World War Three

By: Allan Smith-Reeve, March 2020

My dad remembers the Polio epidemic. While it was most virulent between 1949 and ‘54 before the Salk vaccine was developed, there was an outbreak in Toronto in 1937. 

He remembers being confined to his backyard for the summer with no playmate visits except his two siblings. His dad provided an expanded sandbox and made them a swing for their entertainment. 

A bit different for the kids today. Can they imagine no internet access, no television programming, no movies, no recorded music, not even a telephone? 

Lynn and I enjoyed an online zoom call with our seven “Storyteller Catalysts” yesterday. We shared “silver lining” stories about how we’re riding out the pandemic. 

Ralph wondered how folks are being forced to discover contentment, particularly while now being on their own in their various situations. He also appreciated companies who were assuring payroll for employees during the shutdown. 

Todd said the events had little impact on his routine. Living on social assistance, with very few social interactions besides our Wednesday Bridging Team get togethers (which he co-facilitates), he was continuing to live simply and slowly. 

He didn’t miss the shopping trips. He didn’t miss travelling. He didn’t miss restaurant or pub shutdowns. At times like these, Todd could coach us about a lifestyle in the slow lane. 

Likewise, Leigh Ann continues to homeschool her kids and care for an elderly father as per her usual routine. She’s keeping close tabs on those within her “pod” of germ-sharing (note new terminology for in-person social networks!). 

Greg noted how the whole world is now experiencing what we in the Bridges Out Of Poverty cult call the “Tyranny of the Moment” where we live day to day, hand to mouth, and are unable to make plans beyond the foreseeable horizon. 

“It’s like suddenly no one has a “future story” (Bridges terminology) Leigh Ann observes. 

Greg was celebrating how folks are, for the most part, joining into a spirit of cooperation, following the advice of Public Health experts and government officials. 

Kathi had a story to share about an abundance of new donations for her pet food bank. How, among her diverse network of folks, a man in Oshawa had a space he wanted to make available as another pet food bank. She was working with him to make it happen. To create a channel for these new streams of generosity.     

Laura wanted us to know how her landlord at the Mount Community Residence had let all the tenants know that “whatever you need, call the office here and we’ll make it happen.”. She said it was like getting a big warm hug. A much needed hug in the midst of the atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and negativity we all also noted we were struggling with. “That’s some social capital!” laughed Laura. The value – take it to heart if not the bank – of knowing you’re not alone. 

Tarin had her headset on and was juggling childcare as we spoke. Single-handed with her husband in the states on a  long haul trucking job (he also called during our chat) she was still not too busy to be out picking up groceries and meds for home-bound friends and neighbours. Her can-do attitude was contagious. (note choice of trigger word here) 

Lynn spoke of on-line grandparenting, helping to keep grandkids from squabbling, providing a listening ear to sobbing little ones, and offering creative ideas to keep their households occupied. The two village churches she serves had been receiving offers of help from neighbours. She noted how unusual it was to have help offered – even before the need was stated! 

Mike chimed in from his phone (no internet connection) about how he envisioned an army of young people organized to care for the elderly and vulnerable. “In war time” he said “we send our youth off to battle. Why not ask them to serve their country in this situation?” 

That vision inspired me to see how we are all, as Greg had noted, working together in this effort. It’s been said that to combat the Climate Crisis we need a global mobilization of citizens ready to serve and sacrifice as in a time of war. It seems to me that we’re now experiencing just that. 

Like never before individuals, and nations, are cooperating on a global scale to fight for a cause together. Unlike our last world war, there is no human enemy. All of humanity are being called to serve. 

Kat had another inspiring story for us from the Czech Republic where her mother-in-law has joined in this world saving effort with her crocheting hooks. Where she lives they have filters but no face masks to hold them. So, women and men are crocheting like crazy using a common design, to craft masks for the war effort! 

The genius of human beings is our ability to adapt. We have survived as a species because of this rare ability. The power of our imaginations to create new channels of connection, generosity, and care is unlimited. Let’s keep sharing and listening for new ideas – those silver linings of adaptability. 

For future stories about “Changing the conversation about poverty”….connect with us

Twitter follows welcomed: 

Bridges Peterborough @BridgesPtbo

Bedford House @BridgingTeams

Storyteller Catalysts @StorytellerCat1

Allan Smith-Reeve @AllanReeve


#BridgesPeterborough #PtboNeighboursNetwork #BedfordHouse #silverlinings  #ptbosilverlinings

Gift Economy

Gift Economy 

By Allan David Smith-Reeve January 21, 2020

She wondered “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?”. 

We were having breakfast with a friend of Bedford House. Catching up and pondering the future. 

This friend is an older person like us. Unlike us, she’s planned for her retirement years and has a sense of economic security for her future. She’s been led to now “invest” in her community instead of growing a bigger and bigger nest-egg for herself. 

She has arranged for pre-authorized monthly contributions to support the work of other Bedford House friends living with inadequately low-incomes. We pay a consultant’s fee to low- income participants for the teaching they provide us “over-resourced” Bridging Team members. 

As we ponder over eggs & coffee the question of “how do we get from here to there?” we remind ourselves of recent scientific studies about the wealth redistribution system of Beech forests. 

Lynn bought me “The Hidden Life of Trees” for Christmas. Peter Wohlleben reports his research, telling us a story about how a Beech forest will redistribute energy to the weaker, or less-able forest members – old and young – so that every leaf in the forest shows an equal ability to photosynthesize. This is accomplished by a complex underground system of roots and fungi that ensure each tree receives all it needs to grow into the best tree it can be. 

“a tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it” pg 17 

Forests replanted in rows of single species monoculture don’t have this ability. Only diverse eco-systems perform in this way. 

Our current economic belief story is challenged by these new discoveries. Darwin’s scientific observations of the last century – the survival-of-the-fittest hypothesis – has underscored an economic justification for might-is-right as “nature’s way”. With hubris we see ourselves as individual trees instead of simply leaves of a forest. 

Our forest kin have reminded us of another economy that folks used for thousands of years to sustain their villages. Taking care of old and young, differently-abled and diseased members of the eco-system reflects the naturally cooperative nature of our species. Somewhere we forgot how to do this naturally. 

How do we get from here to there? Can we begin to understand ourselves as leaves in a forest. Each of us photosynthesizing what we need – not only for ourselves – or even our own branches – but for the health of the whole eco-system/economy? 

What is the coinage of this new realm? 

My neighbour, after years of being sidelined from the economy by workplace injuries, has found a new purpose. He’s a talented bike mechanic. We share stories across balconies where he’s spied a retractable awning that I bought on sale and never installed. He’s also done work on my old bike and knows it needs an overhaul. He offers me a trade. A reconditioned bike for my awning he could use this summer to work outside under at Green City bikes. 

Instead of calculating dollars and dimes, we calculate the value of our neighbours’ quality of life. How might my abundance contribute to my neighbour’s well-being? How might my neighbour’s talents contribute to my well-being. 

How might we translate this kind of coinage systemically? Surely with our advanced communication systems where funds are redistributed at lightning speed, we can figure out how to redistribute abundance? Why haven’t we? 

Trees send energy impulses to one another at the speed of an inch every three seconds. A- thousand-and-one, a-thousand-and-two, a-thousand-and-three – is slower than any Tai Chi master might move. Perhaps our community redistribution

networks need to grow at the speed of relationships. 

Taking the time to create spaces where Hospitality, Curiosity, and Dignity nurture mutual relationships is what Bridging Teams are all about.

For more info see 

Poverty’s not the Problem

We’ve had an outbreak of a social dis-ease here in Peterborough.

Folks who could be my cousins or yours – are without shelter in this July climate crisis.

And as in any crisis, generous folks are responding to meet the immediate needs with tents, bottled water, and other necessities. 

But this social dis-ease has simply come to the surface with the closing of the Warming Room overnight shelter that usually keeps our cousins out of sight. The dis-ease however lurks much deeper within the bowels our society.

How is it in a G20 country of advanced technology, bureaucracies, and human rights legislations, that we can’t figure out how to trickle down enough wealth to meet the needs of our neighbours?

  1. We blame the victims.
  2. We blame the politicians who won’t raise taxes for fear of losing their seat for such an unpopular cause.
  3. We blame the system that’s overwhelmed with needs too many to sustain.

But what if we changed the conversation?

  • What if we chose to talk instead about our failure to redistribute wealth effectively?
  • What if the problem has very little to do with “the poor”?
  • What if the problem is actually those of us who enjoy privilege and wealth?

Talking about the problems of the poor is a great way to distract the conversation. From heart-warming success stories of those who’ve escaped poverty’s clutches to heart-breaking stories of those who are drowning in our midst while we shake our heads or throw them a leaky inner tube.

Let’s reframe the conversation to talk instead about me and mine, you and yours.

  1. Is there really a lack of resources? (let’s count wealth statistics instead of poverty stats)
  2. How much is enough wealth? (we know what the basic minimum income is – but what is the most that anyone needs? Is there such a thing as too much?)
  3. What harm does wealth create? (we know the social ills of poverty – what are the social ills of wealth?)
  4. Who deserves to be wealthy? (if the poor are undeserving – what are the merits that make greed acceptable?)
  5. Why is greed celebrated more than simple generosity? (cheating on our taxes is a socially acceptable sport – while choosing to be charitable is optional)

Help me out here will you? Send me your thoughts about the question above that most irks you. The stats you have. The reasons why you deserve the privileges you enjoy.

I’d love to have this conversation for a change. Let’s find a new diagnosis for our dis-ease.

Allan David Smith-Reeve

Celebrating Graduates at the Neighbour Network

Wednesday May 30th, 2019

We gathered for food, fun, and storytelling. The story of the day was about the graduation of a new batch of Getting Ahead investigators and mentors.

Pollinating agencies, churches, neighbours across Peterborough

Bedford House board members, reps from Greenwood and Trinity churches, and members of our pilot Bridging Team were in attendance to celebrate this new group of folks journeying onto the “bridge out of poverty”.

Five participants hosted the weekly study group at the Mount where they live. They were joined by a group of ten Mentors about a third of the way into the Getting Ahead study. This group is now ready to become a Bridging Team. 

The Getting Ahead study process involves sixteen sessions where participants engage in group discussions and self-reflection exercises. It offers a systemic view of poverty’s four causes (personal, social, corporate-exploitive, and political-policies). The study also grounds us in basic concepts such as – the 11 Essential Resources for a stable life – and the Hidden Rules of class.

Wednesday’s party involved the usual uproarious doses of laughter and heart-felt sentiments shared. The potluck table was overflowing and there was lots of time for meeting new friends. This gathering represents the first time folks from different teams have come together for the cross-fertilization of relationships.

It was an inauguration of what we’re calling the Neighbour Network.

Graduates were handed a certificate by facilitators Kat and Todd. These two led the study after experiencing the pilot Bridging Team in 2018 – and wanted to share the process with new folks.

“It’s contagious…” says Kat. “the sharing, the learning, the laughter, and the deepening of relationships – all as part of a global social movement to end poverty – you just want more!”

To find out more go to or email us at

To support the participation of under-resourced folks in Bridging Teams go to:

Text Box: Feedback comments from the grads:

What might you hope could happen for yourself – and others -in the long term as a result of this program?

* I hope to acquire some knowledge/skills to help me attain my goal in the wisest and simplest way. For others, I hope we all maintain the connection we have created.
* I hope this leads to sustained relationships between myself and some of the mentors. 
* I would like to become the new Todd and gain employment with the organization 😊

What were the most significant and/or valuable ideas and concepts 
you learned from the Getting Ahead Curriculum/Philosophy?

*Planning backwards! It really works to prevent defeatism- shows how easy each step actually is to accomplish. 
* The abstract/concrete dichotomy
* 11 resources
* I’m much more at ease socializing with people in other economic “classes”!

What would you tell someone who might be interested in this work? 

* Go into the program open minded. 
* It’s fun and important to think about how we live our lives. 
* I would say “go for it!” It will increase your self-esteem and your social capital.” 

Feedback comments from the mentors:

      What were the most significant and/or valuable ideas and concepts 
you learned from the Getting Ahead Curriculum/Philosophy?

* 11 essential resources-multidimensionality of life. Backwards planning. Case studies- insights into the complexity of the problems for people  
* The language we use is distinct in our own lives
* Assess current resource level. Establish goals. Foster improved resource levels. 
* Working backwards, social capital, in some cases, the systems are designed to hold people back.

What would you tell someone who might be interested in this work?

* It’s valuable work!
* Put your opinions on hold and open your minds to possibilities. 
* It’s mind-expanding and life-enriching!
* Do it! It’s an amazingly positive experience. If you are heart centered and want to feel part of something important – you will share in an amazing experience!

From Mentor to Ally

or… Working myself out of a Job

Allan David Smith-Reeve

January 2019

When I was first employed in the Poverty Business, an industry that employs tens of thousands of Canadians, I was told that it was my goal to work myself out of a job.

The idea was that if I was effective in my work, I would eliminate the need.

Eliminating Poverty however, I soon realized, would mean those tens of thousands of poverty workers would be unemployed. I had to wonder “Is it really in their best interests to solve the problem?”

To treat the root causes of poverty, instead of its symptoms, would unplug the great social-service machine that is fueled by people’s neediness. Addressing what causes that neediness is not in the interest of the wheels of government, or those at the levers of a labour market that benefit from keeping “the wolf at the door” of a workforce.

The Poverty Industry Machine continues to run – employing me – and so many others. Taxpayer’s dollars – not unlike the ten billion our government poured into GM to keep Canadians working – continue to feed this dinosaur-industry of another era.

What if those taxpayers became personally involved in creating an alternative to the poverty machine?

What if poverty’s “clients” became leaders instead in the growing of an organic model of shared prosperity?

What if people from all walks of life came together as neighbours to imagine how a local economy could fully employ every person in meeting needs currently unmet?

It is Citizens that could take this scenario from some academic dream theory into reality. It is ordinary people whose interests would be served.

Text Box: “Whatever the problem – community is the answer.”  Margaret Wheatley

If you ask “Who wants poverty?” you also need to ask “Who benefits from poverty?”

But if you ask “Who wants prosperity for everyone?” then we might also ask “In who’s interests would this make sense?”

In an upper room of a downtown Peterborough church there’s a small social experiment growing solutions – one relationship at a time.

Seeded by church and foundation dollars, started by church workers – based on an educational construct developed by academics – ordinary people are creating something that has the potential – if not to replace the poverty machine – to transform our relationship with it.

Peterborough’s Bridging Poverty Teams bring together under-resourced people living in poverty with volunteer mentors who have resources to share. On one level you might say it’s a system of resource re-distribution. But beneath that surface, there’s something much more radical happening.

Lynn and I were invited to join the Team for their pre-holyday seasonal lunch and celebration.  It’d been six months since we’d finished our work with the Team as the paid staff animators of the Team.

About 18 months earlier we’d invited this group of strangers into the experiment. What might happen if people from different walks of life came together weekly to share a meal, tell stories, have fun, study poverty and chip away at the work of stabilizing the lives of the under-resourced people in the team?

Key to the experiment was that the participants who were living in poverty were considered the lead problem-solvers. With staff support, they planned the sessions. They chose the curriculum. They evaluated the groups’ progress. And they determined the pace.

Staff offered both streams of participants training. Under-resourced folks in poverty were given tools of social analysis and critical awareness. Mentors were given lessons in asking questions instead of offering advice (Can you teach old dogs new tricks?) The Mentor training we called “From Mentor to Ally Training”.

Early in our research we attended a session at the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre. A young indigenous leader told us that no one can claim to be an Ally. “It’s a title that has to be given to you by those you seek to work with.” she explained. “No one can call themselves an Elder – the community names its elders.”

So we invite Mentors to join a journey of discovery – to learn from those who solve poverty’s problems every day of their lives. And to learn how ask good questions (before offering the good advice that’s worked for them – starting from a place of privilege).

Once the two training streams finish and the two groups come together, we spend a lot of time building trust and learning. Over food, stories, and fun we get to see into each others’ lives. It’s a slow process and patience is required. Mentors ask “when do we get to start “helping?”  (The need for patience is why seniors tend be our mentors).

Gradually through the trust-building we all begin to see how “change” is a product of relationship. And we see how all of us need help with the “change” we envision for ourselves and for our communities.

Over the nine months the group gradually begins taking on the various roles and responsibilities to keep the team going. Circles of Support are created to work with each under-resourced participants goals. Teams are created to look after the essentials of Hospitality, Learning, and Evaluating. Then the paid staff pull out.

And the team keeps meeting.

Staff continued to meet weekly in a parallel Internship program with three of the under-resourced Leaders. These three had chosen to become trained as Bridging Team facilitators. As part of their training they took on the leadership of the first group (supported by a Steering Cmte. of Mentors who conduct monthly evaluation and planning sessions).

So, when Lynn and I, as the staff who had started the experiment, were invited back to join the Team for their pre-holyday seasonal lunch and celebration – I couldn’t help but give them an evaluation task before the celebrations began… 

Text Box: Quotes from Bridging Team Members December 2018

The group was asked to each write down a sentence to complete this statement: “We are a group of people who….”

“Who believe People in poverty are problem-solvers.”

“Who Believe By building resources there is a way out of poverty.”

“Would love to help people get out of poverty and stabilize their lives”

“Who have grown together, removed “class” barriers, love and support each other!”

“We are a group of leaders, learning, sharing and spreading our wings, soaring to new heights.”

“We are a group of people who love community building, love meeting others who have different yet same in most ways histories.”

“Who believe social capital needs to be built and expanded”

“Have learned from and taught each other about our differences and our similarities – basically the same but unique.”

“We’re a group of people who became family and friends”

“Support one another in mutuality, mutual caring, sharing, learning, laughing, loving, and eating with each other.”

“We are a group of teachers and students.”

“A group that goes beyond a room and a meeting place. We are friends!”

“We are family.”

“Who believe people have unlimited talent that sometimes just needs to be set free.”

“Friends who meet often to eat each other’s delicious food and share our resources with one another.”

After more than three decades working in the poverty business – I’ve experienced something new.  For the first time – I felt like I’d worked myself out of a job.

For more information:

Describe Bridging Teams in one sentence: 
Todd John

Five individuals living in poverty in Peterborough (who’ve named themselves “the Awesome People”) journey with mentors towards a more stable life.

What is the goal of this project?

Bridging Teams address the 11 Essential Resources required to overcome Poverty’s Tyranny of day-to-day crises. By creating a social network of middle-class mentors, the Awesome people have expanded their resources and supports to deal with poverty’s complex challenges. 

What strategies does the project use?

Using the “Bridges Out of Poverty”[1]*  framework, two separate learning streams orient under-resourced Leaders and middle class Mentors.

Then, the five Awesome People and ten Mentors come together to meet weekly for three hours in a Bridging Team to cross cultural barriers, build community, and fight poverty.

Once the team has built trust and bonded, support circles for each of the Awesome people are formed. Two mentors were assigned to walk with each of the Awesome participants.

The Team was facilitated by staff for the first nine months of weekly meetings.

Describe the most positive aspects of the project and anything that you would do differently if you did it again.

By far the most positive aspect of the work was the success in creating a safe, non-judgmental, space for mutual learning among people from different socio-economic cultures (or classes).  Our focus on Team-building included three key elements:

  • Food: every session included a meal first provided by staff, then shifting to a pot-luck sharing.
  • Fun: The use of trust-building, adventure-based, activities created a common ground and bonded the team.
  • Storytelling: Midway evaluations scored storytelling from each participant as a highlight. Every person answered five interview questions. The group passed a talking stick reflecting on what they valued in each person’s story.

Each of the fifteen participants has created 18 new relationships including staff (15 x 18 = 270 new relationships).  This new social network has the potential of affecting the lives of every participant in significant ways. For the Awesome People, they now have positive relationships with retired teachers, lawyers, therapists, journalists, social workers, parenting experts, and clergy. In addition, they will benefit in all kinds of ways from a new access into the social networks of these new intentional friendships.

Here is a sample of what the Awesome participants had to say:

“…allowed me to find a career direction after many years of uncertainty. Now I can move toward a new goal”

“…wonderful sense of belonging”

“…feeling very good about myself and my life”

“…helped me see the strength in myself…more self-confidence with speaking in pubic, self-esteem, leadership roles, and having fun”

Mentors were challenged to learn (through training and extensive practice) how to become allies beyond their habitual desires to help/fix/advise:

“…greater awareness of real-life challenges of people in poverty”

“…the possibility of a world where everyone is heard, everyone is part of what we’re creating, and no one is left out”

“…one of the best processes I’ve ever encountered for building solidarity across economic class”

“I am less judgmental, and I am in awe of how resourceful these awesome people are.”

“…helped me build deep connections and trust relationships across class lines”

“Bedford House is uniquely suited as a catalyst to engage, train, and equip diverse groups of people.”

What has made this project a success?

Community support for this slow, costly process has been outstanding. The Awesome participant’s dedication and energy drives us forward to believe “Whatever the problem – Community is the answer.” 

Grassy Narrows

The weeping place is where I go when I lose my way.

In deepest sorrow shared there comes a knowing – that there is a greater deeper wider timeless power that holds all suffering within its breadth and depth and is not diminished.

The suffering mixes like compost – what is lost – into the rich procreative soil of what is,

the rain of doubt washes away ego’s vain attempts to claim control or credit,

the winds bring seeds of hope from unexpected places,

and the joy of the sun’s warmth urges tickles of laughter out into the open.

To recall the everflowing spinal fluid of creation’s gifting,

to gather the opposites of left and right hemispheres to meet in those sweet spots of possibilities emerging

is to do the work of pushing through disbelief, disorder, discouragements I carry from past failures (that were really only good tries – waiting for a friend’s help to try again).

I can be my own best friend. When honesty demands a good look in the mirror. When the list of inadequacies, mistakes and miscues grows as long as the longest night. I am the one who can say to the dark “Yes – but.”

The “Yes” is the invitation for those ugly thoughts to come and dance. And as they come and dance around the sacred fire I’ve built for this ceremony – they lose the fearful shadowed power I give them when I push them away into dark corners. In the firelight of the dance I ask them “what gift do you bring to offer?”

So the “but” becomes the private joke I make – learning to laugh at this trickster’s attempt to turn my most awful shames into impassable boulders on the path – when they really are painful pebbles in my shoes.

In this dance of serious hilarious humility I grow large – so much larger than those pebbled boulders. Standing on the shoulders of ancestor’s work I see what really matters. Stretching my arms wide enough to embrace both past and future i bring it all into the here of today’s to dos. Spinning with the earth’s turning the divine imagination infuses what I offer with the knowing that this same green growing tall energy in me is within the canopy of a jungle forest ecosystem where I am rooted and never – no never – alone.

You know you are on the way – on the path that you were invited to walk when born – when these days of doubt arrive.

Distracted, disordered, discombobulated – I go to the weeping place. In good company I sit with those who endure the worst. Listening I discover what it takes to stand tall once more in the company of great-grandparents gone – who wait for us on the way.

three brothers falls, October 30th, 2015


My morning prayers rise like smoke. Yesterday’s living a burnt offering. I am grateful for change.

While many of us have heads swirling with the change this seasonal shift brings. From summer’s ease to September busyness. From having time to watch things grow – drawing in the summer’s heat – to not enough time to get ready – as the long slow exhale towards winter begins. Today, with the equinox shift, instead of being overwhelmed by so much change, I am appreciating the power of change.

Our guest at last wednesday’s “Subversive Faith” interview, Ann Naylor, started me down this path. Some of the things she said have stayed with me. Listening to someone’s story of faith can stir the embers of our own stories.

Ann told us about her grounding in a family where church was integral to their living. And I was struck by her description of her large blended-family of kids gathering every Sunday evening for a family council. It was a time for personal check-ins and a time to discuss and decide issues facing them all. What struck me was how this intentional process echoed through Ann’s life of justice and peace-making.

This same kind of circle process is key to the learning at the Centre for Christian Studies where Ann has taught for the past seventeen years. This co-learning process has shaped our thinking about what Bedford House might offer.

Ann’s stories were not just about going round and round but also full of progress made against the odds. How the sting of hate towards bi-racial families was an awakening to her childhood sensibilities of what was right and wrong and worth fighting for. How a church so ready to fight for justice in the world couldn’t deal with its own male-female power imbalances. How peace-making meant staying in relation with opponents and making the conversations not only political but also personally compassionate.

Ann held senior offices at the national united church during the 1980s when sexual orientation was the change at hand. At the same time she walked in solidarity with Latin American liberation leaders and stood between Quebec police rifles and first nations protestors at Oka.

When one of us asked how she keeps hopeful in the face of enduring opposition to change she quoted Pete Seeger, “Music surrounds hatred and makes it surrender.”

Ann teaches with music. It both feeds her spirit and is a way of sharing the messages of peace in a way that reaches all generations. Many of her best lessons, she shared, come from the children she teaches weekly in Sunday school.

When asked about her own endurance in the struggles, Ann spoke of how “the people of God” have always faced incredible odds and so often suffered violence. She is inspired by those who have lost everything to hatred and yet still work from the mysterious place of love. When the people of god have all else stripped away what endures is the vision for peace that love inspires and the ancient-core-heart-courage to go on.

The people of god. Not necessarily church people. Not necessarily Christians. The people who god calls together into the hope that is humanity’s divine destiny.

Ann’s stories rekindled that calling in me. I could feel it like a shared heartbeat in the room as our small group listened. People can change. Thank god. People can change the way systems work. Thank god. People can attune themselves to the ways of the earth – at peace with both living and dying, seeding and harvesting, plenty and want. In right relations with all life there arises a harmony that surrounds hatred and makes it surrender. Thank god.

All my Relations

Tuesday August 25th

Allan Reeve

As we race home, the kilometres clicking. stock markets dipping, politicians promising brighter futures in radio sound bites, Lynn reads from the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) 388 page report “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”. As an official document – it’s surprisingly digestible. As a record of Canada’s history – it’s deeply troubling.

I wonder how much of our trip will have a lasting effect on me? As we drive south the hills are surrounded by mists rising off the lakes. It has an other-worldly effect – making me feel like the world we’re leaving is unreal, distant, a dream that disappears like smoke once daylight arrives.

Passing through hour after hour of northern forests it might be easy to think there’s a limitless supply of timber. It could be easy to forget the living nightmare the people of Grassy Narrows have shared with us. Return to my routines. Return to my same old ways of getting by, consuming energy and natural resources without a thought to the true costs of my living.

I remember Larry Morrissette’s definition of Development.  “You flush the toilet – and somebody else gets the shit.”

We have short memories when it comes to such things. The 1996 Royal Commission covered much of the same territory as the TRC report. It made many of the same recommendations. Most of which were conveniently disregarded by those in power and forgotten by the general public.

This TRC document however, is soaked in the tears of the Residential School survivors. The TRC heard over 6,000 stories. Many heartbreaking accounts are captured in the pages. In addition to the hard cold truths of how we made “our home on native lands”, it documents the human costs. The truth is that the “true north” is not strong nor free.

A chapter details the TRC process. The Commission had to deal with deliberate resistance from our federal government departments. If it wasn’t for the Supreme Court’s rulings, the government would have successfully withheld vital information about it’s attempts at cultural genocide. It seems that the courts are the only place First Nations can hope to receive justice. Our governments continue to spend millions trying to defend and preserve their own institutional self-interests.

On the other hand, our CPT visit to the Kenora district court revealed how our lower courts are awash with the side-effects of colonialization. In the two hours we spent there all seven cases were aboriginal people. Five of the seven were young women. Three of these were girls whose foster parents had called in the police after failing to control them.

For a culture that is essentially matriarchal, the current “missing and murdered” women disgrace tells a story of just how pervasive have been the effects of our governments attempted genocide. By tearing apart families, we have hacked away at the trunk of the tree that connects deep roots with the branches of future generations.

It seems that only our Supreme Courts are willing to address the root causes of indigenous people’s claims. The TRC has told the truth. Now we will see whether Canadians will begin the work of reconciliation.

What can I do to change things in Grassy?

It’s the same answer I came home with after visiting the Dominican Republic in 1976, Fiji in 1979, Peru in 1982. The poverty of those places is a direct result of the colonialization, corporatization, and “progress-driven” consumer society whose benefits I thoughtlessly enjoy daily.

“Be the Change you want to see in the world.” said Mahatma Ghandi and this truth still rings out. I hear it at Fleming College where I tell community organizing stories to students.

While walking in solidarity as allies with the people who live where the shit ends up – the changes needs to happen here – in the white man’s world.

“A learning journey can be a provocation that invites you to examine your beliefs and assumptions and how change happens and what becomes possible when we fully engage our communities.

Sometimes a learning journey that immerses us in a different context or way of looking that can be overwhelming or disorienting. It can create moments when we’re no longer sure about something.

When certainty collapses, it’s often replaced by curiosity.”

Margaret Wheatley from “Walk Out Walk On”

“Aren’t you Curious?” is a by-line we use to invite people into learning circles at Bedford House (the new community development learning centre we’re working hard to get off the ground this fall)

At Peterborough Dialogues we engage in forging relationships and telling a new story about the Peterborough we want to live into.

With Transition Town we celebrate our local food economy at the Purple Onion Festival.

At Greenwood United Church (where I start working part time in September) faithful followers of the Jesus-way commit to reducing their environmental footprint.

Did I find Jesus on my trip to Grassy Narrows? In my first blog about this trip I’d said I was looking for him on the front lines where Colonialization and the battle to save Mother Nature meet.

I found his strength dancing in the 32 degree heat of the Pow Wow.

I found his wisdom in the four directions teachings of the Bear Clan.

I found his anger in my fears that violence would prevail against justice.

I found his tears listening to the women’s drum songs of healing.

I found his courage to put his body on the line at the Blockade.

I found his humility in the prisoner’s dock preserving humanity in the midst of insanity.

I found his spirit deep in the cold waters I dove into each morning.

I found his laughter in the bread we broke and the jokes we shared.

I found his sisters and brothers everywhere as I looked into all my relations.

“Lo, I am with you always” he says.

May I remain awake to my privilege and the price of it.

May I remain on the red path of sustaining the circle instead of the bottom line.

May I keep my eyes, ears, hands and heart open to the teachers I encounter daily.