What does community mean?

Un texte de Sarah Cobb

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Publié le : 6 juin 2023

Dernière mise à jour : 6 juin 2023


Sometimes, despite many differences and how ungenerously opposing views are expressed, we realize we can count, after all, on our community.

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On a road trip through Ontario, we chose a little place along the river to stop for the night. We drove through town and as we got closer to the water, we noticed the streets were full to bursting with parked cars, enough to make the roads almost impassable. Must be some big community event at the church, we thought, as we drove by. A few minutes later, we pulled into the marina parking lot at the end of a dead-end road, planning on catching some zzz’s in our van before setting off again in the morning. It was getting dark, but we could still see the stacked sections of dock waiting for summer. The Ottawa River looked angry, swollen well beyond its normal banks, lapping at the tree trunks by the shore. 

As we were brushing our teeth, a car pulled into the parking lot. A man got out and shouted a name that I couldn’t catch. I asked him if he’d lost his dog. No, he said, an eight-year-old boy is missing — hasn’t been seen since school let out about four hours ago. He told us what the boy looked like and what he was wearing. Just a t-shirt with the temperature now dipping below 10 degrees. As he talked to us, we both faced the roiling river. I don’t know what he was thinking but all I could picture was that small boy being swept away in the cold waters of a current he’s probably lived beside all his short life.

The man drove off to continue the search. All the cars parked up the road suddenly made sense. We crawled into our bed, feeling very uneasy. A few minutes later another car pulled into the parking lot. More shouting of the boy’s name and the car went on. Then it was an ATV, driving in loops, casting its headlights through the woods and along the shore.

All I could think about was how frantic the boy’s parents must be. If I’d been searching for a missing boy and there was suddenly a strange van with closed curtains parked in a nearby lot I’d want to check it out. We jumped out and talked to the couple on the four-by-four. The guy was a volunteer fireman who told us his whole crew was out. My husband offered to show him the inside of the van to assuage any suspicions. I talked to his girlfriend on the ATV. She said that this very painful evening only confirmed that this was the town she wanted to raise her family in, as the whole community had been mobilized in solidarity with the boy’s parents.

There wasn’t much we could do to help, not knowing the town. But we recognized the fact that there would be an endless parade of cars going through the lot until he was found. We decided to move to a truck stop by the highway where we spent a somewhat fretful night.

Our first question to one of the store’s employees in the morning was if there was any news of the boy. Yes, he was found at a friend’s house where he’d fallen asleep. The woman who told me said she lived in a town 30 kilometres away. But when she’d heard about him going missing thought to herself “I’m not going to get any sleep anyway, worrying about the boy” so she’d been getting ready to drive over to join the search, thinking she could sleep in her car before coming in to work. Right before she left she heard the good news.

What will that boy’s parents recall of last night? The panic and the fear, no doubt. But I’d bet what will stick with them most is gratitude and the comfort of living in a place where the entire community rallied to bring home their missing son. For me, it was a welcome reminder that despite our differences and how ungenerously opposing views are sometimes expressed, if push came to shove, I believe I could count on our community to do the same for me.

Sarah Cobb