Not everybody thinks the same way - Keith Roulston editorial
One thing that the pandemic has reminded us about is that not every-body thinks the same way. While this may be frustrating in times of crises, this sort of diversity of opinion has its good side as well.
Fighting COVID-19 infections has been made more difficult by people who can look at the same facts the rest of us see, yet resist wearing masks, physical distancing and getting vaccinated, thereby prolonging the danger we’re all facing, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
Yet the fact some people think differently has also led to many of the advances that ease our modern lives. Thomas Edison imagined light from electricity, Alexander Graham Bell thought voices could be transmitted long distances through wire and pioneering scientists created vaccines for polio, smallpox and, now, COVID-19. If they hadn’t had a different twist of thinking, we’d never have had those sorts of breakthrough.
Closer to home, we’ve had smaller but significant projects which most of us would never have conceived of that are making a difference.
I must admit I shook my head in doubt when I heard of the late Bryan Morton’s plans to move an old timber barn into the middle of Brussels’ downtown business district. But he knew more than I, and until the pandemic shutdown threw a wrench in the works, the Four Winds Wedding and Event Barn had brought crowds to the village’s main drag.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway announced it was discontinuing rail service on its line from Goderich to Guelph, through Auburn, Blyth and Walton, and taking up the rails, I was among many who were upset. Still, when I heard that a Goderich committee had organized to save the huge trestle that spanned the Maitland River just north of the harbour, I doubted the viability of the project. But those visionaries achieved their goal and I have many times joined the hundreds of thousands who have trekked across that bridge since it was saved to enjoy the spectacular view.
Farther inland, although I’d read, and been intrigued by, articles about other former railway rights of way being turned into hiking trails, I didn’t have the vision (and drive) of Walton’s Chris Lee and others along the CPR line who worked for years to turn it into the Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail, which now attracts thousands of hikers and bikers and adds to the economic vitality of the area. (If only there had been visionaries to save Auburn’s tressel across the Maitland and the underpass under County Rd. 25 west of Blyth.)
Recently we had a family reunion, following the pandemic shutdown, at my daughter’s farm south of Blyth. Periodically helicopters would choppity-chop overhead, delivering customers to the Cowbell brewery on the southern edge of Blyth. When the brewery was first proposed, I had no doubt it would have some success given the business experience and resources of the founding Sparling family, but I could never have foreseen the crowds it has drawn.
I’ve been part of a couple of these “it shouldn’t work” moments. Back in 1975, James Roy had an idea for a summer theatre festival in his hometown’s Blyth Memorial Hall. In those days, summer theatres were only located in summer resort towns like Grand Bend and Gravenhurst, where there were plenty of city visitors. These theatres also generally performed famous Broadway and West End hits. James was going to depend on attracting local rural and town audiences by telling stories (and therefore new plays) of people like them. He not only succeeded in starting an iconic theatre that’s still thriving nearly 50 years later, but he inspired theatres to spring up in other non-tourist locations like Drayton and Millbrook.
In 1985, with both Brussels and Blyth no longer having community newspapers, a group of people conceived the idea of a newspaper to serve both villages, to be owned by share-holders from the community. The late Sheila Richards, co-founder of The Citizen, loved to tell the story of the comment by the President of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA) at the time who was asked by a reporter for the Kitchener-Waterloo Record about the new newspaper’s chances. The man wished the new newspaper good luck but it was clear he gave it little chance.
Of course, 36 years later, the community-owned Citizen has the biggest editorial staff of any newspaper in the county. The OCNA President who was quoted, later sold his newspaper to a large chain. His town no longer has a newspaper after the chain amalgamated his former paper with others nearby that the chain owned.
So here’s to all the people who think differently – at least those who put that different sort of mind to work in a positive way. We need diversity of thinking, even if at times such thinkers are a pain in the neck.