By the time you read this, dear reader, yours truly will, in the grace of God, be far away from North Grenville, and even further from Merrickville-Wolford. I will, in short, be in Ireland for a few weeks, reintroducing myself to my family there and reminding them how wonderful it was that I left and became an emigrant in Canada. (Actually, in Canada, I am an immigrant. In Ireland, I change subtly and become an emigrant. A confusing situation.)
My intention is to rest and recharge those batteries which have been so totally drained by the hectic pace of life in North Grenville. Really, does it ever stop? Perhaps it is only when you start to publish a weekly newspaper that you realise fully how quickly a week goes by around here. There is always something happening – more often than not, a number of somethings happening at the same time. There are those who rejoice in the idea, however accurate it may be, that North Grenville is the fastest growing community in Eastern Ontario. I find that thought deeply worrying. I mean, how much more can we take? There are only so many weekends in a year: how many garage sales, concerts, grand openings and social occasions can we fit into the average year? The answer, it seems to me, is lots and lots and lots.
Perhaps we are too nice, too fond of volunteering and making life better for our neighbours? Maybe we should slow down a bit and see what happens? Of course, we won’t do anything of the kind. We will continue to join Lions, Rotary, Kinsmen, Masons, Oddfellows, Friends of the NG Public Library, Friends of the Ferguson Forest Centre, Friends of Downtown, Friends of Mine, Friends of Yours, and every other friendly society going. Because that is what we are around here: friends.
Not all of us are like that, of course. There will always be those who love to do the Grinch thing, the Scrooge impersonation, the cynical souls who are too cool for school, too wise to fall for that community thing. Much easier to sit back and sneer, find fault with the efforts of those who run themselves ragged trying to keep the service clubs going, to make sure the elderly are not alone, and so on. Fair enough. If that’s how you get your pleasure, go right ahead. Of course, you have no idea what you’re missing.
The sad thing is that those begrudgers may well form the majority one day. We live in a society that is aging, and the Friends, Clubs, and volunteer-run groups are beginning to feel the strain. Too many are dependant on the same decreasing pool of volunteers. Too few younger people, or new arrivals, are getting involved and filling the gaps left by the departed generation of volunteers. There are so many reasons for this.
People say their lives are too busy these days, leaving no time for outside involvement. Too much time spent commuting to and from work. Too much driving the kids all over the world to hockey and soccer and a multitude of other activities. These are all valid reasons. Family comes first. Others may be put off by the lack of appreciation shown in more official circles for the work of volunteers. We have written a bit recently about the way the people of North Grenville are looked upon with suspicion and concern by our municipality. “Don’t trust volunteers”, they say. “If we let them take over a building, they will all disappear in a few years, and we’ll have to take it over again!”. Volunteers, they say, are not reliable, not long-term, liable to die off. Better keep everything under the control of the Establishment officials, even if they don’t all actually live in North Grenville. They must care about the place much more than we who live here and pay their salaries with our taxes can.
Ah, it’s good to get that off my chest before I leave and try to forget that North Grenville exists. Ha! Yes, I said “Ha!” in a sarcastic and rueful tone (lost, of course, on readers who can’t actually hear the tone). I have tried to get away like this before, swearing I would forget all about NG, only to meet local NG residents in Montreal, Heathrow airport, Paris and Dublin. This is a big secret: the people of North Grenville are everywhere! You can’t hope to escape them, no matter where you roam. I think they’re all in the same boat (as it were), thinking they can get away and recharge their batteries before coming back to do battle with the issues of the day. Once again, let me say: Ha!
Before too many people start planning the celebrations that will mark my temporary departure from these shores, let me burst your bubble. I may be rambling around Ireland for a while, but I shall go shackled. My colleagues (slave drivers) are sending me on my merry way complete with a laptop and an expectation that I will be submitting reports and observations as I travel through the highways and byways of Kerry, Clare and Connemara – not to mention the streets of Dublin. That is what is called, in newspaper circles, a holiday! Slán agaibh go léir. I shall raise a glass in your honour.