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By Gerry Turcotte

08/24/2016

Gerry Turcotte

Everyday Heroics

“Peace be to the whole community.” — Ephesians 6: 23

It is difficult to ignore the news these days. Every news item seems grim, from wars to terrorist activity, economic turmoil to corruption scandals. Everywhere we turn we see evidence of humanity's intolerance, greed and corruption. Watching the news recently I simply had to change the channel. It's not so much that I want to bury my head in the sand, but at times the unrelenting negativity does wear you down.

What perked me up, I must confess, was news of good deeds. A stranger paying a neighbour's fine; a colleague's daughter raising funds to help her grandmother's fight against cancer; a hiker rushing to the aid of someone being attacked by a bear! For all of the sad news, it's important to remember the extraordinary reach of good-hearted citizens, behaviour that far outweighs the evil in this world, but which attracts far less attention.

Newscasts routinely saturate the airwaves with devastation and loss, and then end the program with a cute animal or kids' story. It's not enough. This fails to acknowledge the more heartening reality of everyday heroics: from big picture movements like Doctors Without Borders, to groundbreaking daily gestures like Snow Angels or soup kitchen volunteers.

The reality is that, as human beings, we do so much to stay connected. The failure is in not seeing this each and every day. Most recently I joined my children as they hunted Pokemon via a new app that is revolutionizing how gamers connect. The game forces people to leave their homes, to walk their neighbourhoods, to reach out to fellow travellers. St. Mary's University campus here in Calgary is filled with young people hunting virtual creatures. On the one hand it is a security nightmare, with one fellow driving his pickup truck in reverse across our lawns while focused entirely on his phone. On the other hand, it has brought strangers to our door in a way we could neither have imagined nor expected.

I read recently about a strand of genetically identical trees in Utah's Fishlake National Forest. It stretches over 100 acres with 47,000 stems and a genetic legacy that is possibly a million years old. It is described as the largest organism on Earth. Nonsense! Human beings are the largest connected organism on the planet, and it is our duty to remember this, and to reach out to others, with every breath we take. This, surely, is Christ's enduring message. Do unto others. What a concept.

Turcotte is president of St. Mary's University in Calgary.