Carol A. Hand
What is the best you can imagine? This may sound like an easy question to answer, but it has proven to be extraordinarily difficult for the students, staff, and communities I worked with in the past to respond in affirmative ways. It was far easier for most people to list all of the problems and reasons why it would be impossible to change things. You know, the “yes – but” response that is voiced when discussing potential solutions. It’s equally difficult for me to answer this question for myself at this point in my life. And yet, it’s one I need to ponder. All of my initial answers share one common thread – the need to focus on feasible future solutions rather than problems. It’s crucial to have some awareness of past and present issues, and past and present attempts to solve problems. But even more important is the ability to imagine what could be.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter and grandchildren left me pondering which of the four possibilities for solution-focused action feels “right” for me now. (One of the underlying tenets of Ojibwe culture is the principle of “doing things when the time is right” – having the skill and patience to read one’s environment and undertake projects when the time has come.) I have already explored the feasibility of actually taking on each of the flowing four possibilities as a project during the past three years of retirement: healing historical trauma; transforming local education; providing elders with a forum for sharing their life stories; and sharing the legacy of Ogimaa’s efforts to protect Ojibwe children. (Ogimaa means leader or chief.) Only one feels “right” for me now. Perhaps when I finish, the time will be right to take on another.
But today, it occurred to me that it was important to share these ideas because I may not have time to do them all. Yet they may be things that encourage others to think about possibilities for “spinning straw into gold.” I know from experience it can be done without sacrificing one’s first-born child to Rumpelstiltskin – but of course it takes courage, passion, and a great deal of work. Magic comes from the love one breathes into one’s work. And honestly, even hard work and love don’t guarantee “success” in outcomes – they merely mean a more rewarding journey …
Photo Credit: Spinning Straw into Gold
The choices all involve observations from past projects – two from my work with tribes, and two blend my observations in retirement with my prior program development and policy experiences. All involve weaving or reweaving the sense of community that brings people together to create and all are based on the realization that everyone is an important community member with unique gifts that are necessary for the well-being and survival of the whole.
Over the next few weeks I plan to share more about each of these possibilities in hopes that others will find them useful. In the meantime, I will be focusing primarily on the fourth idea on my list – working on the next chapters of a book based on my research about Ojibwe child welfare. I feel the need to share the stories of community members and describe Ogimaa’s efforts to protect children and preserve the community. His example demonstrates how to spin straw into gold by blending the best of the past and the present to reweave community visions for the next generations. It’s something all of us can do. I hope you will check in for the next installments.
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