It's Friday, the Friday before a winter break. Just. Survive. Today. I am chanting. My students are in good spirits and we have no meltdowns or flare-ups. It's Friday, so I go to Outreach for lunch. There are people sitting on the couches, at the tables, some in the kitchen. I go to the kitchen doorway.
"Sheena," says Keitha. "Sorry the soup is gone, but you can have some bannock."
"I'm not really hungry," I say.
"I have so much to tell you, had a hard day. Can we go for coffee this weekend? Then I'll tell you all about it." Keitha is wiping a dish, then cutting a slice of bannock for a lady who just asked if she can take some home.
"Sure, I'm here all weekend," I say.
I pour myself a cup of coffee, black, and sit down at the table. People have cleared out; it's getting closer to one o'clock. Keitha pours herself a coffee and sits down; Ellen sits down, too. Three men come in; one pours a coffee and sits with us. Keitha's sister, Marilyn, is here, too, sitting at the other table.
"It was a tough day," says Keitha, "Even had to call the police."
Those who were at Outreach earlier rehash the situation. Someone was angry or grieving. A cup was thrown. Good thing the elder who was sitting in the line of fire had already left, or he'd have been hit. Feeling bad for visitors that day. Then someone says, "We'll have to start wearing helmets." and another adds, "Pots on our heads," and pretty soon the sense of humour is kicking in and some more serious comments follow, but they are interspersed with the comic.
A gentleman asks Keitha and Ellen if he can borrow a few bucks. No, they don't have any. He doesn't look at me, and neither do Keitha and Ellen, almost like I'm invisible. I don't have my purse, wallet, or any money in my jeans pocket, but nobody is asking me, either.
We get talking about my day, and I tell Ellen how talented I think her grandsons are, tell her about a song AJ is writing for his Communications 20 class, and the song he played from Youtube by Ty. Such amazing lyrics, so mature and deep. Ellen gets choked up, wishing she could give the boys more, even gas money for the Rap Wars in Regina. Again, she doesn't ask me for money, and I wonder if I should be offering.
But right now, I'm having my own cash flow problems: fundraising projects, old school commitments, dance bills, fine from my daughter's accident, Sister Triangle retreat fee for three, and everything else that flows out of my monthly pocket. Not to mention this country mouse who is desperately trying to save up for that trip to NYC this summer to see her city mouse Camille, creative muse and mentor. (Just listen to that list of privilege while people are trying to get gas money together. And again, nobody is trying to make me feel guilty for my privilege. It's just the reality when I sit side-by-side many of my friends at Outreach.)
I'm walking home. The sun is warm and high in the sky. I cross the tracks, heading straight toward Roy and Trudine's home, and see their car backing out of the driveway. I walk up to the driver's side. Trudine swings the door ajar.
"How are you guys," I say, leaning forward.
"We're not so good right now. Roy's sister Arlene is in the hospital," says Trudine, the sun shining directly in her face. She explains a very critical situation, and Roy adds some heart-breaking details, and Trudine says how it's either been her side of the family or his, dealing with crisis.
I nod. Murmur sounds of sympathy. "So much to carry, so much to carry," I say. The tears are now dripping from my face. My legs and back are getting sore as I crunch in a listening pose at the side of the idling car. We pray aloud on the side of the road, asking for strength and grace and peace. We are all so helpless.
"Are you off to see Arlene right now?" I say.
"No, we're going to see if we can cash this cheque because it has to be a TD bank, and there is no bank in town," says Trudine and Roy, often finishing each other's sentences. They are confident a band run business in town will be able to help them out. I wonder if I should be offering to help, but they do not ask, and Roy is confident they'll get the help they need, so I take my leave, knowing they have my phone number; I'm walking toward the All Nations Healing Hospital as they drive away.
And nobody today has blamed broken treaty for their financial and physical hardships. And nobody today has blamed me for my privilege brought to me by treaty. This Friday as I walk into my week-long break, I am consciously aware of this break in justice.