Some children are born with athletic gifts, others are born with mental gifts, and others are born with charisma. None are born with manners. With the right environment, coaching and discipline an athletic gift becomes athletic ability, a mental gift becomes intellectual ability and charisma becomes grace.
A graceful person has the ability to ease their way through the world, and to ease the way of others, by a combination of polished physical presence, charm, and good manners – often referred to as a state of grace.
Communities are like children. Some communities are physically gifted by their surroundings, or intellectually gifted by their people. Some communities are more graceful than others in the way they treat people. Put another way, some communities have better manners than others.
In Whistler we are physically gifted by our surroundings. We have worked hard to achieve a state of grace. We came together and wrote down what we think our state of grace will look like in the Whistler 2020 document, also known as our Comprehensive Sustainability Plan. That exercise indicates a certain state of spiritual grace. So how are we doing in the way we treat others? How are we doing with our manners?
Until recently we did not know how to say “please” very well. When we were negotiating for the Olympics we schlepped around in obviously cheap, ill-fitting and badly matched uniforms while other countries turned up looking well-dressed and professional. Councilors spent their own money to buy gifts to present to officials along the way. This went beyond being understated and Canadian. Our forays indicated a lack of understanding that on the world stage, whether dealing with the IOC, visiting another government or making a site visit, one is expected to demonstrate an understanding of the niceties that ease the way between people of varying cultures.
Lately we have become better at saying “please”. Have we learned to say “thank you” frequently and more often than necessary? I am not so sure. We do well at thanking our civic volunteers. Many have been named Citizen of the Year. Others have been given freedom of the Municipality. How well do we do at thanking our politicians, and how well do we do at thanking our partners?
In my view, we do a poor job. Sure, we gave former Mayor Drew Meredith freedom of the Municipality, and we named a bridge after Mayor Ted Nebbeling. We nominated former hotel manager Dave Roberts for a community service medal. On the other hand, after 13 years of service as a councilor and then as Mayor we did not recognize Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, most likely because he had the temerity to leave three months early to take a real job. During that time he attended meetings by telephone and flew back to attend crucial meetings in person. After similarly long and passionate service we treated Mayor Ken Melamed just as badly. Councilors fared no better.
We need to institutionalize the habit of saying thank you to people who have been of service to Whistler. Why not develop a plaque program? The RMOW could hold a contest to develop a design for municipal plaques. The design could incorporate recognizable local elements. The winner of the contest would receive the first plaque at a council meeting.
When a Mayor or the CAO retires, they get a big plaque. Councilors and RMOW managers get a medium sized plaque. When the head of Tourism Whistler or Whistler/Blackcomb moves on, they get a plaque. There could be plaques for employee awards. If a firefighter does something heroic, he or she gets a plaque.
The way I see it, it is not important to give an expensive gift to say thank you. It is important to say thank you. If we can find a unique and inexpensive way for Whistler to be more graceful in the way we treat our politicians and partners, why wouldn’t we?