Tidings of Hope

The holidays are here, and I am enjoying the deep contentment that I feel when we have all our children home at the same time.

I am looking forward to the days ahead which will bring much cooking and feasting, laughter and story-telling, and (hopefully) some precious quiet moments for rest and reflection.

We have two sons’ birthdays to celebrate in these busy December weeks, and so last night was a family birthday outing to the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One.

I have been going to Star Wars movies since I was seven years old, and while I lament the path they took in the initial reprisal of the series, I confess that I have enjoyed Episode 8 and this latest backstory.

Something resonates for me – particularly given the last few years we’ve had in Shawnigan – in the story of a small group of feisty rebels standing up against a heartless empire that is more concerned with power than governance.

Tonight, one line in particular stood out for me: “Rebellion is built on hope.”

Hope has been the one thing that I have refused to abandon.  Not for one moment have I given up hope in the outcome that we have been fighting for so hard in Shawnigan.  My hope is deeply entwined with my belief that every effort that each of us make leads us toward the inevitable conclusion of this story: that the permit will be revoked.

Last year at this time, we were mounting our own rebellion as a community – a rebellion against what has felt like a heartless government more concerned with a company’s good fortune than a community’s future.

The final outcome of our rebellion has not yet been achieved (although it will be, eventually), but other outcomes, many of which we could not have predicted, have been.

Two stories out of Shawnigan caught my attention this week.

The first story started out on social media, on the Shawnigan Lake Events, News, Links, Community Forum facebook page.

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Within three days, a family that was facing a Christmas with very little instead is now able to enjoy a tree, a feast, gifts, and provisions.

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This captures so completely the spirit of this season – generosity, kindness, compassion, community.

And the second story from Shawnigan also embodies all of these, but extends much further.  CBC National News featured an account of a Shawnigan resident, Jennifer Gwilliam, who is using social media to help families in Canada’s north.  Her facebook page, Helping our Northern Neighbours, connects families here with those in communities up north who face incredibly high costs for food and necessities.  Jennifer acknowledges that long-term solutions are being worked on, but that in the meantime, families in the north need support and help right now.  Her story is both moving and motivating, and it shows that one person can make an enormous difference in the lives of many.

It almost makes me think there must be something very special in the water in Shawnigan.

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Photo credit: Laura Colpitts

Over the last few months, I have been contacted by people across the country who have told me that they would like to move here, partly because of the beauty, location, and climate, but also because of what they have seen of our community.  Others who have stopped in or spent a little time in Shawnigan have told me that they come away longing to be part of this place.  One resident of Victoria had stopped in at Shawnigan House and ordered a coffee, then realized that she’d forgotten her wallet in her car.  In the minute or two it took for her to get back to the counter, somebody in the café had paid for her drink.  “I want to live in Shawnigan,” she told me.  “I want to live in a place with that kind of community.”

At one point this last year, after we’d received bad news on the watershed front, a friend said to me, “hope is like putting your heart in a lion’s mouth.”

Her words struck me deeply at the time, as I did feel pain in my heart as we navigated through yet another disappointment.  But even through the pain, my hope has been – and will remain – relentless.

We were hoping for news from Justice Sewell, and we were hoping for a swift response from the Ministry of Environment.  We have not yet received either, but we have learned that our hope must be not only anchored in belief, but also wrapped in patience.

My hope for all this season is some peace, some joy, some rest.  I know that it can be a difficult time for many, but I also see so much compassion, generosity, and kindness – and for this, I am grateful.

Thank you to the people who step up and find ways to make things better, who light a single candle rather than curse the darkness.

You give me hope.