Column: Little Gestures, Grand Possibilities

Gary Martin Wellness Challenge

I have new neighbours. I still haven’t dropped by to say hey, because I haven’t had the right welcome-to-the-neighbourhood accessory on hand – cookies? Wine? Something from the garden? (Is a lumpy squash a weird thing to drop on someone’s doorstep?)

This to-do item weighs down my conscience along with a handful of not-yet-written-thank-you notes – all initiatives that seemed fresh and timely around Thanksgiving, but now are pushing hard against the American turkeyfest, running the imminent risk of being filed forever under “Failed Initiatives/Further Proof I’m a Bad Person.”

It’s ridiculous that I’m being tripped up about performing such insignificant acts, but the trouble is, I believe the tiny gestures are the most powerful ones.

I went to hear author Richard Wagamese speak earlier this month. I hadn’t been to Mt Currie’s Xet’olacw Community School before and was feeling a bit unsure of myself, when someone rode past on her bicycle in the dusk and said, “Hi there!” – a casual signal of welcome that immediately put me at ease.

The November 22 Wellness Gathering will be at the Ullus Community Complex in Mount Currie. Wellness Almanac contributor Gary Martin realized that not only had he never been there, he didn’t even really know where it was.

wellnessgathering-save the date_web

So for the #50DayWellnessChallenge, the Ironman jumped on his bike again. Every single day, rain or shine or snow, since 3 October, he has spun a lap between the Pemberton Community Centre and the Ullus Community Complex, spinning a kind of physical bridge between two communities.

“I’ve spent so much of the year riding,” said Martin, “and ignoring where I was going. It was all about logging the kilometers. This felt like a nice way to just ride for fun and actually take a closer look at what I’ve been ignoring.

As he rides slowly into Mt Currie each day at the ride’s turn-around point, he acknowledges the waves and nods of greeting that come his way. By the time the #50DayWellnessChallenge is complete, on 22 November, as the Wellness Gathering unfolds, Martin will have clocked up 800km, the equivalent of riding Pemberton to Canmore, and walking into the Ullus Community Centre will feel decidedly less intimidating.

Ullus Community Complex Mt Currie, photo by Gary Martin

Breaking down the perceived and actual barriers between our communities is a huge part of what the Winds of Change is about. Steering Committee Chair Sheldon Tetreault says while hosting this year’s Wellness Gathering at Ull’us is convenient for Mount Currie and D’Arcy residents, it’s a fun opportunity for Pembertonians who’ve never been to the Ullus Community Centre to see the facility. “Additionally,” says Tetreault, “if you’ve never been to the Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Ullus, it’s a must-see. It will be open during the Gathering. The staff are super welcoming and the collection is really cool. It’s Mount Currie’s equivalent of the Pemberton Museum.”

Two other small actions that build up community are available to all of us right now.

The Winds of Change Recognition Award is accepting nominations until Friday, November 7. Recognise someone in the Village of Pemberton, Area C, Lil’wat Nation or N’Quatqua who helps make our communities healthy and strong. They can be any age at all. An individual, a program or an organisation. Nominating them will take about 10 minutes to fill in the blanks of “who” and “why.”

Secondly, help Stewardship Pemberton win $10,000. They’re one of 12 finalists in this year’s BC Hydro Community Champions project, out of 31 applicants. 5 will receive $10,000 funding, but they need votes to win. You can vote every day until November 30 with a simple click.

There are hurdles that stand between us and having a stronger community, but many boil down to us not taking the opportunity to make the little gestures. On that note, I’ve got a few thank-you’s to pen.