One would be forgiven for wondering just what one is supposed to give thanks for in these disruptive and dislocated times. The Love of God, the companionship of Christ, the sustaining power of the living Spirit are present with us now, bringing blessing and assurance as we attempt to navigate the rapidly shifting waters our kayak, canoes, rafts and tubes bounce or drag through. Still, climate bubbles, droughts and floods; mass extinctions, viruses and demonstrations against powers and principalities; leaderless, adrift, upstream without a paddle, with waterfalls roaring ‘round the bend. Thankful?
I remember a similar conversation with an elder from Cowichan Tribes. Not long after I arrived in the valley, a group of us, having just learned a great deal more than we could truly incorporate about colonization, residential schools, past egregious harms and current racist policies, were wondering what to do now, with our federal government insisting on its right to control people through the ‘Indian Act’ while also insisting it had no responsibilities. No responsibility of family supports, of caring for and providing equal educational opportunities for children, denying even safe drinking water, let alone adequate housing and income opportunities. Taking and benefiting from the wealth of a land still not conceded by its original inhabitants, giving it to donors who ensure their ascendancy at the polls. How could we do anything about that? We were in despair.
The elder we were speaking with agreed.
“You can’t change Ottawa,” he said, “Ottawa won’t change until they see that everyone else has. Change has to start here.” We began talking and trying out different ways to build community among us. To remove barriers and shape understanding. A path we continue to walk.
That, I believe, is something to be thankful for. We can walk paths here. We can link our craft and somehow navigate rising and falling waters. We can share in God’s abundance, building an equitable, relational, care-filled community based in God’s call to Love. We have everything we need, all the gifts of creation are present within us and around us. We need but to realize we are in the same canoe, as one elder taught students at Cow-Hi. Realize who we are and whose we are and begin to paddle in the same direction, at the same time.
Let us then, be thankful. In God we are the vessel, sharing gifts and blessing. In God, we are enough.
Keith Simmonds is in ministry at Duncan United Church, where folk are engaged in seeking justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with the Creator. He blogs at faithfulwitness.xyz
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* This article was publsihed in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, October 8th 2021