Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Having Ears to Hear

My parents have been great listeners over the years. I've called home, high on life. I've called home in tears. Usually, Mum took the calls, sometimes Dad would just listen in. However, when I have been really heartbroken, it's Dad who has had the stomach to do the deep listening, often sharing a story of his own heartbreak. Mum has always had trouble when she can't help make things better. In turn, I've sent my daughters to their daddy when I just don't know what to say.

Today is Mum and Dad's anniversary, and I should be full of praise for my parents, and I am, but I am also thinking something odd on this anniversary. I am thinking about my parents' faults.

Mum got me started.

I had been asking Mum why some people -- people like us, settler descendants -- can hear about Residential Schools or Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls or Broken Treaties and it seems that some, immediately, are denying the extent of the crime or even blaming the people who have experienced the pain. I was wondering why, at our family table, when we began realizing that Colonial Canada practiced genocide against Indigenous peoples, why we never denied this reality.

Mum said, "Well, your father and I never bought into the whole idea that we have earned everything we have and that others deserve everything they've been given."

She continued, "We never thought we knew the right way to do everything or that we had it all together."

This got me thinking about my parents' faults. Mum wasn't a good housekeeper. Dad didn't keep the garage organized. Mum would rather read than do yard work. Dad would rather pick berries than clean up equipment. We had rusty water, nails sticking out of boards, and even a few TV's with screwdrivers to turn the channel. Mum couldn't plan and stick to a budget, and when Dad tried his hand at market gardening, he kept giving food away, buckets of berries, sacks of potatoes. Mum and Dad were sometimes criticized by church folks, community members, and maybe even an "odd" relative. Ha ha. One well-intentioned friend of the family told me that she remembers us kids with dirty faces.

But, this is no news to Mum and Dad. Like Mum said, "We never thought we knew the right way to do everything or that we had it all together."

My mum and dad, at the core of their being, have been humble people. I believe this is why the myth of meritocracy never took hold on them. They would never tell someone to pull up their bootstraps because they could see they were having a little trouble with their own bootstraps. They were quick to count their blessings, knowing what they had been given from their parents and their society; therefore, they were quick to realize that others have not had their privilege.

So, back to my question at the root of my question, how can we raise up children who will have ears to hear about others' suffering without going into denial or blaming?

In my people's sacred teachings, there is a phrase that Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." It seems like a silly thing to say. Why didn't Jesus just say, "Listen to my story" or "Pay attention to what I'm saying"?

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses the phrase to emphasize that his cousin John was one sent ahead. In Mark he uses it to follow up the story of the good and bad soil, and then to tell us that things aren't such a big mystery, just listen up with those ears you've been given. Again in Mark he says, "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear" after unpacking how rule-keeping can actually get in the way of the Creator's will. In Luke he uses this phrase after a series of stories about wedding feasts and answering invitations; now is the time to answer a calling, while your salt is still salty, go.

Those, like me, who have been raised with these stories, will likely be filling in details and significance, but can we be sure we are hearing with ears that are able to hear?

Again, I ask the question, how do we raise up our children, our neighbours, our society to have ears that hear?

I think Mum and Dad, my elders, have lived a life listening and hearing. They have ears that hear, and I believe their ears work because of their humility.

Happy 53rd Anniversary Mum and Dad

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