Monday, May 11, 2015
We Were So Far Away—Carolyn R. Wilker
On April 7th, I received a message from Kairos, an ecumenical organization dedicated to social justice, from whom I get occasional email updates. The email told me that the formal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process is coming to a close in Ottawa from May 31 to June 3, 2015. The celebration is to be a legacy for aboriginal and Inuit children who were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools.
I had not known that Inuit children were also involved, but I knew that aboriginal children had been. Children's author Jennifer Maruno addresses the residential school issues in her book Totem, and how some children ran away to go back home. That hurtful initial step of placing the children in the residential schools, and all that followed, goes deep in aboriginal history.
The Heart Garden
Kairos invited individuals and churches across Canada to plant ‘heart gardens’ and send one to Ottawa for the special ceremony. Kairos intends TRC and the garden as a healing action.
As Christians, we are not separated from issues around us. Rather it is our faith that calls us to be aware of injustice in our world—to show that we care. The title of one set of resources* spoke to me particularly and I chose its title for my post today. That’s also where I found this quote:
“We were far away from home, very far away; emotionally, geographically and spiritually.”
I felt this project was something even our small Sunday School group could do. We set aside two Sunday mornings—one to decorate the hearts, and the second, to ‘plant’ them into our church garden. Even if we cannot be in Ottawa in person, working on the project is a way to talk about what happened and show love.
The first Sunday was Mother’s Day, and because families were away celebrating the day, those children who usually attend were not present. I laid out markers and pencil crayons on the tables at coffee hour and passed out the hearts to the adults, along with an information sheet about the project.
One parishioner named Marion said, “There are no children here today, so you’re enlisiting us.” She grinned.
“Colouring is not just for the children,” I said.
Marion went on, “We’re in our second childhood anyway,” and she laughed and took a heart to colour.
Members made decorative lines and patterns on their heart and others watched and engaged in conversation while they drank their coffee or tea. People read the information and passed it along. Even if only a few decorated hearts, they all learned what the project was about.
I invited others to take home a heart, colour it, and bring it back next week for our garden, and I hope that the children can still make one before the planting. This week, I will select one heart and mail it to Ottawa.
At the reconciliation gathering, Kairos has planned for children of that region to carry hearts in the final ceremony. Even if members of our church do not attend, we will be represented along with other churches across the country.
We will attach the heart flowers to wooden stakes that teachers and children will plant in our church garden beds on the second last Sunday of May. In the act, we will remember that some acts cannot be undone, but we can show empathy for others and strive to do to one another what we want people to do for us.
Note: if you plan to be in Ottawa for the Reconciliation Kairos ceremony or just want to follow the event, you can go here. If you want to build your own heart garden, go here.
* from Legacy of Hope Foundation, Aboriginal Healing Foundation and Library and Archives Canada)
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