A wise man once told me you can learn everything about life by watching one Three Stooges episode.
The injustice, the pain and suffering, the disasters that await us and test our sanity — as Shakespeare would say, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
In the comedic sense, of course. Most of us don’t have to worry about bowling balls falling on our heads, or a compatriot dragging a saw over our forehead. (With cool special effect sounds!)
I once made a pilgrimage to Curly Howard’s grave in L.A., my favourite Stooge of all time, just to feel close to the man who would entertain me after school, before I had dinner and before I did any homework.
It’s was an appropriate escape from the horrific Ontario school system which sought to break me and turn me into a well-behaved, but robotic citizen.
They failed — big-time.
But getting back to the Stooges — let’s face it folks, life is not fair. Some of us have had some good breaks and we’ve parlayed that into rewarding careers and all that that comes with it.
I’m lucky in that sense, I’ve had it good since I arrived in Alberta in 1979 and, of course, I had to work damn hard for it.
But not everyone is so lucky. Sh-t happens, as they say, and all it takes is a few of those bad breaks in life,to put us behind the 8 ball.
It’s also cool to think about the fate of our four-legged friends, be they in the wild or trying to survive on the streets of our city. This too is an important part of our Alberta heritage.
I don’t want to get all cliched on you, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
The Christmas season is approaching, fast, and there is no better time than now to think of giving back.
So here’s my story. All true, so help me God.
A few days ago, I got a message on Facebook messenger from a good friend of mine who lives in another part of Canada.
He’s a retired oilpatch millionaire, many times over. He did well, but yeah, he too worked hard to get there. And he likes to help others.
He said, “Dave, I need you to do me a favour — I want to give you $1,000, and I want you to donate it, to as many good causes, as you can, as you see fit.”
I said, “As I see fit? RU sure?” (That’s Messenger lingo)
He said “Yes, and I already eTransferred you the money.”
Well, right, I thought … I can do this. But who should I donate to and why? There are tons of good causes, so how do I go about this.
I knew that the benefactor — who wanted to remain anonymous — was an animal lover, and would like to see some of it go to animal rescue and conservation, but he did say “as I saw fit.”
At the top of my list, was Drop In The Bucket, which drills water wells for villages in Africa.
That was followed by Ernest’s cat sanctuary in Aleppo, Syria (a man who has no fear), and then good old CKUA radio.
What the heck would we do without CKUA?
I then thought, why not help out the animal rescue agencies, so I did.
My daughter had visited the Yamnuska Wolf Dog sanctuary and said it was an amazing place with amazing people, so I donated.
My focus then turned to AARCS Animal Rescue, the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society the Grizzly Bear Foundation and the Wolf Conservation Centre.
The one group I also wanted to help out — and this is an important one — was the Calgary Women’s Shelter, a fabulous organization that does amazing work.
I was fortunate to work with a wonderful lady named Kate Robinson in Special Sections at the Calgary Sun, and together we (I was just a helper) would deliver tons of new review toys to this group before Christmas.
I don’t think I ever worked with a person with a bigger heart, to be honest.
I also wanted to help out the Calgary Flight Museum, which has done such an excellent job of preserving Western Canada’s aviation history, as well as our Second World War history.
For years and years, I used to see that old Lancaster, sitting on a pedestal, while it got destroyed by weather and birds.
I cursed the city fathers for this terrible outrage, until my friends didn’t want to hear my rants anymore. I thought it was despicable why no one in the oilpatch stepped forward to help preserve this amazing piece of history.
Eventually, that Lanc would be brought inside, and restored — finally.
I personally think every school child in Calgary should see that aircraft,or walk through it to know what the greatest generation did to preserve our freedom.
Sorry, but that’s a big one for me.
This was followed by donations to the Calgary Food Bank, the MEOW Foundation, the Calgary Humane Society, and Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue — all super great causes.
Keep in mind, this took me several days to do — I had to do my due diligence, as they say, and research some of these groups.
I then targeted the Children’s Make A Wish Foundation, one of my favourite organizations.
Back when I worked at National Trust, I took up a collection for this group and sought a donation (via a memo) to the top boss, a good man named Bill Rhind.
He called me into his office, and said, “Dave, what is this?”
I said, “It’s a damn good cause” and I explained what they do. He paused, looked over my memo, smiled and said, “OK sure.”
It was a generous act and I never forgot it.
So now, most of the money was spent. I only had a few dollars left.
I then remembered attending a get-together at CUPS Calgary, a group that “builds resilient lives for Calgarians facing the challenges of poverty and trauma” with programs and services.
I immediately pointed some funds to CUPS.
I then went across the world to donate to the Dian Fossey International Gorilla fund — a cause I knew about and wanted to help.
God help us if the world loses the majestic mountain gorillas. I’ve never been to Africa proper, but some of my friends have and they all have said it was amazing.
I had one more donation left, just one. I thought why not check out GoFundMe, lots of great causes there.
And man, did I ever find one.
A Saskatchewan family, had lost the dad in a farming accident near Saskatoon. The bio had me in tears and I knew then I had to donate.
I took the last $50, plus some of my money too, and threw it down — happy to help.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, I too donate, and I have my special causes. I set up a yearly budget for donations and stick to it.
Another thing I want to say is, I don’t understand people who don’t give back, I really don’t. We should be so damn grateful we live in a city as great as Calgary with so much opportunity.
You don’t need to spend a $1,000, it might even be two little kids by a grocery story exit, trying to hit you up to support their soccer team. Don’t ignore them — stop, listen to their story — throw them something, anything.
And then feel damn good about it.