By Pam Pardy Ghent
As the proud daughter and granddaughter of fishermen, at this time of year, it’s always those who earn their living at sea who dominate my thoughts. From the sealers out in the bitter cold to the fisher-folk in their boats or in their harbour sheds preparing pots and mending nets; they are all on my mind.
For many, Easter means extended weekends, no school or even a trip down south, but for anyone connected with the fishery, it’s a busy time. Weeks away from lobster season and well into the crab, long-john clad fishermen and women head out on the sea to earn their living. As we landlubbers cradle cardboard coffee cups and complain of the cold and wind as we roll down our windows to grab another mug-up, hearty heroes of the sea endure conditions most couldn’t imagine let alone tolerate.
But then people from this province have long been lauded for being hardworking and brave. Long before our ancestors’ heroic sacrifices during both wars, locals headed for the “Boston States” to help make America great the first time ‘round. According to official records, four years before WWI 13,269 Newfoundlanders called areas of Massachusetts home. While many think our own left this province for the back-breaking construction trades only, that wasn’t the sole industry we dominated. Besides swinging a hammer or skilfully navigating sky-high scaffolding, Newfoundlanders were salesmen, clerks, merchants, accountants, nurses, midwives, dress-makers and clergymen.
In the decades that followed, Newfoundland’s loss became the world’s gain. The solid reputation of generations before us paved my husband’s and my way as we looked for work in Ontario in the 90s. My husband, then a bricklayer, was hired instantly when a foreman heard the accent of his forefathers. And me? I was warmly welcomed in as the “friendly Newf” minutes into my very first interview.
Newfoundlanders added greatly to their global reputation in 2001. While most eyes were on the Twin Towers’ destruction, something amazing was happening at home as 38 planes packed with weary, worried travellers instantly doubled the population of Gander. In true Newfoundland form, hearts and homes were opened to strangers and now, years later, stories of those everyday hometown heroes are being retold on a Broadway stage thanks to Come from Away.
An Inspiring tale
Being proud of being from “such good stock” comes so easy, though thankfully very few of us rest easily on that long-held reputation. My heart soared as I followed one story as it unfolded. While no stranger to nature’s laws and her sometimes cruel ways, good-hearted livyers ventured out onto the ice off Bell Island, toiling through a raging blizzard to rescue five dolphins trapped in thick pack ice. Mostly unnamed heroes placed their fellow mammals onto a tarp stretcher before loading them on a truck and releasing them into a nearby ice-free inlet. What an amazing, inspiring tale.
But the truth is, most of us will always live a pretty ordinary life. We don’t put our lives in danger or ourselves in any discomfort as we head out to work each day. We’ll probably never be called on to help build a city from scratch and hopefully we won’t ever need to welcome in a stranger left stranded by terrorism like we saw during 9/11. Few among us will ever have an opportunity to recuse a dolphin trapped in ice. Yet we can all do something amazing on a much smaller scale.
This Easter, as you’re getting ready to do your thing, do a little something extra special too. It doesn’t matter if you donate to the food bank, invite someone new to your kitchen table, or pay for a coffee for the person behind you in the lineup; whatever you do, it will be adding – if only just a little – to the long-held Newfoundland legacy of being kind, generous, good-hearted heroes of the often unsung sort.
Yes indeed, that’s the good stuff.