The most poignant memory for me from today’s Walk for Reconciliation was Chief Robert Joseph’s call at the Opening Ceremony for a moment of silence to remember and honor the memory of the children who suffered and those who died in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
Later, as I was crossing the Georgia Street overpass I noticed a small group of people who had stopped walking. Three of them had their arms around a fourth man in an effort to support him. As I walked past, wondering if the man needed medical attention, I looked back to take a closer look. I was arrested by the site of Arnie, an old friend whom I had lost track of (I wrote about Arnie in this post). It’s been three years since I last saw Arnie. Back then, he was trying to get home to his reservation in Saskatchewan and wanted my help in getting him in touch with a counselor there who had worked with him before. I helped to facilitate the connection, and then soon after resigned from the little church where he would visit and lost touch. I prayed against the odds that he would make the journey home. Instead, as was apparent from the rough shape he was in today, his “hungry ghosts” came back to haunt him and he felt compelled to feed them. And so, here he was on the Walk, and although surrounded by so many of his relations, he was feeling alone and despondent–the events of the day triggering memories and emotions too painful for him to control. With the sound of traditional drumming in the background, Arnie told me he also was a victim of the residential school system. After chatting for a few more minutes and no longer in a position or locale to be able help him, I left him with his new found friends and supporters,
Filled with sadness and my own sense of powerlessness in the face of hungry ghosts and not knowing what else to do–I join my heart in this prayer for him and all the countless children who suffered.