Today is Orange Shirt Day.
It’s one of those events that is too big for a single day to truly contain it. Like Earth Day… or Pink Shirt Day… I mean, obviously, we should tend the planet every day. We should practice kindness and resist bullying every day. We should honour the survivors of the residential school policy that played out in this country for 150 years, and acknowledge the history between us, every day.
But, as I realised, the other day, staring into the ditch by my house at the growing garbage that has been tossed out of car windows, I have made a practice for myself each Earth Day of intentionally tending the verge, armed with gloves and plastic bags. I can love the earth every day and look for ways to demonstrate that… but the annual personal practice, which comes around surprisingly fast (thanks for that, middle age), feels like a specific kind of dedication.
So, I testify today to the importance of offering a specific kind of dedication, en masse, across the country to honour Indigenous people, to honour the pain they have suffered at the hands of our nation, our system, our government, our police and teachers and social workers, to acknowledge what they have lost and what they have carried. To acknowledge that the children were targeted. To acknowledge that, if we feel into this, it is utterly horrific. And yet, here we stand, as a community, sharing gathering spaces, restaurant tables, classrooms, interactions, moments, love… Here we are, dreaming of something better.
I never really know what to write on Orange Shirt Day, because I get so stalled out thinking about someone coming into my home and taking my son away from me, and laying all the power of the state over me, so I cannot do anything to retrieve him, to protect him, and sending him back speaking another language, scarred and terrified and no longer able to trust that I will do everything in my power to keep him safe… that I’m frankly amazed that anyone who endured this long dark history of residential schools, survived. That was the point, wasn’t it. The point, if we are honest about this policy, was that no one would survive. That the culture would be eradicated. That loss belongs to all of us. We are all so much less, for what was attempted, and for what would have been lost to the world if it had been successful – these beautiful values and truths and wisdoms and practices and humans.
But my deep deep hope is that we can all be so much more, if we attempt to open ourselves to this. And open ourselves to “the holy pause” – the one infinitesimally small moment when change is actually possible, that thin slice of time and space between stimulus and reaction, in which we can pause, and allow something greater than pain, than our smallest fears, something as vast as love to surge in.
On this day, and all other days, may we acknowledge what has been done, and out of that hard work, may we hold this holy pause, and lean on each other to continue to transform our world.