Bear Aware

Being an urban Ontario girl the thoughts of encountering a bear is a bit unsettling.  I  brought with me a gift from one of the kind people on Ontario. It was a gift of "bear bells". This is a little Velcro strap that wraps around my wrist and on it is a large jingle bell which makes a lovely noise when I walk.  These bear bells are supposed to alert animals to your presence so hopefully they will scurry off their own direction!  It is funny though as I share this with the good native people of the Bella Coola Valley, including the local RCMP officer, they all chuckle.  Upon the puzzled look on my face, they proceed to rename the bells, "dinner bells".  Instead of the bear staying away, the locals tell me the bear says grace and realizes dinner is coming up the path!  Good-natured, I know they are teasing me and it makes me feel at home.

As I did walk with my bells though, it was with some thoughts about how they warn everything within hearing distance of my presence. "I am here" these bells say on my behalf.  It set me to ponder how does the Divine, the Sacred, or commonly named, God, let me know when present?  What signs can I look for?  Does this beautiful presence have bells attached?  For some, I think they need an atom bomb because no matter what happens in their life they cannot see it is the presence of something special.  For some, I think they need an avalanche or a snow storm to wake them up to the whisperings of the Spirit.  For others, they fundamentally believe God is present but beyond reach only to punish us, answer hot-line prayer requests, or to move us around like chess pieces on this earthly surface.  The bells serve to remind them to behave not to the beauty.  So sad.

For me, these bells remind me I am alive!  Able to walk along a beautiful pathway looking and watching out for bears.  Here in the Bella Coola Valley, I literally have to watch out for the four legged kind with little brown eyes, fur and long fingernails, badly in need of a mani or pedi, in your world what kind of bears do you need to be aware of?  All bears can be respected and loved from a distance.  We need to better understand them and know they are wild and not to be fed or encouraged.  These bears have their own environment they live in and, while growling at times, we can live with them in the same forest.  We need not tame them, just understand them better and face what it is we need to face to be healthy, strong and live in a balanced world with our bears.

I love it here with the bears and with all the challenges perceived.  One favorite question is "How are you coping with the isolation?"  It is not isolated here.  There are bears everywhere and I have been just as isolated in downtown Toronto as I could feel here.  But I choose not to be isolated. I choose to engage and find the bears and bunnies in a community that is welcoming and loving.   I walk with my bells saying "here I am, Lord, use me to be your love"  this is my reminder of the presence of the Spirit, everywhere and in all places.

May you find the bears in your life.  Welcome them as a wild part of you and respect what it is that you need to do with them and remember that every thing on this planet is part of the whole divine spirit.  Blessings to all!


Humbling experiences ...

It has been a challenging week.  I have heard stories that should never be heard.  Not because they shouldn't be told but because they should never have happened.  How can I, as a Christian, look the First Nation residential school survivor in the eye and not say I am so sorry?  How can I, as a Christian, not fall to my knees asking forgiveness of those who have been so wronged over generations? How can I, as a Christian, not seek to know what I can do to make things better for the Indigenous Peoples of this country?

This week I witnessed the two, of four courses here at Vancouver School of Theology at the 28th annual Native Ministries Consortium (NMC) where peoples from all over North America, including Hawaii, are gathered.  Time for story telling and witness to the challenges faced in the past by First Nation's peoples.  In the work I will be doing in Bella Coola B.C., I am challenged to better understand how, as a white person, I can be effective clergy and pastoral care giver.

It is through relationships with these people I am learning so much.

One term that was raised by Dr. Martin Brokenleg during our class, Aboriginal Youth Issues Today was Intergenerational or transgenerational trauma.  This is defined as a cumulative emotional, psychological, social spiritual wounding.  It occurs over the life span while bridging across generations and is the result of a massive group trauma.  This is what the youth of the First Nation's people are living with.  This trauma manifests itself in many ways such as addiction, abuse, domestic violence resulting in jail time.  The Native Canadian people are struggling with identity and unresolved grief.  But here at the NMC I see hope because I hear many people telling their story and reaching out to heal and, in turn, learning how to re-engage with life.  I see hope and life here in this place and I see how I can help those struggling in the Bella Coola community.  I am embracing all of this learning and will take it home with me. There may be mountains to climb, but I know the sun will come out tomorrow and I can find common ground with this work.  Bless all residential school survivors and may I sit and listen to each and every story.  I pray for those who cannot find a voice to tell their story and I am humbled by those who can speak their own truth.