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WALK WITH ME

When I was a young girl, 12, I think, I found myself having a smoke with a few cousins. I remember getting caught by one of my aunts who told me she was going to report me to the authorities.

The authority was my grandmother.

Long story short, by the time I hightailed it back home my grandmother had found out I was smoking, and I got into trouble. I was banned from hanging out with the older girls for a few days and didn’t see anything farther than the end of the driveway.

I’m going somewhere with this so walk with me for a few more paragraphs.

It was a different time when I was growing up. We had party lines as a teenager, so you had to wait your turn, wait for the ladies and one particular man to wrap up their stories before you could call your friend, or you walked up the road to visit a friend.

We weren’t stuck on computer games. My apologies, we had ATARI but we only “gamed” for an hour every other day because we chose to do things outside.

Our community leaders took busloads of community members, young and old, to different places and events every month. I call them the good ole days because we were a community within a community.

Sometimes the local school bus would take us to the Port Hawks public pool, drop us off at the circus behind the old Woolco/Walmart, take us to roller skate to the music at Wheelies, and many times we were dropped off at Ben Eoin to ski from the time it opened to the time it closed.

I was never afraid or scared to be at any of these places because there was always a friendly familiar face at all the events we attended. I would always see or run into cousins, aunties, uncles, parents, and grandparents, my own and my friends’.

If I did get into trouble someone was always there to protect and provide. When I say trouble, I don’t mean your mainstream “bad kid” trouble, I mean, if I was short money for something to drink, someone provided.

If I needed my ski fixed on the hill after flying off a path, someone I knew from the community stopped to help. If I fell while roller skating someone rolled behind me to catch me until I got the hang of it. Mind you, I couldn’t roller skate like that cool guy who used to skate on the walls, but there was always someone to help and encourage me to face my own fears and insecurities.

In the summers I was at the beach from morning to dusk, peddling my bike along the gravel roads with a few of my best friends, aka cousins. We would pack a small lunch; towel and I would usually have a book from the mobile bus that came to our community.

We stayed at that beach for months, learning how to swim through the Red Cross program and we caught copious amounts of ‘rays’ of sun. I don’t ever remember using sun block and I don’t ever remember having a sunburn, our skin just adapted to the light. That beach was always packed with community members.

In the winters my family and friends would lace up and skate on the lake. It froze fast and thick and was filled with people from around Potlotek. The lake was located at the bottom of the hill from my grandmother’s place, so it took only minutes to get there but hours to walk back up. The walk back felt like forever because my feet would be frozen and body sore and cold from skating for hours. But that didn’t deter me from returning every day.

I can still remember my grandparents lacing up their weapons (aka skates) and skating circles around me. I called their skates weapons because the blades were sharp and long and didn’t have a toe pick for stopping, like my skates did. My grandparents were wonderful skaters, both would start at one end of the lake and fly like the wind, I never once saw them fall or tumble.

The only time I saw my grandmother laying on the ice was when she showed us how to successfully escape a thin layer of ice, a lesson for us newbies about spreading your weight to get to shore if required.

My grandparents skied, skated, and snowmobiled. It was a different time in the winter months. Doing the math now, I realize that my grandparents were still pretty young, but I thought back then that they were ancient. My grandparents would have been fifty-four and fifty-five when I was fourteen and they had more energy than I did, and they still do.

The past week of weather reminded me both of what my grandparents did in their fifties and what we today complain about in our twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. I never heard my grandparents complain about the weather, they just dealt with it, helped others, and then proceeded to have fun after the work was finished.

Us kids made snow forts and almost died from suffocation from snow forts collapsing on us, but in hindsight my grandparents were always there to rescue me or my cousin, Chin. If it wasn’t for them, I would have probably died many times. Their “lessons” live with me today because they saved me in so many ways. It was hard to see the lessons while growing up, but I am thankful that I grew up in my community of Potlotek.

Back to the lesson and what I’m talking about if you can’t read between the lines. I got caught smoking and was reported to the ‘authorities’ in an immediate and timely fashion and this stopped me from smoking for many years.

My grandparents and others were out doing things that made them physically strong, which allowed them to help themselves and others without complaining. Our community took care of each other. We helped one another without requiring praise or payment because it was just the right thing to do. My grandparents are no longer are able to physically endure that kind of work, so we step up and help each other out.

My generation of cousins who lived on reserve are all hard working, physically able, kind and compassionate people who help one another. We are that way because our community taught us to be that way.

This week, the people I saw out shoveling and helping were my age, not my kid’s age, but in their forties and fifties. Yes, I saw a few young people out and I congratulate them for helping, I encourage them to never lose that ambition to help others because it is a quality people seem to be lacking. Instead, we are too focused on the noise around us about whose fault it is, an exercise of divide and conquer.

We have moved away from that community spirit. I’m not going to lie; it made me a little bit sad and a little annoyed to see the selfishness that consumed the keyboard warriors on social media.

But the storm also reminded me to see people for who they are. It reminded me of how many beautiful people are out there. It reminded me that there is more good than bad, that I surround myself with good people.

As you read this, written on Tuesday, we will have been hit with more wastow/snow. I hope that your community spirit outweighs your ‘all about me and my pocket’ mentality. I hope your need to bark about everything that went wrong is replaced with the need to lift a shovel for someone in need or to call on a neighbour to talk about the positive things instead of the negative.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who ‘community upped’ and took care of one another. We are stronger when we take care of one another and become a real village.

Lately a lot of people want to be L’nu, so if that’s you and you’ve found comfort in our ways, your first lesson is taking care of one another because that’s how we L’nu survived. Leave the politics at the curb to be plowed up the road.

 

 

 

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