Being inspired by others links me to my community and lets me know I’m not alone. Bea Shawanda inspires me. Bea is an Indigenous elder and speaker. Last night she was speaking about what Truth and Reconciliation means to her. “Truth and Reconciliation” has a specific meaning in Canada – it refers to the effort that is going on throughout the country to open up truthful conversation among indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians in order to reconcile the past and the present. The hope of many is that through these conversations we can learn from one another and rebuild our community, together.
Bea talked a little about her experience in Residential School, focusing mainly on how it informed her life since that time. She doesn’t see herself as a survivor, but as someone who has taken what she was given and made the best she could out of it. He talk was filled with stories and anecdotes that everyone in the audience – indigenous and non, young and old, man and woman – could relate to at a personal level.
She enmphasized, more than once, that the “truth” in Truth and Reconciliation meant being open and vulnerable; that both sides have learned to hide behind walls of politeness or authority up to now; and that the only way to truly reconcile and move forward was to come with a willingness to be open and possibly to be hurt.
She spoke of one result of her early life experience – her knowing that holding resentments doesn’t do any good. She doesn’t hold resentments and is very willing to forgive and begin fresh. She develped an iron will that helped her stay on track all her life and gives her the backbone and patience to stay with the process.
She never lost hope that her live matters and has meaning. Viktor Frankl wrote about how necessary it is for us to have meaning in our lives. To quote him, The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.
Bea Shawanda epitomises this for me, and I thank her for being her and carrying her message to me and many others.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .