Local Vocal

From the July 1, 2017, edition

Not all heroes wear capes.

In Jasper, many of them wear polyester collared shirts affixed with plastic name tags.

Sure, it’s hard to see them behind the crush of tourists buying cases of bottled water, angel food cakes, 24 packs of wieners and giant boxes of disposable plates, but they’re there. They have to be, otherwise the lines would never end, the shelves would never get restocked and the black forest ham would never get sliced.

I’m talking of course, of Jasper’s most courageous front line workers: the supermarket staffers.

Recently I overheard a local complaining about the grocery store experience. He was incensed at the lineups, the confusion, the utter mayhem. He was upset that people were walking the opposite way down the aisle, that his preferred brand of bread had run out and that shoppers’ carts were bouncing off his shoes. Yet he was there for less than 30 minutes of one week! Did he not have a shred of empathy for the staff who have to deal with that gong show full time?

Look, Grumpy Guses, we all have to eat, even folks on vacation! Not all of those folks are going to know innately to pick up a basket rather than push a cart. Not all of them are going to know to enter and exit through the left door, rather than the right. Not all of them will have the correct change (or currency).

The point is, your twice weekly dash for sustenance is peanuts compared to the summer of slam that our valiant grocery store staffers are staring down. My advice? If you really must brave the crowds during peak bat-poop, instead of boiling over at the bottlenecks, bring a book. Instead of getting bent that the bread got bought up, bake your own. Instead of whining about the price of potatoes, plant a garden.

It should go without saying to never, ever shop on an empty stomach—not because you’ll impulsively purchase a family sized box of Cap’n Crunch, but because your mood will go from hangry to homicidal. Finally, show a little understanding for the folks who have to answer the same silly customer questions hour after hour, all the while remembering the PLU codes for every obscure vegetable in the building, bagging your weird groceries and doing it all with a smile on their face.

Supermarket staff, you really are super. From the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs), we salute you.
One more thing: please don’t quit.


From the Jun 15, 2017, edition

It happened again.

Another member of the public safety community took his own life.
The tragedy took place in Revelstoke, B.C., but the mountain rescue circle is a small one. Many people throughout the first responder community—including those in Jasper—are feeling the heavy loss.
Suicide is incredibly complex. We know that people who experience suicidal thoughts are suffering with tremendous emotional pain, yet suicide cannot be attributed to any one single cause.
Suicide is not about a moral weakness or a character flaw. Suicide isn’t necessarily about mental illness or depression, either. Suicide is the result of actions taken to deal with intolerable mental pain. People who consider suicide feel as though their pain will never end, that suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.
If this all sounds despairing, that’s because it is. Suicide is devastating. Suicide shatters communities. But on the other side of despair is hope. And hope is central to suicide prevention.
According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the majority of suicides can be prevented. This same organization tells us that only a small number of suicides happen without warning. When we realize those two things, we become empowered to take action.
“We” means everyone: individuals, organizations and people at all levels of our community. Because that’s another key component to suicide prevention: everyone getting on board. Talking about suicide as a community is the only way we’re going to eliminate the stigma surrounding it. Talking about suicide as a community is the only way to increase awareness of what to do when you or someone you know experiences thoughts associated with suicide. Talking about suicide as a community is the only way we’re going to be able to spread the knowledge on how to identify those at risk.
Of course it’s not easy to talk about. Particularly in the wake of tragedy, it’s difficult to sort out our feelings. After a suicide, we experience the shock of the news but aren’t able to express the depth and complexity of our emotions. Most people push those emotions down.
But it’s time to let them out.
Where do we start? We can start by celebrating the lives of those who passed from suicide and grieving our loss. From there, we can get equipped: we can find out how to talk about suicide in a non-judgemental way; we can learn how to create a suicide-safer workplace and learning environment; we can share with friends, family members and colleagues important suicide prevention information. CASP is a great place to start.
Suicide is despairing. But on the other side of despair is hope. As long as suicide prevention is the responsibility of the whole community, there will be plenty of hope in Jasper and throughout our connected circles.

From the March 15, 2017, edition

Jasper’s been hurting lately.

Bullying is something that all generations of kids have had to deal with. However, with the advent of social media and the power wielded in a smartphone, cyber-bullying in 2017 has the potential to be more hurtful than ever.

When used inappropriately, the tools we live with every day can do serious harm. The technology which is intended to bring us together can easily be used to abuse, ostracize and shame.

A generation ago, parents could limit their child’s computer time if they suspected they were behaving inappropriately online. Today, it’s very difficult to maintain that sense of control. Young people, having never known a world without the internet, are constantly surfing in and out of the digital space. Their phones are always on, the channels of communication endlessly evolving.

Cyberbullying can penetrate any wall; there is often no safe space for kids being abused. It is relentless, aggressive and often anonymous. Compounding the problem, cyberbullies often don’t see the consequences of their actions, which otherwise might promote empathy for the pain they have caused. And kids who witness cyberbullying often don’t consider themselves as being part of the problem.

These changes in how we communicate is a lot for a family, a school, a community and a society to make sense of. But what hasn’t changed is that kids are still kids, and that kids still make mistakes. Being young is still a time for learning. Sometimes we forget that.

We also tend to forget that kids are watching their parents, and that how those parents behave will shape how that child develops as a human being. It’s understandable to have an emotional reaction when our kids are threatened. But we don’t have to have an emotional action.

Hurling blame is not the answer. Judging another’s parenting skills serves no purpose. Screaming on social media won’t help.

What we can do is admit we have a problem—as a community. Then we can go to work on that problem. The more heads to solve it, the better. We need leadership and mentoring to develop the appropriate response, not vigilante justice.

Youth will make mistakes. Our job—with the wisdom of the community—is to help them move forward and learn from those mistakes.

Only then, will the hurt begin to heal.