“Where there is no vision (revelation; outlook, purpose), the people cast off restraint (perish; lose hope and meaning)…”
If I were to sum up in a short sentence what has happened to our First Nations’ people, I would say they have lost hope. We came. We robbed them blind. In essence, we stole their hope and purpose, and left them displaced. We can say what we want about them not helping themselves, but if we don’t first do the right thing and walk with them, share our bread with them, and thus restore their dignity, we are as guilty as our forefathers.
These past few weeks I’ve had numerous conversations with various individuals, regarding the upcoming election, and what should ‘drive’ the vote, of a Christian… if they should vote at all. There are mixed views on that last part, from the most conservative to the most liberal of Christians. To me it seems a responsible thing to do, and doesn’t collide with my faith, so I vote. But I also understand those who don’t, and respect that. It’s a personal decision. At least for now, since the government has not made it mandatory, and the Bible doesn’t say we should not. Of course we’ve declared our opinions loudly on the matter, but with no believable grounds, in my opinion.
One message I keep hearing at every turn, is to vote for a leader who will fight for the poor, for the homeless, the Aboriginal people and others less fortunate. This message appeals to my compassion, and my desire to fight for the underdog, which in my case is the roughly 6 million sex abuse victims in our country. (Numbers based on 1 in 4 females, and 1 in 6 males, in a population of roughly 35.5 million, and presuming approximately 50% are male, and the other 50% are female, and accounting only for reported cases.)
In his Maclean article, A Real Nation Would Not Let This Happen, Scott Gilmore exposes some of the deep neglect to Canadian Aboriginal people, stating, “We care more about postal service, child care and tax credits for the suburban middle class than we do Aboriginal issues. What kind of a nation are we?” He goes on to say that the Party Leaders have run across Canada handing out money to ‘you, you and you’ appealing to the middle class for votes. It’s true. They have. And we fall for it, licking up empty promises like starved puppies, as if our lives depend on it, rather than looking out for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters–yes, that is exactly what they are–and fighting for them.
If I don’t think below the surface, this ‘tossing money to the poor’ appeals strongly to my compassion, and, if I’m perfectly honest, it eases my own conscience. But there is a bigger picture to consider, both politically and personally. To find a generous-hearted leader who will throw money where the need is greatest, without any sort of relationship-based help, is a noose around the neck of our country and the recipients. The same principals that apply in running a business or a farm–which really is a business but possibly one of the better examples in this case–apply to running a nation. Responsibly managing finances, while giving generously and purposefully, maximizes the impact and guarantees sustainable growth and giving. A farmer who gives away so much seed that he has nothing or little left to plant, will give less and less every year and eventually lose his business. And the farmer who gives the neighbour eggs every week, out of kindness, rather than giving the neighbour a chicken and teaching him how to care for it, acquires more dependents rather than empowering the neighbour to also be self-sustaining and generous. And if the farmer’s chickens die, there’s nothing left. But if he has taught the neighbour well, then when his chickens get sick and die, guess who just might be able to offer eggs, and probably a new hen, to the farmer? A simple example, but that is responsible giving.
By the same token, a country that is not managed in a fiscally responsible way will eventually be in no position to give, so it makes sense for a leader to invest where he or she sees potential for returns. It isn’t that a nation should not give, but rather it is how the nation gives that will make all the difference.
Because compassion appeals to my heart, Gilmore’s article moves me; it really does. And, while throwing compassion money to Aboriginals, homeless and other destitute and needy may ease the nation’s conscience–and mine as well–it will not and cannot change our country, or have a longterm positive impact on the condition of things. Much less can it make Canada a real nation. Because a ‘real nation’ is about relationship, not dropping money from the sky. A real nation is made up of real people who walk in and do life with the needy, teaching and working alongside them, laughing and crying together, hugging and loving… And to drop money from a distance may be the greatest insult and disservice ever done.
And this brings me to my final question. Whose responsibility is it to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and help those destitute and in need? Is it not scriptural for the people representing Christ to give to the poor and needy? And, more than that, to live among them, with love? Is it not our calling to bring Jesus to the most destitute and, in the eyes of society, the lowliest… even those we deem undeserving? And to bring Jesus is to be practically available and present, fishing with them, and teaching them to fish, so to speak.
What about a relationship-based commitment to helping the Aboriginals, with much patience and without trying to clone ourselves in them, imposing our religious cultural norms on them? What about accepting them where they are at, but not being willing to leave them there in their suffering? What about believing in them, and showing them that they are worth more, that they can choose better way, and we are willing to walk with them on that way?
The inner curses that people have to push past, having been oppressed and abused, are not a small thing. I have not suffered the half of what they have been through, and yet I spent years haunted by the lifelessness of past abuse and oppression; demons that rarely haunt any more, but kept me trapped for years. For them to push beyond such a thing requires unbelievable resilience, of this I am certain. And therefore to bring change requires patience and encouragement, with gentle persistence.
So, yes, Mr. Gilmore, a ‘real nation’ might not let this happen, if each person invested him or herself 100%. But it didn’t happen overnight, and it will not be resolved overnight. It will take hard work on both sides of this equation for change to become real and visible. What are you doing to change this… and what am I doing… besides writing? And what are we doing, collectively, to reach out to the most vulnerable in our nation? What passion can we stir, that we are willing to lead, to make a difference, rather that remaining comfortably critical.
In the past I volunteered at our local Federal prison for several years, teaching classes and interacting with inmates, and during my time there I met many Aboriginals. I loved my time with them, and did research into the history of abuse of these fellow Canadians. That awareness has never for a moment disappeared from my memory. And always when I hear of them, it seems I should be able to do something, yet always I move on with my life. And maybe that’s what we all do; even the government, and that is how even a ‘real nation’ allows this to happen; one individual who looks the other way at a time, or talks and does nothing, or expects the government to do it all, not willing to be ‘that one’ who acts. The reality is that we, the people, need to rise up and invest ourselves and our lives to make a difference, and certainly we can appeal to the government on behalf of the Aboriginal people, but not without relationship. They are worthy of more than that.
My commitment is this: To dream, and brainstorm, pray and contemplate… and then to act on those dreams and prayers at the right time.
I want to be that one, no matter which vulnerable people I am given the opportunity to reach. I want to be the one to make a difference, rather than simply talk….
~ T ~
Note: Between 2 Gods is on sale (Kindle) for only $3.81 right now in USA, and it is on for $4.99 in Canada. Amazon controls pricing–not my publisher–so I have no idea how long it will be on at this price.