For several weeks now we’ve been watching the movement of the American youth, as they take on the challenge of the gun law legislation in the USA. In the first 16 weeks of 2018 there have been 20 school shootings that have resulted in loss of life or serious injury. The worst of this year occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 unsuspecting students and adults were slaughtered.
In the aftermath of that shooting, there have been youth led protests and marches across the United States which have rippled over into all parts of the world. In the protests, youth as young as 11 have begun to demand that society take a deeper look at what is happening as a result of the current gun legislation and imploring adults to do something about it before any more young lives are lost to the senseless gun violence that is becoming all too common in the lives of today’s children.
One of the lines that stuck out for me in the midst of watching all of these things take place across the nation was one commentators remark that “not finding any leadership, they have created it.” What a powerful statement on the potential and the passion that these young people are exhibiting. What promising hope they give us for a better tomorrow, in spite of the damaged world that we are handing down to them. Given the tools, resources and support, I believe that they offer us hope of a world that is more compassionate, that is safer, that is greener and that is more inclusive that the one we see today. They are our future, so how to we help them to create the best one possible?
With my children’s books, I attempt to reach kids in the early years and ask them to think about diversity, inclusion, friendship and belonging. I believe that the earlier we can get kids thinking about those things, the stronger their belief in a world that includes those qualities will be. The more we are able to help children to know that we all need to feel that we belong is instrumental in having so many of today's challenges resolved. If we can look at one another through eyes that see our similarities rather than our individual differences, there is a chance some of these attacks could be stopped. If some of the outcast individuals that commit many of the crimes had a stronger sense of self worth, would they act the way they have? It’s not the answer to all of the worlds problems, but at my core I do believe that it’s the start of something better.
Then I think about the Youth Leadership Camps that we are working to create through Mark McGregor Leadership, I can only imagine how far these impassioned youth could take the world if they had the tools and inner strength our camps offer. What if these young people had the resources and skills offered to them when they are 18 years old, and still have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment to make their world all that they believe it can be? What if they were given the opportunity to better understand the power of coaching and were able to lead others to follow the dream they see of what is possible in the years ahead? What if at 20 years old they had the opportunity to really be supported to dedicate intense and intentional time towards understanding their own values, vision and to know what their mission in life was at the beginning of the journey, instead of learning those things closer to the end? What if?
It’s true that so many people have never had the opportunity to think about that until they reach their 40s or 50s and only begin to think about those things when a personal crisis occurs. They’ve burned both ends of the candle for so long that yes, they’ve accumulated the material things that our society conditions us to believe we need to have to be effective, contributing members of the economic based world we live in. But in the accumulation of ‘stuff’, how many of us have lost ourselves? As coaches, it’s very often those people that come to us in hopes of making sense of lives that no longer make sense. They followed the rules, got the job, the house, the wife, the car but in exchange they gave up many of their dreams, passions and have never accessed or used the innate gifts that they were born with. Although they have acquired all the material possessions that we are driven to 'need', the efforts to do so have sabotaged their marriages, relationships with children and in many cases their connections to their own selves. As their lives edge closer to the finish line than the starting point, they now seek to understand who they are. Why are they here? What is their true purpose and is there still time to live that purpose in a meaningful way?
The answer of course is yes! It’s never to late to start, to reflect, to hit the reset button and begin anew. But in that same vein, it’s never to early either? Our greatest hope for the Youth Vision Camps is that we can take our own decades of struggling, learning and finally truly understanding, and share what we’ve come to know with those that are beginning their unique journeys. Imagine one of these passionate, fiery young adults having the opportunity to truly know what their values are so that they can create a life that reflects those values at all times. What might happen if they know what they’re passionate about, and instead of following the herd and getting the Bachelor of Arts degree, because that what seems sensible, they were encouraged to dive into that passion with tools and support to see what might be possible? To follow their hearts?
Vision Camps are created in hopes that we can take our years of knowledge and ‘pay it forward’ to the youth that attend, so that they can be fast-tracked to where they want their lives to head. They've been designed to help them to begin the journey with the end in mind, by understanding the importance of vision. Help them to know it’s okay to question the status quo, that there is always more than one way to get to where you want to be in life, and to know that it’s okay to question the way it’s always been...because the way it’s always been isn’t necessarily the right way.
Every generation has rolled their eyes and shook their heads at the generations coming up behind them, wondering how they are ever going to survive in ‘our’ world as we’ve created it. It’s time for that to stop, because ‘our’ world is going to be handed over to tomorrows leaders, so instead lets help them to be as strong, equipped and supported as they can be, because it isn’t just our world that they hold in their hands....it’s our future.
I waited for several weeks, in anticipation of what Gord Downie's release of his graphic novel, multi-media project 'Secret Path', was going to be like to actually watch. I'd watched all the promo clips, and posted many on my personal social media pages, as well as the pages I'm connected to through my work with Artists Against Racism. I was not oblivious to the part of our history that was the Residential School system, I'd been granted opportunities to know and expand my understanding of it, and have delved into learning more about it for myself in recent years. I was always glad for that knowledge and those that had shared their stories with me, but also sad for the time it took me to really embrace the need to learn about it.
I barely remember a time in my life where Indigenous people were not a part of my own story, from the age of six on. In the years beginning in 1984, when I had the local country store, dozens of my customers from nearby Long Plain Reserve tried to share their stories of life in those schools. But being younger and more naive, I heard...but I didn't really listen. I don't know for sure, but I believe that part of that inability to truly listen was the little voice in my head that wondered what the complaining was about, rather than their being glad they had the opportunity to receive an education? I really never asked deeper questions. I didn't have the maturity. I heard what they were willing to share, but I didn't listen to the deeper meaning they were trying to share with me. For that, I will always be deeply sorry, and sadly most of those that tried to shed light on their path for me to better understand their experience are now gone. I will never have the chance to honor their truth the way I now wish I could.
October 23, the 'Secret Path' was released to the public through a CBC special, where the graphic novel was brought to life for hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Gord Downie had pointed his finger at all of us as he'd ended his last Tragically Hip concert in Kingston, and challenged all Canadians to take notice and to do better. Through sharing the Secret Path with us, he is giving us a door to walk through and open up communication that can start the road to our doing better. I was excited that the unveiling had come.
I watched a recording of the streamed event late that night, alone in my room at a friend's home in Redondo Beach, California. There was no surprises to the story, it's fifty years old and I have familiarized myself with it in recent years. What did surprise me was the impact of watching the animated book come to life through the songs that Gord had written to share Chanie Wenjack's experience as best he could...through his music. There was no doubt in my heart that a piece of Gord's soul is attached to this project with a direct link to Chanie's spirit. That became more and more clear as the experience unfolded before me.
When the animation was done, and the opportunity to watch a very ill Gord Downie sing one more rendition of the opening song was over, the pain in my own heart was measurable. I could feel the weight of Chanie's misery, a 12 year old boy, the same age as one of my own grandsons, struggling to escape the horror that was life at that institution in a hopeless attempt to find his way home. I could feel the weight of Gord's passion and purpose, as he'd shared what he refers to as his most important work ever. I could feel the weight of the gift and the responsibility to become part of the change that we are all challenged to be. Those weights resulted in a restless and dream filled night of Ravens, railroads and reconciliation.
In the light of day the real challenge still stares me in the face, as I try to put into action what my heart calls me to do. I was in Redondo Beach because I was attending the first International Grief Recovery Conference. It was a weekend of celebrating an accomplished model for mending broken hearts that has been around for over thirty years. We learned that we now have 5,000 Grief Recovery Specialists doing this deeply heart centered work in all but one continent, that one being Antarctic. We were given ideas on how to offer this tool more widely to children, to reach out to other businesses in our areas to reach a wider audience, how to better market our skills so that we can 'help the most amount of grievers in the least amount of time.' We learned that there are changes on the horizon that will help us to better keep up with the changing times, and that this will not be the final gathering of so many like minded people. Through it all, I was deeply reminded of the power of this tool and the need to be offering it more in the world.
When I returned to my room to watch the Secret Path, I was also reminded of how very, very badly our country needs healing. Healing between those of us that are considered the settlers, and those that were here before us, our Indigenous cousins. There is so much work to be done to make our country the truly great place that we were allowed to believe that it was...and that it can be...but it isn't yet.
So now the real work begins of finding ways to bring my ability to help people heal their broken hearts to people that badly need that opportunity to heal. People who need to have their own personal truth heard, honored and valued. Who need to have the opportunity to find completion to some of the grief and losses that have been holding them in a place of pain for much too long.
I will not be leaving this world a lineage through my bloodline, but I can leave a legacy through my actions. I need to do this for my 'children', and my children's children. I need to do this for my ancestors and those that went before me, instilling the value of all people deep into my being, and doing what they were able to from where they were at the time to make the world better. I need to do it for my friends past and present, who entrusted me with their stories and their experience, a trust I believe I have finally grown into. I won't forget what they experienced and shared, and I promise to find a way to help others understand the depth of the wounds that our history has left. I need to do this for my own heart, which has reminded me time and time again that I too have a deep purpose to fulfill in this life, and as the speed of the pounding in my own heart increases, I know that this work...this healing...this path...is part of the Secret Path that I have been working my way towards for so much of my life. It is slowly, and steadily being revealed to me, and I look forward to traveling down it with all those others that choose to mend this divide.
Jelaluddin Rumi, the 13th century mystic poet, was truly one of the most passionate and profound poets in history. These hundreds of years later, his poems and quotes still find their way into the fabric of our world, still striking chords with those that read or hear them. Still leaving people wondering what the intention of a particular quote may have been. One of my favorites is this one...
"Out beyond right doing and wrong doing, there is a field.
I will meet you there." Rumi
As with many of his quotes, there is still much debate of what he was referring in his poetry. With this quote, I like to think he means that there is a place where our limited beliefs and ideas on what is right and wrong are no longer important. A place where we can communicate with each other. A place where we can leave our conditioning and old understanding behind, drop our defenses and open our hearts. A place where there is hope for reconciliation and mutual understanding. A place where the first seeds of forgiveness can be sown.
In working with people through the Grief Recovery Method, although forgiveness is one of the three components of completion, it can be one of the most difficult concepts for people to understand. Through time, we have confused forgiveness with condoning an act or event that impacted our hearts in a painful way. We believe that if we forgive another, we are trivializing the pain that they caused us. We feel that we are letting them off the hook for something horrible that they did, and accept that their actions were okay. That is not forgiveness.
The definition of forgiveness in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines forgiving as "to cease to feel resentment against." When we think about forgiveness in those terms, we begin to understand that continuing to harbor the resentment and anger towards someone who offended us begins to limit and restrict our own ability to move forward and participate fully in the life we are living today. That anger and pain continues to resurface and invade our life whenever something stimulates the memory of the event and the hurtful emotions that are attached to it. We continue to hurt ourselves because we hold on to the hope of an apology...an acknowledgement...or some sort of retribution for what was done to us. We continue to hope for a different or better yesterday when all we really have the power to do is the ground work for a better tomorrow.
As people slowly come to realize the definition of forgiveness and to understand that we forgive in order to reacquire our own sense of well being and joy, you see the change begin. That subtle shift where the anger starts to lessen, where the painful lines of hurt begin to soften a little and a different view of the world begins to seep in. It is beautiful to be part of and to witness. It is more amazing to experience within one's self.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong."
When Gandhi said forgiveness is an attribute of the strong, he understood that forgiveness is hard work. It takes intention, and commitment and it takes a strong person who is willing to revisit the pain of the past and make a decision to let that pain go. It takes a willingness to let go of the hold that the past has on them, and build up from where they are today, without the pain of the memory dragging them back down.
Often, the act of forgiving opens up the possibility of looking at the event through different eyes. When you forgive and set aside the pain, there can be an new awareness develop as well. Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes the event was so horrific, that the perpetrator can only be viewed as evil. Again, your forgiveness of them does not take away from who they are or what they did, it is solely to relieve your heart of the pain that it has carried.
But every now and then, I see Rumi's quote come into play. 'Out beyond right doing and wrong doing, there is a field. I will meet you there' Every now and then, by making the conscious decision to take the action that is forgiveness, we open our hearts up to something more. Sometimes in forgiveness we see what happened, or what was said, was a difference of beliefs, education, life skills or upbringing. It was not necessarily a matter of right doing or wrong doing, but rather a difference in understanding as a result our individual beliefs or stories, based on what others might have believed to be true at the time. Sometimes, if we can drop that view of rightness or wrongness...we can see the field beyond. And in that field, there is hope and possibility. In that field, by planting the seeds of forgiveness, there lies the potential for growth, reconciliation and a softer, kinder world than the one we often see today. In that field lies the opportunity to seed change.
Have you ever read Mitch Albom’s ‘The Five People you Meet in Heaven’? Its one of my favourite books…well, maybe I should really say most of his books are ‘one of my’ favourites! But that one I love, mostly because in it Mitch proposes that heaven will be whatever we really, really want it to be, based on our life experience, our favourite moments and places, and what our perfect place would be. What a wonderful idea!
What is most incredible about is is how blessed I am that I am living in my heaven as I write. I’ve always loved and cherished this little nook in the world, but every year I think I cherish it more. We’ve created a little campground, up on the hill, in back of the main yard. It’s got the most beautiful sunsets over the Assiniboine River Valley. It’s so quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop, except when the generator is running to charge up the batteries in the 5th wheel. When it’s off, there isn’t a sound. Not the hum of a furnace, or traffic, or anything. What there is are birds, insects, the gentle breeze and occasionally the howl of coyotes in the distance.
We put our camper up here early in the year, and take advantage of as many moments as we can. I can tether my cell to get a little wifi reception, to work on things that I’m passionate about pursuing. The cell phone might ring, but most times not. And for the most part it is absolute, blissful peace and tranquility. It feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit like nothing else seems to be able to do. Time at the ocean comes close, but that always comes at a cost…the price of energy expended to share that space with the hundreds of other people who have chosen that as their get away of choice. This is different. This is ours, and the only other people that might be here in this little niche are those we’ve invited to embrace this with us.
I like the camper, because that is ‘my space’. Cecil prefers the quiet and the rustic life he can enjoy in his cabin, just feet away from where our camper is sitting. On the deck of the cabin, we’ve got the greatest swing that was given to us by friends who were moving and decided not to take it with them. We can sit and swing and just stare out into the beauty of the valley for hours, without the need for a word to be spoken. Just drinking in the beauty and the quiet that is this place.
We all need that ‘place’ that is ours to go to. To gather our spirits, reboot and reenergize our souls and ground ourselves for all that the world throws at us. I know how lucky I am to have this, and hope that you have a place of your own that does that for you. It doesn’t have to be large, or remote or even space that is your own, if it’s somewhere that allows you to breathe more deeply and connect more solidly with the source of what keeps you going day after day. If you don’t have that space for you….you need to find one. Honor yourself by making finding that space that is yours a priority, not something that you’ll do one day. Something you will do now, before the world pulls any more from you that you don’t have a chance to replenish.
Some people are pulled to nature, as I am. Others find that in a sacred building, a sanctuary, a coffee house that affords them a corner to themselves, or a museum. It can be on a bench along a small strip of greenspace, or a walkway along the water’s edge. It can be whatever your idea of Heaven might be, even if it’s a sacred space you’ve created in your own home that is yours to go to and be undisturbed for the time needed to replenish yourself. The where is as individual as each of us are, but the need to find this and gift it to ourselves is universal. Have you found your little peace of ‘heaven’ here on earth that nourishes you? If not, what are you waiting for….because you know it’s waiting for you.
When we are being who we truly are, our days flow, our time is spent doing things that call to our hearts. We're allowed to use our gifts in ways that are meaningful to us, and hopefully helpful to others. There is joy in what we're working on and creating, and I saw a great quote on facebook the other day that said when we are working hard on something that we don't care about, it's called stress. When we are working hard on something that we do care about it's called passion. Loved that explanation!
So I have been working harder of late, but it's all be on what I am passionate about. My most recent project was to finish a song I'd been working on to hopefully continue to play a role in raising the awareness of our missing and murdered women, men and children. I think when you find something that calls to your heart, you can find ways to make a little difference from wherever you are. I am hoping that this will do that.
In the midst of it all, I'm continuing to learn, and grow and expand my own knowledge, and that is such a marvelous feeling. To know that at whatever stage of life we're at we can continue to grow and develop skills that allow us to be more effective at whatever it is we're hoping to achieve on this journey. Live. Love. Learn. Laugh. That's this weeks message to myself, and anyone who takes the time to read this. Never stop doing any of them, and if in doing so you have the chance to make a small difference in the world. Then do it..we're all in this together, it's time we remembered that
So to close, here's the video I worked on and put out into the world this week. Quality is home grown, and hopefully down the road there will be a better version, but for now, it's the message I want to share. It's not about perfection. It's about just doing our best as it currently is. Thanks for letting me share.
It's been a sad several weeks around our house. While we were away in Boston in early November, our 2 year old Golden retriever, Duke, took off from our daughter's house with her dog. We haven't seen either of them since, and there's something missing when you step outside and he's not there to bounce all over the place in greeting. Nothing makes you feel more loved and appreciated than a dog I don't think...even though there are lots of times that love and appreciation can drive you a little crazy. You still know, that while you're in their view at least, there is nothing in their world more important than you. In this highly technical, digitally connected world, you often don't get that sense of absolute presence from the people in your life. With your dog you always, absolutely do.
I don't think we could have done much more to look from him, short of catching a plane home the day he disappeared, and that didn't make much sense. We've advertised in papers, facebook, on the radio. We've put countless posters up over a span of 40 miles, and followed several leads in all afternoon drive-a-thons that didn't result in finding him. The worst part is the not knowing. The wondering if he wandered into the wrong yard and was shot by someone who doesn't approve of strays. Was he caught in a trap somewhere, as there are reports that there are several laid in the area, with people trying to bring down the coyote population. Was he hit? Was he stolen? Or our favorite, did he just find himself in the yard of someone who saw his beautiful, joyous spirit bounding through those fluid eyes of his. It's the questions that drive you craziest, and hurt the most.
But as much as I love my pets, and I know how we all love our pets, one thing really put it all into perspective for me. While driving around putting up signs in the area near where he went missing, I went into the store at Dakota Tipi, just south of Portage la Prairie. They were good enough to listen to my sad tale, and let me post a picture of Duke. Those inside said they'd keep an eye open and spread the word...but as I left the store I looked directly at the giant billboard outside, asking for information on the missing Jennifer Catcheway.
Needless to say it stopped me in my tracks, and put my heartache into perspective. I had met Jennifer's Mom Bernice just a few weeks earlier, when she'd pulled into my daughter's yard to ask permission to search along the river bank of her property, as that had never yet been checked. Five and a half years after her daughter's disappearance, her parents still continue to look for signs and traces of what may have happened to their daughter.
A few short months after Jennifer, Amber McFarland also went missing from Portage. To date, the mysteries of both of their disappearances remain unsolved.
I've lost a child myself. I know that pain, that hole that remains in your heart no matter what you try to fill it with. The void in your family that can never be filled by another. Part of the circle is broken, and cannot fully be repaired. But with my loss, I had the opportunity to say good-bye and honor the life of the one we loved. I was there at his passing, and although there remain questions as to what happened, there is also peace. However, even with that experience of loss, I can not fathom what their families continue to live with. All the unanswered questions. The inability so lay their child to rest, to say a proper good-bye. The never knowing. I can't imagine, and my heart breaks for them.
It's been a lingering thought for me over the past several weeks. Amidst that has been the disappearance of Colten Pratt in Winnipeg, the Grandson of a friend of mine. Another missing person, among so many missing people both in Manitoba and across Canada. And there are so many more questions than answers.
Something that I've found rather alarming over the discoveries of the past several weeks also sits in my heart, asking to be answered. Social media is such and incredibly powerful tool, and we know the good it can do when used for so many projects and purposes. One of the pages I have followed for some time, and have used a lot more lately while looking for Duke, is the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert. It has been an incredible network of people across the province, posting, forwarding and assisting me and countless others to find our lost pets. There are currently over 25,000 people on the network, and I appreciate them all so much.
What is troubling to me is that I also follow another page called Missing Manitoba Women that connects with the local RCMP and police services to post and publish when people in Manitoba go missing and to report when they are found. They continue to be a voice for the over 100 people in the province that remain missing. It has a following of just slightly over 13,000.
The question that arises in my heart is why do we have almost twice as many people in the province watching out for our missing pets as we do watching out and sharing information about our missing persons? Then I suppose the next question that I've had to ask myself is...what am I going to do about it, and is there anything I can to to initiate more action in my circle of influence, in my community and in my province? And is there hope that that circle of influence can spread beyond our provincial border and across our country where over 1,000 remain missing or have unsolved murders?
I really hope so, and I hope I can convince my friends and family to join me. Somebody out there somewhere knows something. It takes so little time to click a share button on facebook so that a few more eyes are watching for those we love. The voices of those that are missing can not be heard...but each of ours can so that some of these families can find closure with the heartbreak that they live with. So that they can have their questions answered, and begin to heal. That is my hope for the season of love and giving of ourselves, and my intention for the upcoming New Year, and I hope you'll consider joining me. If you will, then please click here for the Missing Manitoba Women page. Like their page, share when someone is missing, and together lets work towards being part of the change.
It takes time and energy to become who we truly are! In life, so many things can get in the way of our figuring that out..but the time comes in each of our lives where we need to be able to do that if we're going to live happy fulfilling lives that are authentic reflections of our best selves. These are just things I've learned along the way. I hope that they might help you in your own journey into being Truly You!