Today I was handed a drum, and that may be the most important thing that happens to me all week. Maybe even all year.
All week, I have been wrestling with what my role is in the healing and reconciliation in our city. Because it matters. Because I want to live in a place of love. Because sometimes I hide my head in the sand and stay in my suburban bubble.
I have been immersing myself in stories, conversations, and learning about what brought us here, to this place, where we are called “the most racist city in Canada”. And I have been searching my own heart for what I need to address in order to be a “wounded healer”, to help invite a new narrative. Tears have been shed over the stories of abuse at the hands of my ancestors. And tears have been shed over my own complicating stories – like the day an Indigenous man climbed through my window and raped me, and the journey it took to once again walk down the street without seeing every Indigenous man on the street as my rapist.
Today I attended the weekly sharing circle at the Indigenous Family Centre. Though I’ve been there before, I was feeling nervous, made more painfully aware of the colour of my skin by the many stories in the media. I was afraid I didn’t belong, afraid I look too much like the oppressor with my white skin, afraid I might be challenged to face my own prejudice in that circle, and maybe even a little afraid I might be triggered back to the 21 year old version of me, cowering in my bedroom with the rapist standing over me.
I went anyway, because I have to start with me.
We started with a smudge – a tradition I have come to love over the years. Then one of the leaders picked up one of the drums in the centre of the circle, and walked toward me. Without fanfare, without words, he simply handed it to me. And when he started drumming and singing, I drummed with him. Our drums beat together, like the pounding heartbeat of Mother Earth beneath us. He didn’t care if I didn’t have rhythm or if I didn’t have the right colour of skin, he simply wanted me to be part of that pounding heartbeat.
That simple gesture cracked my heart open. No longer was I the white woman, the stranger, the oppressor. No longer was I “other”. I was simply a member of the circle, holding my place with everyone else.
And now I ask myself… how will that gesture of welcome and grace change me? How will I practice the same radical act of kindness, forgiveness, and community? How will I hand others the drum when they come to the circles I host?