Lessons from the Fire
/ Author: Jayson Bueckert
/ Categories: Blogs, Guide magazine /
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Lessons from the Fire

I was racing through my house grabbing items that I thought were of value, wracking my brain trying to think of what I was missing. 

The fire was coming and we were going to be trapped. No one in Fort McMurray thought this was possible, and yet the radio blared out in a mechanical voice, “THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM THE ALBERTA EMERGENCY ALERT. A MANDATORY EVACUATION IS NOW EXTENDED TO THICKWOOD, DICKENSFIELD . . .” and on. 

I went from calm and collected to survival mode in the span of 30 seconds. 

This feeling of having your world altered in such a violent and unstoppable way can be debilitating. One of the strongest feelings I had was of how helpless we were to stop this “Beast” that was tearing through our city. 

A couple of months have now passed, and the feelings have largely subsided, so I can reflect on how this has changed the city I live in. Isn’t it interesting how you look back on your life and talk about things that happened before something and after something? Life before the fire and after the fire. In some ways, it serves as a magnifying glass on how we were living before. We realize how much we took for granted. After the—insert your traumatic event here— we care more about our friends, family, and neighbours. We take a big picture approach to the irritating inconveniences of our daily routines. Now, it doesn’t seem such a big deal when the driver in front of us doesn’t signal before cutting us off. Our general capacity for patience and generosity grows, and we find people are more likeable than they were before. 

One of the roles of the union is to help remove some of the irritations of the daily work routine from the workplace. What I noticed before the fire was that many workplaces I visited focussed on the very negative aspects of those irritations. And to be sure, there were legitimate gripes in many cases. But for the members experiencing the situation, it often became a personal attack, which soured the relationship between them and management. 

After the fire, that same irritation seemed different. Sure, it still existed, but it didn’t seem like something worth putting a whole lot of negative energy into. Shoot, we’re all just trying to do our jobs and get along; there are bigger things in life that matter more. We can figure out a way to solve this without damaging relationships along the way. And management often seemed to feel that way too. 

I have no doubt that this new-found graciousness will not last forever. We are human and tend to forget the lessons of the past until we are taught them again. 

My hope for those of us who went through the fires is that we keep that lesson close at hand, and remain gracious and generous toward each other far into the future. It’s just a far better way to live and work.


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