Seems I always find time to write when I’m either in the lab waiting to give blood, or if I’m at the hospital waiting for an appointment. These little gifts of time are kinda nice - although I’m sure in my fast moving past I didn’t recognize the gift of time that was provided by simply waiting in a lobby.
But that’s not the purpose of this post, it’s simply the observation that comes when your mind is open.
And today my mind was opened yet again, this time by Mike Downie. He was visiting Amanda’s school to tell the story of how he and Gord and an ever growing group of impassioned people started a movement around reconciliation and Residential Schools. What started as an idea proposed at a lunch between two brothers has turned in to a life long project for Mike (he doesn’t say this, but he did say that once you see something or know something you can’t unknow it, sooo this is but an extrapolation).
I won’t go into too much detail on his presentation but suffice to say I was impressed by his storytelling skills, his emotion and his passion. And his family. Really really impressed by his creative compassionate family. I could follow this thought as a post quite easily as well, but am going to stick to my original thought…
Not knowing what to expect from the morning Tracey, Amanda and I drove to school to hear from Mike.
For those have been following the blog for a while you will know that Gord’s journey has forever become entwined with mine. I’ve actually written two posts along the way - feel free to go on a sojourn with them prior to reading this post if you already haven’t done it.
FULLY COMPLETELY - written August 2016
COURAGE - written October 2017
When I listened to Mike I kinda had a few channels open in my mind. I was curious to learn more about Chanie Wenjack and the story he and Gord were sharing with the auditorium and a country, I was leaning in closely when he was telling the origin story of their poems, songs, books, concert moments, prayers and other steps along the creative process, but I was most enlightened by Mike’s shared perspective of his journey with Gord and his cancer.
It was yet another reminder that I am in this with others, that what is happening to me is happening to those around me, and that my journey of sharing my stories can in some small way be helpful.
When Mike, Gord and others went up to Northern Ontario to meet Chanie’s family they shared a circle, they held hands, prayed and sang. Mike shares that this was a moment where he truly felt the weight of what was happening around him. His journey of learning from Pearl (Chanie’s sister that wanted Chanie’s story to be told) was impactful but what I got the sense from Mikes story is that he finally stopped long enough to feel what was happening to his little brother. And that made him weep. Actually it made me weep in the auditorium, it was one of three emotional moments for me that day.
The idea of just stopping, holding hands with loving people, sharing and being vulnerable allowed him to shed some of the emotional angst that had built up inside him. And that was good.
And the element of the presentation that really resonated with me was that the Downie family had held back sharing that Gord had terminal brain cancer, but when they made it public they found the collective grief, vulnerability, giving and sharing was helpful.
Mike shared this with Pearl and it helped her and her sisters feel good about sharing Chanie’s story. I believe the quote from Mike was “Sharing a difficult story doesn’t make it easier. But maybe it makes it better’.
I believe my purpose for attending today was to remind me that my blog posts, my Jimbits with Dave, my speeches and my ongoing coffee meetings are making things better. Oh and if you don’t know what I mean by Jimbits, well, first of all I’m sorry for this link, but learn more here - JIMBITS.
At the end of the day I know I am driven by purpose. Well, french fries and ice cream drive me and give me purpose, but doing things to make a better place around me, well, that just feels right and it drives me to be better each and every day. And today I was reminded that giving just feels good. And that’s all we need to face another day.
PS Mike if somehow you find yourself reading this I just want to say thank you for sharing, thank you for what you are doing but most of all thanks for making each day better. Your little brother would be proud.
PPS If you feel like you are interested in learning more about the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund that was co-founded by Mike Downie please go to https://www.downiewenjack.ca/