I’m a big fan of the HBO show, The Wire. I re-watched a few episodes lately and realized that some of the toughest streets in Baltimore do not even come close to the disarray of some of my hometown’s streets.
I grew up on one of those streets, in a tiny half-basement apartment where I shared a room with my sibling for ten years. I had great parents who were dealt a bad hand of cards in the game of life. My parents thought of moving away in the early 90s, to settle closer to Ottawa for better job prospects, but they decided to stay so that we could remain in the same school and not lose our friends.
Plant and manufacture closures have been a recurring thing in my family, always bringing us a bit closer to the abyss, below the poverty line, but we always managed to keep our heads above that line. I had a wonderful childhood because I had friends who lived in the country.
I played in barns, in the woods, at pool parties and the like. I wasn’t allowed to play and waste time on my street after a certain hour. And I obliged because I was terrified of my father, not because he beat us or mistreated us. To the contrary, I didn’t want to disrespect him, to shame him. I also had a Mom who could see through my BS like some Soviet spy so, yeah, I was taken care of.
But I can’t say the same for other kids on my street, which had more absentee parents or parents that had to work two jobs to stay afloat. They didn’t have the same emotional luxury I had. And I believe that, as a community, we might have failed a generation. We are quick to blame past or present politicians and administrators, but it takes a village to raise a child or fail him or her.
And although it takes a village to raise a child, it might only take one inspiring individual to give us a vision for a better future. We can become the landfill of Montreal and Ottawa or we can become its Napa Valley. I think it might be too late to save everyone who is unemployed by trying to give them jobs, but we can make sure their children are taken care of with after-school programs, entrepreneurship mentoring , social services and the like.
I took my family, the one I built, from Brossard to come back to this area and contribute to the community that has given me so much. So my message is this: stop complaining and start doing. Tomorrow, wake up with an idea and from that idea, form a vision and from that vision, a plan. Then execute that plan. Contribute to what Hawkesbury and the area can become.
So if you think you have what it takes to change things around here, then stick around. Don’t go live your life as a small fish in the oceans of Ottawa and Montreal, stick around and be the biggest fish in our region.
Mayors won’t do it; MPs won’t do it only we, the citizens, can really bring about change. But to do so, you have to be in the generational game and not the election game. Change doesn’t come every four years; it is constant, rippling through space and time, moving, oscillating and once you get hold of change, you can direct it, focus it.
Once the changes you want to bring go into one direction with the strength of a tsunami, for this once-in-a-lifetime shift, you will have been surfing this thundering wave for a long time and the walls of resistance, bigotry and negativism will be no match for its brute force.
People have two choices, ride the wave or hide behind rickety walls. This poorest city ranking is not Hawkesbury’s final chapter, but the beginning of a new one. Will you be here, with us, to help write the next chapter?