Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ubuntu is Here

My purse is heavy. So is my heart.

It's Mr. Awesome's day off. This usually means a day spent wondering our city, sipping lattes and dreaming of and planning for our future. We usually end up at The Forks on days like this. With that in mind, I put on my turquoise pendant that he bought for me in South Dakota last summer. I slide on a few of my favourite beaded bracelets, one made by mothers in Kenya working to care for their families, another purchased to support clean water on Reserves here in Canada and one more that reminds me to love and serve. I slip into my soft suede moccasins, hand stitched by a tribe intent on staying connected to the old ways. I do all this with intention because I know the path we will walk today and I know the weight in my heart and in my purse.

I've been on a journey of a million miles. Some of these miles I have walked with my feet but most of the miles I have walked with my heart. I am trying to understand the unfathomable. I am trying to hear the stories of those who are long dead. I am trying to bear witness to the suffering that is a combination of screams and echoes. I am trying to listen. I am trying to learn.

I was raised in hope. In doing better and having more. In leaving what was and pursuing what could be. I was raised in love and faith and anticipation. I was raised in letting go of the past. In letting go. In letting go.

And yet, here I am digging up a past that is not mine but yet is so personal.

I've learned the word Ubuntu and now I see it, feel it, everywhere. All of The Things are connected. This is because of that and that is a result of this and this is possible because of that. My mind is racing. My heart is full. My truth is broken.

All the things I thought I knew are in question. What I was taught, what I thought, what I reasoned out is all just off the mark. There is something missing in my well thought out equation.

Ah, yes. It's Ubuntu.

My heart is heavy because Residential Schools, because rape on university campuses, because 89 boil water advisories on reserves, because refugees drowning in the sea, because murdered and missing women, because travellers blown up in airports, because millions of orphans, because genocide, because honour killings, because human trafficking, because hate filled churches and fear based politics, because the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia, because racism, sexism, ageism, because homophobia, because suicide.

Because my shoes, my pendant, my bracelets. Because my heritage. Because I am connected to all of this. Because Ubuntu. Because my purse is heavy.

Oh that, my purse. It's heavy because I am carrying 98 suicide notes just now. Not mine. Yet, all mine. I didn't write them yet I feel them. I recognize the words of pain, fear, exhaustion and isolation but these notes are not significant because of those words. These notes are significant because they are here. With me. They are not haunting a grieving parent. They are not echoing the pain of a hurt community. They are not the final words of a broken heart. They are not evidence of a life lost too soon, too tragically.

They are hope.
They are surrender.
They are the semi colon.
Thankfully, not a period.

These notes were given to my friend as he has travelled across Canada, spreading his message of hope and strength. These notes are the evidence of promises made. Promises to stop, to look up, to choose life. Promises to live just for today. Promises to make today count. They are Ubuntu.

As I compare the weight in my heart to the weight in my purse I know that hope can win. I know that because of Ubuntu we can live. I know that our suffering can also be our healing. If we share. If we talk, If we listen. If we bear witness, hold space and engage with compassion. If we remove 'us' and 'them' and become Ubuntu hope can win. I've seen it. I feel it.

I stand at The Forks, where the rivers meet. I place my hand on the monument to the missing and murdered indigenous women. I touch Ubuntu. I look down at my moccasins and I see Ubuntu. I shift my heavy purse on my shoulder and I feel Ubuntu. I smell the scent of the green grass and the flowers and the trees mix with the indescribable scent of the river and I know Ubuntu is here.

Life is here.
Community is here.
Hope is here.

Ubuntu - term roughly translating to "human kindness." It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally "human-ness", and is often translated as "humanity towards others", but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity"