As I swing my legs out of bed, with a hip-to-heel grumble from a sciatic nerve, I experience a moment of curiosity: What new thing will the day bring, what blessing will come?
Saturday, June 17th, was such a day. It began a little sooner than most. Shortly after 6 a.m., I pulled into my son-in-law’s farmyard. Later that day he was flying to Vancouver, where his sibling is dealing with critical illness. A sprayer operator was on site to spray his crops, and I received a quick lesson in hauling water from the farm dugout to supply the sprayer.
It was also a time to share the stress, to offer hope in the reality of grave sickness. It was a moment that blessed the day.
Shortly after, my wife Holly and I headed south to Regina, three-and-a-half hours away, to attend a funeral. A cousin’s 24-year-old daughter-in-law, whom we had never met, had died of cancer. It seemed good to show our support for extended family members we know and love. As we sat in the large, full church waiting for the service to begin, the curiosity gene nudged again. What might be learned here? What would be the blessing?
That blessing came at the moment when the deceased woman’s parents rose and walked to the front. In the reading of scripture, in the telling of stories, in moments of laughter and in the pauses for tears, these parents gave thanks for the daughter they had claimed for 24 years.
They extended thanks to all who gathered, to their son-in-law and his family, to the church who had stood with their daughter through her years of struggle. They shared their appreciation to the medical professionals for the expertise and compassion they had brought to their daughter’s life. The friend groups, the prayer groups—all were eloquently held up and given thanks for their presence in the difficult journey of this family.
I imagined myself in the hard story that this family was enduring, and asked myself whether I would be able to stand before hundreds and publicly give thanks? Would I be prepared to share amusing stories; would I be able to allow tears their time and then move on to gratitude? Here were folks who embraced their spirituality, and turned that spirituality into strength, into thankfulness, into celebration. I was in awe.
June 17th was not yet done. On the way home, we stopped in Saskatoon for a farewell that was slightly less emotionally charged. Dave Feick, an old friend, was moving on from his role as director of Micah Mission, a restorative justice organization. For over a decade, Dave and Micah Mission have worked to create relationships between offenders—almost exclusively sex offenders—and support communities.
An initiative that Dave had begun was an annual day-long fishing trip to a Saskatchewan lake, which included both released offenders and volunteers. I’ve been privileged to be on a number of those excursions.
On this evening, as both released offenders and volunteers gathered to express thanks to Dave, June 17th offered one final blessing. As I observed the relationship and the caring extended offender to offender, offender to volunteer, and both groups toward Dave, I was moved to tears.
Even though this is a familiar world to me, I can never quite understand the freedom that the guys have felt on those fishing days. They can lay down their fears of being accosted, recognized, vilified. Everyone knows something of their story, why they are involved in this group, and yet they are accepted. Yet they are loved. Yet they are equals.
I have not yet discovered another path that leads to peace, safety and integrity, more effectively.
June 17 was a pretty good day.
Ed Olfert lives in Laird, Saskatchewan and can be reached at email@example.com.