You’ve never heard of Cliff and Rein, but they are two of my heroes. Cliff used to live in Edmonton but now lives in Heaven. Rein is a long-time Valley resident who is well into his 90s.
Cliff came to my attention first. We were planning a new church building for the congregation I led in south Edmonton. Our congregation was small and not well-resourced, but we were in desperate need of a facility upgrade.
Cliff was opposed to the project. He spoke against it at a public meeting and when the vote was taken, his was the first hand to go up on the nay side. The vote passed, however, with just enough votes to proceed.
When the meeting concluded, I saw Cliff approaching me and I cringed. As he got closer, however, he thrust his hand out and gave me a hearty handshake. Then he reached into his pocket and took out a cheque and handed it to me. It was for $10,000, a significant sacrifice for him.
He looked me in the eye and said, “Well pastor, if we’re going to build this thing, let’s get going.” He patted my back and left.
I stood there, mouth agape. He was against the project. He spoke against it and voted against it, yet had just given the first donation to proceed. It has taken me years to process that level of maturity.
Rein was cut from the same cloth. During one of our many building projects here in Kelowna, Rein expressed his concern and opposition to the project. He thought it was too big and too expensive and would put us at risk.
The motion to proceed passed, however, and it came time to build. We have always depended on a significant amount of volunteer labour on our projects and building day came.
Guess who was first on the job site, work boots on, ready to proceed? I had tears in my eyes as I welcomed him. He didn’t even want the project, yet he was first on site to help build it. Once again, I continue to process that kind of maturity.
What does this have to do with you? We have just come through the process of civic elections. During the campaign, people stepped forward with all sorts of proposals. Some individuals and proposals won support, others have gone down in defeat.
Now what? What if your ideas and candidates lost? Does it mean four years of grumbling, complaining and opposing everything put forward by those who won?
My suggestion is to listen to Cliff and Rein. Nobody wins if our cities become divided. No one wins if bitterness and opposition occurs. One of the treasures we possess in Canada is the right to put ideas forward, support candidates of our choosing and then cast our vote. It’s a treasure we take for granted but a treasure nevertheless.
Is the system flawed? Absolutely. But it is still among the best in the world. We can debate, disagree and vote for or against anyone we choose.
But then election day comes, ballots are cast and decisions rendered. What then? Well, then it’s time for us all to get on the same side and pull together to make our community the best it can be. It’s time to do everything possible to make the mayor, council and school board a roaring success.
In fact, I’ll go further and suggest that doing so is not just a good idea, it is our God-given responsibility. That doesn’t mean we approve each move or blindly accept every decision. Part of the beauty of our system is that critique contributes to better outcomes than if the population remained silent.
What our God-given responsibility looks like, however, is this:
We are bound to treat our leaders with respect. We do not need to agree, but we do need to respect both individuals and positions.
I cringe at some of the comments made in some letters to the editor or on-line chatter. Childish name-calling is just that, childish, and it is destructive to the well-being of our community. It’s time for respect.
Second, we are obliged to pray for our leaders. We are to ask for divine guidance and wisdom for them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if our leaders do better, we all win.
Finally, as Christian citizens we are to be above reproach in our own citizenship. Even a weak leader can succeed if he or she has a great team behind them.
It has been an exciting fall contemplating all the potential configurations of our new councils. Now that the dye has been cast, let’s follow the examples of Cliff and Rein and pull together to make our Valley the best it can be.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets and RCMP.