In times of crisis you do what you have to do. You grab what you can. You leave what you can’t. You hold tight to what and who keeps you alive. You act and act and act. As time passes and the adrenaline starts to fade you look around. You know where you are, but you’re as lost as can be.
Things are different here.
There are familiar things: buildings, roads, homes, and people — sometimes the kindest of people — but you’re still lost. In moments like this we reach for anything solid, anything that helps us to find ourselves again.
Any action seems like a good action, any direction the right way to go. After all, those pictures on the news are of us.
But sometimes, the more lost you are and the more desperate you are to get home; the more willing you have to be, to make the radical and sometimes terrifying decision to stand still and really get to know where you are.
Those of you who know me, know that I’m not usually one for speeches. I’ve always believed in stories, but I’ve always thought that the best ones emerge when your heart takes up so much space that you can’t hold the words in any longer.
You tell them because you have to.
I think that’s why Laura, one of our Fuse Social team members, reminded me not to over-prepare for today. I have notes in front of me, but that’s only because our time together means too much for me to risk leaving anything out.
Laura’s encouragement reminded me to tell you the real story of today’s session, the one that I just can’t help but tell.
For me, today is all about heart.
It’s about acknowledging that each one of us, no matter our title or organization, is hurting. We’ve felt every emotion: pain, anxiety, and fear; relief, pride, and gratitude. We’ve felt it all and the people that we work with, live with, and call friends have felt it too.
We’ve felt it individually and for many of us, on behalf of others in our families and organizations. And I’m going to bet, that each one of us has a powerful urge to do something meaningful to help Wood Buffalo/Fort McMurray to heal.
We’re a community that believes in action and believes in moving forward. We’re going to do that, but sometimes the moment is right to slow down, so that we can put our foot to the floor when the time comes.
To me, today is an opportunity to take stock, to reconnect, to learn, and to really think about where we are today as people, as organizations, and as a community. With this awareness and this connection to each other we’ll have the capacity to move forward together to help Fort McMurray to return as a different, yet perhaps even stronger community.
It’s hard for me to imagine a moment in our collective histories when we’ve had such a powerful reason to work together and I think that the social profit sector is positioned to model the collaborative efforts that Fort McMurray is going to need during the months ahead.
The reality of the last four weeks tells us that Fort McMurray has changed, probably forever. As one of our young community members told us yesterday, “there will always be before the fire and after the fire.”
At Fuse Social we want to do everything that we can to help the social profit sector to come together to make as much, if not more impact, than we were making before the fire. We want to help our sector to find the courage to experiment with new ways of accomplishing our goals. We want to support new collaborations and to challenge our community to think about how best to respond to the complexity of our new circumstances. We’re going to need to embrace the uncertainty of our work together, as a sector, so that we can collectively put the people of Fort McMurray in the best possible positions to rebuild healthy and prosperous lives.
As I mentioned earlier, my heart tells me that today is a day of reflection, reconnection, and assessment of realities, but it’s also an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the actions that we’ll take together.
Fuse Social doesn’t expect your trust, but we hope that you’ll allow us the opportunity to earn it as we walk together through the coming days, weeks, and months. We want to be there for you, your staff, your boards, and your clients so that the social profit sector can be a stable, innovative, caring, and necessary part of Fort McMurray’s renewal.
As we gather here today, I still struggle to grasp the magnitude of the fire. Despite our community’s relentless commitment to safety none of us could ever have imagined evacuating the whole town. Each of us has our own story of evacuation. We did what was necessary to get ourselves, our families, and our organizations through the immediate danger.
It was hard and it continues to be hard. But one way or another people are making things work, in places like Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Newfoundland, Manchester, and of course on the ground in Wood Buffalo. We’re in uncharted territory, but then again, maybe we know this place better than we think. The territory around us is challenging, full of obstacles, and predictably unpredictable.
In some ways, that sounds like the kind of work that we’ve all done for years.
What I mean is that we already know what resilience can look like in Fort McMurray. We know that we have it in us and in our organizations to do what it takes to keep this community together. We might not know exactly what it looks like today, but we’ll get there because we’ve done it before.
So today, let’s commit to actively assessing where we’re standing right now. Let’s commit to discussing how it has felt to get here, what we’re facing today, and our early sense of what we’re going to need to move forward together.
Let’s be explorers, pathfinders, and leaders so that we can write the next chapter of the social profit story in Fort McMurray.
And at the core, let’s make today about heart.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak and thank you for taking the time to join us in the midst of your journeys. I’m looking forward to learning from all of you today.