Monday, May 21, 2018

Privilege

Red means run son, 
numbers add up to nothing.

Neil Young, Powder Finger.

Charles Paul Bennett, my father.
Buddy, our dog.
When I was a young man, freshly minted teaching certificate in hand,  I was offered a full contract to teach in Norway House Cree Nation.  I was hesitant to accept this contract so I consulted my father.  I paraphrase his response as his actual words are lost in time yet the memory lingers strong:

You know what it's like to live in Winnipeg.  Surely you're tired with the South End. You should learn to live in other worlds.

And I did.  And I am grateful.

I leaned of privilege during my three years in Norway House Cree Nation.

My father, Charles was born at St. Boniface Hospital on May 20, 1919 and died at St. Boniface Hospital on January 24, 2000. He's in my thoughts these days.

His was an imperfect circle of birth, life, adventure, science, work, love, family, redemption, death.

Imperfect, yet lovely.  Who among us has a perfect family circle?  We exist despite our scars and skeletons.  We thrive in our imperfection. We are human.

Some are privileged.

Some are not.

It was 1986 and my life experience couldn't fill a thimble.

I asked my grade two class to line up for recess. I stroked Clayton's head to show affection, to say good job Clayton, you are special, I acknowledge your good behaviour.

Clayton's life was not of privilege. His was a life of violence and unpredictability. He knew not of love, not of permanence, not of family. His life experience collided full on with mine and the collision was powerful.

The explosion of our paths altered my life trajectory and helped shape my person.

His head dived to avoid the expected slap for that is what he knows. A touch to the head hurts. Affection is alien. Sudden movements are dangerous.

Red means run, son.
Numbers add up to nothing.

In this moment I understand privilege and I think of my father's words... you should learn to live in other worlds.

And I have. And I am grateful.

I am grateful for my father's wisdom.  I am grateful for Norway House Cree Nation.

I am grateful for Clayton, for he taught me the meaning of privilege.

It's a good day to be alive.

Mike