The Coach Speaks Out |
with Mike Lushington
I have been offering Volunteer Training Courses all fall and early winter for people who will be working on the Canada Games. One of the more interesting aspects of the course, I find, is when we begin to consider just what this area will have to offer our thousands of visitors when they begin to arrive this month. The discussion usually begins with a quick look at a questionnaire which is included in the course material, entitled "Things to Do in Your Community" (or words to that effect).
Taken at face value, I find the questionnaire a bit discouraging. It asks, for example, for lists of restaurants, entertainment sites and other such attractions. While we do have several of each which are worthy of recommendation, the lists are not long. Considering them, one could easily jump to the conclusion that we really do not have a lot to offer visitors. However, I prefer to take another tack on the issue. I try to point out that if people are visiting the North Shore for the nightlife, they have been victimized by false advertising (or false assumptions). They should be redirected to Quebec City or Moncton, with no apology on our part. Instead we have to focus on what we do have to offer them.
And what is that? Well, I try to emphasize two major points. First we have spectacular winter scenery. That, in itself, is worth a great deal to those who are usually confined to city streets or the suburbs which are the daily experience for nearly 85% of all Canadians. And secondly, we offer warmth and hospitality to them - rare enough commodities in this world of ours.
I think that it is important to realize that we will have more than ten thousand visitors in our area for each of the two weeks of the Games. A very few successful athletes will go home with medal performances as their cherished memory; every one else will remember these Games, for good or bad, because of the experience that they had while they were here - and that means what I call the "Human Experience". Four years after the fact, what I remember so clearly about my visit to Corner Brook during the 1999 Games is the wonderful sense of simple joy that volunteers and citizens alike displayed to all of us during our stay there. We were made to feel that we were very special - and we were. We were, after all, their guests and they wanted us to feel that we were cherished and appreciated. Nothing was too good for us: they answered our questions politely and patiently, time after time, I am certain; they never gave a feeling that we were intruding or bothersome or that the Games themselves were a huge imposition.
I have been encouraging the volunteers who takes these courses to think about our area in terms of why it is so special, of what we have to offer, and to never feel that we have to apologize for what we are not. It is a very safe assumption that people are not coming here to find a miniature Montreal or New York. In fact many of them will have little idea at all of the area, and this is our opportunity to impress upon them just what and who we are. We can take the time, a few minutes here and there, to learn and remember little things about the place which people will find fascinating - and then take the time to tell it to them. Look around and begin to see this place we call home with the eyes of strangers - and discover it all over again.
For a final perspective for this column, consider this: We might think it something special to live in, say, Toronto, with its population of 4 000 000 people. I think, on the other hand, that the 7 00 or 8 000 of us who call Campbellton home, or the 5 000 who live in Dalhousie, are the privileged ones. And, as for the few hundred of us who live in Pt. LaNim, well, it doesn't get much more special than that.
Mike Lushington, Dalhousie