A small group of committed citizens: CFUW Cornwall

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.~often attributed to Margaret Mead

Last June, I opened my Cornwall mail file, which is usually full of unsigned charts, but this time, it held a card. Was it from a happy patient?

No! It was from Hilary Blackburn of CFUW, the Canadian Federation for University Women, asking me to speak at Casa Paulo on January 27th, 2015. Thrilling!

CFUW funds scholarships. Green Party candidate Elaine Kennedy spearheads their work on environmental legislation (I wanted to do the one for bees. Melissa means honey bee in Greek. Plus, we would starve without pollinators). Kendra Smith, Coordinator for the Agapè Centre, organized the local Coldest Night of the Year, a fundraiser for “hungry, hurting and homeless” Canadians.

Anyone who works in Cornwall’s health care knows the challenges: scarce family doctors, high smoking rate (including people who already have COPD, lung cancer and/or asthmatic children), unemployment, teen pregnancy, low breastfeeding rate, and so on. Anecdotally, I can tell you that nearly every mom I see in the emerg is young, and when I started working here over a decade ago, zero of them breastfed. I don’t mean a handful. I mean zero. But in the past few years, I’d estimate the breastfeeding rate at 10 or 20 percent, which is a vital improvement.

So you can imagine how good it felt to witness this group of committed citizens working for change.

Of course, I couldn’t relax, because I had to present. I sat with my laptop in my lap, waiting for them to call on me, but it turned out I was supposed to talk after the meeting. “That way, you can enjoy the food,” said Jennifer Adams, one of my hosts.

The food was delicious. I had the salmon, which was just right, and the al dente vegetables particularly impressed me, because often vegetables seem like an afterthought. But at continuing medical education dinners (“drug dinners”), they present during meals, so the doctors can listen while eating and then bolt.

“Okay. I just hope nobody leaves,” I said, glancing around the room of happy, laughing women.

“Oh, no. We have extra guests here who came specifically to see you. They’re not leaving,” said Sally, the president, who was wearing a cool red jacket and gave me a hug.

They did stay. They applauded. They did the wave. They bought my books. And it just occurred to me that a few of them might be able to make it to my Fifty Shades of Grey’s Anatomy launch on April 1st at 10:30, at the Williamstown Library.

But they might be too busy saving the world. Please, keep saving the world. Cheers.

No society has ever yet been able to handle the temptations of technology to mastery, to waste, to exuberance, to exploration and exploitation. We have to learn to cherish this earth and cherish it as something that’s fragile, that’s only one, it’s all we have.~Margaret Mead