise would have suffered with mouthfuls of debilitating pain. It was awe-inspiring to watch him work with the young descendants of Mayans on their first trip to a chair. He's been leading these trips for years.
We finished that week with a long line up of villagers who would have to live in pain until Brad and his ever-expanding team returned with more resources. It was tempting to look at that line and wonder if we were really having any impact at all. I thought about all the other villages and all the other countries around the globe where so many people are suffering with insufficient care. The problem is infinite.
Brad's favourite parable is about the older man walking a beach covered with beached starfish dying in the sun. He noticed a young child tossing starfish one-by-one back in the ocean. He asked the boy how he possibly thought he could make any kind of meaningful difference when there was no practical way to save all the starfish. The boy just looked the man in the eye, picked up a starfish, tossed it back in the water and said, "made a difference to that one."