What ties a community together?

Triumph and tragedy in just a couple of days…

What ties a community together? Geography, shared experience, common goals, beliefs, relationship, love or all of the above?

For the past three years I have had the amazing opportunity to serve as the MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon and one of the recurring themes of this job has been community. I grew up in cities like Regina, Toronto, Edmonton but after living in Drayton Valley for 30 plus years, having taught, coached and raised a family in this constituency and now as the MLA I have come to treasure the sense of community that surrounds me.

It has been such a pleasure to be invited into each of the special communities that make up this constituency. Sometimes the “communities” revolve around town life and it has been so amazing to see that each town has its own cast of characters, history, sets of relationships and character. At other times the “communities” revolve around faith or a shared immigrant experience or culture.

This past week was dominated by two events that have had me reflecting on the communities that make up this amazing constituency.

On Friday April 13th, 2018 I had the opportunity to attend the Black Gold Celebration of the Arts at the Winspear Center in Edmonton. Black Gold School Division is part of the constituency and it has been my pleasure to get to know some of the teachers, administrators, trustees and students as part of my job. I was so impressed with the evening and I experienced education at its best. You could clearly see the results of superb teaching and engaged students in all of the fine arts disciplines. Photography, Art, Video, Drama, Vocal and Instrumental music were all highlighted throughout the evening. The evening was filled with creative, funny and engaging performances and works of art. I walked away inspired and grateful for the educational community and its efforts to provide the foundation our young people will need to take into the future.

The second event was much more sobering but none the less important as together the constituency grieved over the deaths of so many young Alberta hockey players. I’m sure like most of you I was horrified when I first heard about the crash but it took a little time for me to process that this bus crash in Saskatchewan was going to hit so close to home. Two of the Humboldt hockey players Tobin Parker and Tyler Smith played with the Drayton Valley Thunder last year, a third player, Logan Hunter was born in Drayton Valley and when I attended the memorial service in Edmonton a former pastor from Drayton Valley – Pastor Doug Hale officiated at the service of Stephen Wack. While grief drew us together it was love, the love of family, the immediate family, the hockey family, the national family and the family of faith that brought a measure of healing and hope.

That is one of the best things about living in the Drayton Valley-Devon Constituency – we live in community, in all of its diversity we are drawn together as we raise and educate our children and when we tearfully say good bye.

Mark Smith is MLA for the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency and writes a regular column for The Pipestone Flyer.

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