Which Furey are you?
So, I’ve been working on a book. For over a year now, usually on or waiting for flights or while the kids are at music, I’ve been typing away at this story. It began as a recollection of how Team Broken Earth started after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. How this Newfoundland and Labrador charity has grown from three of us to well over a thousand volunteers from three countries. It’s been an emotional trip recalling all the pitfalls and little victories over the years. But there was also another unintended consequence that came from the writing.
Thinking about this journey has made me look closer at who I am, closer still at where I’m from. Physically. Spiritually. How it’s influenced me in every decision I’ve made. How much of it is who I am. Sure, I’m a proud Canadian but I usually will say I’m an NLer first when asked, purely out of habit. Newfoundland and Labrador is very much my heart.
As far as I’ve travelled in the world, there is no better feeling than making that last descent into the YYT airport. Coming in over the southside hills and the harbour. Or the approach over the White Hills where you see that massive rock wall jetting out of the angry Atlantic. Or in over Conception Bay, past Bell Island. Every time is like the first time seeing it. The lights sporadically clustered in tiny coves. The ribbon of orange lamps rolling along the Harbour arterial. It’s hypnotizing to me. Night flights are especially wonderous. I love seeing the communities in coastal inlets or at the edge of some long arm of land. It may make others feel isolated. Not me. I know the warm hearts beating in all of those places. That the good people there would drop whatever they were doing if you needed help (think of Lanier Phillips and the wreck of the USS Truxtun). That, no matter what, they look for the good in everything and everyone.
Arrivals are special here. The hugs go longer. No one can stand still as they anxiously await a loved one to appear. Allison took one of my favourite photos here. I was flying back from my first medical mission to Bangladesh. The photo is of my youngest, Mark. He was maybe 4 years old at the time. He’s sitting crossed-legs on the floor. Head in hands, looking at the escalator, waiting for me to arrive. Coming home is equal parts of the place you love and people you never want to leave again.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively through our province. When I was younger, it was with dad and my uncle while they were on the campaign trail. That’s probably why Allision and I love loading up the car with kids and exploring. Here, the journey is often the most fun part of the destination (stopping at Joey’s Look Out or a local convenience store where you’re lucky enough to still find homemade bread). I’ve completed medical work in Labrador and have a special place in my heart for the big land. In my clinics, I’ve met people from every corner and craggy cove, from Cartwright to Trepassey. I always enjoy appointments that start with a quick investigation into the question of “so which Furey are you?”
Yes, this place is my heart and I care deeply as to what’s happening here and where things are going. I worry as much as the next person about the economic storms we’ve faced and the ones we have ahead. It’s in these moments, I not only see the faces of my children but of every person across the province as well. The uncertainness is like an unknown infection and the diagnosis is not clear. That weighs on me as I’m sure it does you.
With premier Ball’s announcement last week, there has been a lot of discussions and conversations as to what will happen next. Who will step up? The media has speculated many names, including mine. It’s a lot to consider. It’s a huge responsibility for anyone to take on. We need someone who will put worried minds at ease but clearly find that direction onward. Allison and I have spent the last week discussing this next step. We both feel that public service is important. We both feel a strong sense of commitment and love for Newfoundland and Labrador. And we both want our kids and others just like them around the province to feel that they have opportunities here at home.
Which Furey am I? I can tell you this: I’m the one who will always stand out front for this place. I have always been compelled to take action when I have felt there is a need. So far in my life, that has taken me to some far-reaching places in the world. Today I am focused on what is needed here at home. As Nan would say, put the kettle on. There is a lot to think about and it is going to be a busy week.