In a little noted nook behind the disintegrating Toronto Malting towers, sits Ireland Park , a memorial to the Irish Diaspora that resulted from the Great Famine of 1847. I would not have known about this moving site were it not for its inclusion in a tour I was on recently. The Old Toronto Beer Tour was about, what else?, beer. But it was also an opportunity for me to observe how some entrepreneurs put concepts like the Golden Rule into practice in their businesses. For more on that topic, please drop by my business blog.
I find the history of the Famine fascinating, not least because I’m of Irish descent. The situation in Toronto was not unique, but it was certainly traumatic for those involved. The 38,000 men, women and children who arrived between May and October of 1847 almost tripled the community’s 20,000 residents. It’s a testament to the dedication of those involved that there weren’t more confrontations and tragedies than there were.
It would be remiss to paint the picture too rosy. Then, as now, famine brought out both the best and worst in people. Nevertheless, it should also be noted that many, both privately and through their churches, went well beyond the call of duty to help. Some, not surprisingly, lost their lives to the disease that ran rampant through the processing sheds used as temporary housing. There were no vaccinations for aid workers at that time, and to contract an illness like typhus was often a death sentence. And yet they stepped up and helped, knowing full well the risk.
The need today is no less than it was then. Millions of people die of starvation every year, millions more are scarred for life. Our ability to help is much greater now than it was 150 years ago, and I encourage each and every one of my readers to to step up and do as much as they can to help those in the greatest need.
It’s really a matter of faith.