West Van's firefighters are second to none, the first on the scene when our families, our homes and everything we have are at risk of being swallowed up by the darkest turns of fate. It takes an uncommon person to make a profession out of putting everything he or she is on the line to pull us out of harms way. The fact that people choose this profession is something of a miracle. But it is in the nature of a miracle to pull us up short, to make sure if only for a moment we see the uncommon power of it, to push aside any drift to ingratitude with a sense of wonder.
This is the feeling we had this morning, under a bright early winter sun on Dundarave Beach, when an army of firefighters arrived to help us plant a forest of Christmas trees. In our family, we say eagles are like angels: there are always more around than you can see. Same goes for firefighters. We were told to expect four, but two firetrucks hauled their gleaming red mass to the beach and in a heartbeat we were surrounded by the men and women of the WVFD. Mario Russell, the exclusive provider of trees for the Festival from his -- unrivaled for the excellence of its trees -- Valley View Tree Farm, had just delivered a record number of trees for the Dundarave Festival. In less than half the time it took us in previous seasons, the Firefighters raised them into a forest working side by side with Venturer Scouts, students from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, École Pauline Johnson, and the Knights of Columbus. The work went swiftly because of the loving attention Chris and his crews from Great Canadian Landscaping had brought to the site the morning before, prepping the holes in a biting rain. It went swiftly because of the support the Festival's received from West Van's municipal staff. And it was finished in a twinkling because of our firefighters.
These trees, in the words of the Lookout Society's eminent executive director, Karen O'Shannacery, have a "miraculous effect" on the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community. The need was unmistakable even this morning, as we arrived to find evidence that someone had passed the sub zero night sleeping under the great Alder tree at Dundarave Beach. We can measure the miracle in the $75,000 the trees have raised through three Christmases for the North Shore Shelter, and the signs that we're on our way to adding to this total. But the more reliable measure of this "miraculousness" is the way the trees make visible something that could pass without notice, the way the pull us up short and call us to a sense of wonder against the numbing ingratitude of ordinary time. They forced into plain sight our friendship, a deeper understanding of the fact that the only way we can be human is to be human together -- with each other and for each other. Putting this forest in place this morning allowed us to see -- against the evils that can happen to us without warning -- that it is a beautiful thing to be human.
The 20th Anniversary of the Dundarave Festival of Lights began auspiciously, with a host of firefighters planting a forest of miracles on Dundarave Beach. Its in our hands now to answer this with generous, open and beautiful humanity.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.