As Folk Fest weekend approaches and I start to write my ‘to do’ list, an unusual item is making its debut this year. That item is a hot shot. The hot shot I’m referring to is a hand warmer that comes in handy when you’re riding up a chair lift or trying to hold an iced cold beer at an extremely chilly Eskimos game. Why would I bring a hot shot to a festival that takes place in the middle of the summer you may ask? I have two answers, one, because we live in Edmonton, and two, because it sure came in handy at the festival last year and ended up being my fondest memory of the entire weekend.
Let me set the stage for you (pun intended). It’s Wednesday night and Gallagher Hill is jammed packed with eager fest’ies anxiously anticipating the next act. The sun has gone down and the sweaters are coming out. All of a sudden out walks Tracy Chapman with just her guitar and beautiful smile. The crowd goes crazy and everyone is on their feet. As it starts to get dark, candles are lit and the hill looks like it’s covered in fireflies. The temperature declines and poor Tracy starts to have trouble playing. She apologizes to us, complains about how cold it is, then puts down her guitar and sings the next few songs acapella. Her voice is absolutely incredible and I’m so drawn in that I can hardly blink until something catches my eye. A person sitting above has come over and knelt down close, passes us a hot shot and informs us that someone at the top of hill would like us to pass it forward to Tracy. Following the instructions, we pass it forward relaying the message to the people in front of us.
As Tracy belts out the rest of her set, I watch the hot shot make its way to the stage, person to person, hand to hand, heart to heart and I can feel my eyes well up. I realize that this is what being part of a community means. It’s recognizing that everyone needs help and everyone deserves the chance to help. The person at the top of the hill could have just walked down, passed the hot shot to Tracy, and been the hero of the night. Instead, they gave everyone the opportunity to be a part of the solution, to help someone in need and feel good about the role that they played.
At that moment, I felt enormous pride for our City and for all of the people that work together each year to warm the cold, feed the hungry, fix the broken and participate in a movement that nurtures the soul.
All of those strangers coming together on the hill reminded me of my work at United Way and how I have the privilege of seeing people work together for the benefit of another on a daily basis. Whether it’s through financial contributions, volunteering, or taking a moment to hear from a speaker whose life has been changed because of their workplace campaign, people are truly vested in the success of others.
Looking around at my community that night as Tracy sang ‘we must always keep dreaming of a World with equality and justice, without poverty and sickness, without hunger and homelessness, where all people live in peace’, I knew that by working together, that dream would surely come true one day, and we would all have a role to play.