I’ve been talking about my work in the community for many many years. Some people say talk is cheap. Some people hear my words and find them hard to believe. I’d ask those people who are amazed at the fact that Meet Me at the Bell Tower has met every Friday for the last seven plus years to pay more attention to my example than my words. Many are also amazed that the Bear Clan Patrol engages volunteers five days a week, twice on Fridays and Saturdays and operates across five provinces in over twenty communities! Got Bannock? celebrated this past January their fifth birthday, diligently providing food to our relatives on the street experiencing homelessness. The helpers and leaders in the village in Winnipeg are motivated. We are motivated to use every tool and resource available to us to help those around us. We are committed, we are working as hard as we can, we are disciplined in our service to our relatives.
To us, discipline is love.
When I think of how Indigenous youth are so over represented yet underserved by systems with workers that are paid to care for them, I get frustrated. Frustrated because First Nations, Metis and Inuit young people need to know that there are people out there fighting for them everyday as volunteers. We’re not getting paid for much of this work, and I want Indigenous youth to know that. Our discipline and commitment to serve our community are acts of love. Feeding our relatives, patrolling these streets and building community on a voluntary basis for as many years as we have been are all acts of love.
For me, personally this has meant sacrificing time and energy I could devote to my personal live and instead advancing the work of my community and the village. It has meant many early mornings, many late nights, many secret/thankless tasks that many don’t even know have been completed. It means crying years of joy and sadness as I walk with amazing young people on our society. It’s difficult to prioritize self care and self love but if I really love the village, I have to love myself too. I need to make time to rest, work out, say no, watch Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, play tetris and simply sit in the sun or lay on the grass. In this way I am also taking care of the village and honouring my place within it.
If you’re worried about justice or reconciliation in this country right now, I want you to heed our example. Help because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re getting paid to do it. Help because you believe in justice, not because its popular right now. And who knows, maybe there will be employment someday for you as a helper, but we can’t get it twisted: even those who end up getting paid to be helpers still undertake a lot of supporting our young people and relatives off the clock, unnoticed by their employer but literally these actions save lives. Show us you care with your actions and your body.
Talk is cheap, but discipline is love.