Finally Relents

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Engram family will be
reunited in the end

So the Engram family is going to get their wish.

They will be permitted to reserve three burial plots together, at the Interfaith Cemetery in Carbonear, so they can eventually be buried with their dying two-year-old daughter, Amelia.

When CBC News broke this story on June 19, it caused a local sensation and made national headlines.

Virtually everyone who watched was appalled that this family, facing the imminent death of their little girl, had to deal with the intransigence of a committee that would separate them in death.

I knew exactly how this was going to end on the day it broke. You could see the outcome in the distance, already gathering momentum and lumbering inexorably toward the hapless committee. The only surprise is that it took so long for the committee to find a solution.

News stories all contain conflict. Its an essential component, even in good news stories. For this reason, the public quickly identifies the protagonist and antagonist the good guys and bad in every story. They quickly take sides, heckling at the bad guys on TV the way an audience yells from the bleachers at the out-of-town team. And they express that anger through online comments, letters to the editor, open line shows, and more.

In this case, you had a sweet little child dying of cancer, her devastated parents sitting helpless at her side. And you had a committee turning down their request to be buried together.

There was no question where public sympathy would go on this one.

The outcry was totally predictable. It could only have gotten louder and more vociferous as the little girls health deteriorated.

On the day this story broke, committee chair Milton Peach said the policy had been in place for 10 years and had served them well. I rolled my eyes and groaned. Couldnt he and the rest of the committee see that, by dint of the interview itself, the policy was no longer serving them well at all?

That it was about to explode in their faces?

The big question is, why didnt the committee react properly in the first place? Why didnt they do the right thing, and write the three denominations they represent, seeking an exemption?

They seem to have been the only people who werent moved to action by the familys plight, and, to be fair, we dont know the full story. The committee members no doubt deal with inter-faith tensions all the time and perhaps didnt have the energy to take on another battle. Perhaps it was just easier to say no.

The lesson here, for volunteer committees or any organization that deals with the public is to listen to your gut, use common sense and ask yourself, How would I like to be treated? If the policy seems unfair or unreasonable, question it. If necessary, send a message up the chain of command, voicing your concerns.

We live in a media-savvy world, where people understand the power of news (not to mention the Internet) and do not hesitate to use it.

So think of this simple rule: imagine your letter of rejection is going to the media, not an individual. Would you rethink your wording, or your decision, based on that assumption?

If so, then change the wording. Alter your course.

Because, in effect, you are talking to the media.

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