Toronto Star column – published October 11, 2014
It is Thanksgiving weekend and I have been thinking: what are you thankful for? The content of this column has been filled with some of the most hopeful and encouraging messages, thanks to a wide variety of people. I have reached out to eight of my regular contributors in an effort to get a snapshot of their thankfulness. I asked each of them to send me one thought and the reason why they are thankful for it.
In combing through the results I have reflected on the many wonderful things that are often overlooked in our daily lives. I thank each one of these people for their thoughtful responses.
Nick Saul is the Executive Director of Community Food Centres Canada and the author of the new book The Stop: how the fight for good food transformed a community and inspired a movement. I wrote a story about Nick’s work in a three part series on community food gardens. Nick is dedicated to facilitating efforts for people from low income neighbourhoods to feed themselves. I have a lot of time for this guy.
I’m thankful for good neighbours. Those who bring over tomatoes from their garden and share growing tips, those who borrow Parmesan and in return talk sports on the sidewalk, those who create a meal wheel to support a friend battling cancer and those who organize a kitchen meeting to hear from an aspiring city council candidate. Good neighbours make the city liveable and remind us that we’re all connected.
Rob Keen is the Executive Director of the newly minted ‘Forestry Ontario’, an amalgamation of the Ontario Forestry Association and Trees Ontario. Rob eats, drinks and breathes trees and is a key partner in Trees For Life, the urban tree coalition [which was hatched from this very column three years ago]. Rob is a giver, so it does not surprise me that he recognises and appreciates this same quality in others.
I’m thankful to all of the incredible staff, volunteers and supporters of not-for-profit organizations that selflessly dedicate their time and passion so that critically important and meaningful work can be accomplished.
I have known Raymond Carrier for many years and was first introduced to him through my friends at Home Hardware. He is the Founding President of Communities in Bloom, the national organization that recognises outstanding contributions to the beautification and social infrastructure in communities across the country of every size. Look for their familiar sign as you enter villages, towns and cities that have earned this privilege.
I am thankful for having the privilege of working in green spaces – gardens and parks as they provide so many benefits for our society …and, with all our challenges (social, economical, environmental) they provide us with an environment that enables us to foster the energy to face, and resolve, these challenges.
..and there is no greater joy than last Saturday when my grand-children helped me do some yard work … and then we played in the backyard !
If you Google Michael de Pencier, you will see him referenced as ‘Mr. Green’ which is entirely accurate, based on my extensive experience with him. He is founder of Toronto Life Magazine, an Order of Canada recipient, he is a person who does what he says he will do and puts his efforts and money where his mouth is. He is not shy about asking favours, but not until he has made a commitment of greater proportions to a worthy cause himself. He is my partner in Trees For Life [the urban tree coalition], a mentor to me and a friend to all who wish for a greener future. Here is his contribution:
The Anglican hymns for Thanksgiving are not up to those for Christmas, Easter, All Saints and other days on the Christian calendar, so we celebrate the gifts of family, and a juicy local Rowe Farms pampered turkey, with sage, cranberry sauce, and Hubbard squash, peas, new potatoes, and lots of the most delicious wines from Niagara.
Janet McKay is an anomaly. I recently read that graduates from post secondary schools in Ontario are having trouble finding work. I would like to introduce all of them to Janet, who followed her passion right out of school and created LEAF [Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests] here in Toronto thereby following her dream and creating meaningful work for others. She is a master at enabling people to plant more trees on private property, to adopt trees and to educate us on the importance of a healthy urban tree canopy. She runs a lean, effective, volunteer-based organization. Learn more at www.leaf.org
I’m thankful for my rescue dog, Bentley, who lived the first couple of years of his life mostly in a cage. His joy at the discovery of freedom and nature reminds me to appreciate the simple things in life. He takes me for two long walks a day, helping me recharge my batteries in the beautiful parks and natural areas that Toronto and the surrounding area have to offer.
Tony DiGiovanni is one of my favourite people. He is dynamic, strategic in his thinking, and his creativity knows no bounds. He is the Executive Director of Landscape
Ontario, the largest and most successful horticultural trade organization in the world [who knew?]. He stretched the bounds of my request, but alas, I will keep the intro short so that he can say what it on his mind:
My life is full of supportive, caring and wonderful people. I am part of a green industry united by a common purpose to enhance lives. I work with an incredible group of volunteers and fellow staff members who care deeply about making a positive difference in the world. I have a wonderful and supportive family. I have an inspiring life partner who is the most courageous, positive and hopeful person I know. I have an amazing, caring daughter and son-in-law determined to improve the world. I am thankful for a mother who taught me the meaning of life on her death bed. Even in palliative care while her body was being consumed by cancer her thoughts and actions were focused on others.
Harry Jongerden is the Executive Director of the Toronto Botanical Garden. He is a life-long supporter of public gardens. He has a vision and mission for the TBG that you will be reading much more about in this column in the future.
Just when we thought nature might be conspiring against us, I’m thankful for a summer of plentiful, regular rain. Gardeners and farmers alike are enjoying the beauty and the bounty of healthy plants this year.
Dave Harvey has quickly become a household name in ‘green circles’ around Toronto. He shares a quality of each contributor to this column: he is passionate. In this case his passion runs green as the Executive Director of Toronto Park People. He is the #1 advocate for our public green spaces and we need both him and his organization desperately and forever.
I am thankful for the thousands of people who volunteer each year with their local park friends group. Their hard work and energy is turning their local park into dynamic, natural spaces at the heart of their neighbourhood.
There are many others who could have added value to this column but, alas, space is limited. Suffice to say that if you read (or reread) this column and reflect, as I have, on the words that these eight people have shared, we will all have a more meaningful Thanksgiving weekend.