Right in the centre - Reflecting on change


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Year end is always a good time for reflection. Times and conditions change so people have to continually change as well. I am not talking about changing the foundations of our world as they were put in place by God. Nor am I suggesting that people rip up their faith and belief systems. Those are always due for evaluation and analysis but faith in God should be a somewhat immovable thing.

The kind of change I am talking about is the constructive, going forward kind change that improves ones lot in life. I let my mind wander back to 1912-13 when, as so many others did, my grandfather decided to move to Canada. I doubt that he really wanted to move. He was one of a long line of metal workers, a moulder of iron and other metals as his father and grandfather had been before him. He died about 20 years before I was born and his sons, my father and uncles never said why the family moved. Maybe they were never told. I suspect the income was not meeting the family’s needs and certainly not likely meeting the family’s desires. There were three sons in 1913 and two more were born in Canada. Four survived childhood and lived until their 70s and 80s. They lived far longer than their father, the moulder, as he died of throat cancer around 50 years of age or so. Not much wonder by how much smoke he inhaled from the foundry and from his pipe.

So the family was uprooted and brought to Montreal, then to a farm near the village of Christieville (Morin Heights) near Montreal, then to Emo, Ontario and finally to Winnipeg. From there, the four sons went many places in search of work, all four serving in WWII in one capacity or another. They then spread out across Manitoba and BC.

So 1913 and the ensuing years were ones of upheaval and change to say the least. Less that 20 months after the family coming to Canada, the world went to war. Life and work was a struggle for the father and his sons all their lives but the 1913 move paved the way for life style and income improvements that the dad and mom could not have foreseen. However, I bet they hoped for those life style and income improvements.

It is that hope for life style and income improvements that has been a motivating force for people since time began. We are created beings, made in the image of God, the Creator so we should not be surprised that we have, or should have, the innate desire to create stuff and to improve our lot. 

I say have or should have because, in spite of overwhelming evidence that we can and should change and improve, many do not seize those opportunities. It puzzles me that able bodied, somewhat educated and even relatively young people do not seem to always strive for improvement. The improvements aren’t all about income, although sometimes that is part of the process. It is about knowledge (which by the way, may be different than education), about adopting a constructive lifestyle and being a good steward of what has come your way.

There are hundreds of choices open to people and those choices are made every day. What we eat, what we say, what we fill our heads with, who we be-friend, where we go. These are all choices that we face every day and many of them don’t depend on money.

Certainly there are areas where the choices seem limited. Times look pretty grim for the residents of Churchill right now, so much so that one commentator (anonymously) said that until the transportation issues can be solved the town be evacuated and moth-balled. There are other communities, both in the southern parts of Manitoba and certainly in the north where economic viability is questionable as well. Individuals need to decide if they should bail out and move or ride out the situation. My grandfather moved thousands of miles, much of it across the ocean on a slow boat. In all our communities, we have met people who have moved thousands of miles to seek a new (and hopefully better) future in Manitoba. If my grandfather could do it over 100 years ago and people are still doing it today, then if a move is the best thing for an individual, maybe it’s time.

Change is hard for individuals, for communities and especially for governments. This no truer anywhere than in rural Manitoba. Change is galloping faster and it is coming in our direction. Many towns that have had doctors and health care in the past don’t have them now. The current rate of health care spending by the government is not sustainable. Change is coming and we all had best examine and embrace change soon or it will be done for us.

My grandfather reaped only some of the benefits of his uprooting. He maybe didn’t extend his life span much but he did achieve greater happiness and contentment. He had five sons, nine grandchildren and now numerous other descendants scattered across Canada. One man embraced change, perhaps a forced change, but he benefited and so did his family and the many other people his descendants are touching.

Let’s reflect and then seize the best changes in the opportunities that lie ahead.