Ekosi (Thanks) for reading my letter. I am writing you this letter because I feel like there are some very important things that I need to say to you. I need to say this to you, because you guys inspire me every single day. I get to work with you all the time, when you help me organize and plan an event, when you help me innovate a new idea or program to help people and when you dream with me on how our community can get better. I see you all the time, out my front window, on your bikes, walkin down the street or going to the store. I also see the challenges, when I see you fighting with your boy/girlfriend and using inappropriate language in public. I also see you in the paper and on the news a lot talking about violence and apathy... which is less cool, because that's not what us North End peeps are about. And so, to combat that negativity, I share my perspective with all of you.
What made things good for me growin' up in this hood was I received guidance in many different forms. The ones that stick out to me, were the ones I could hold in my hand…the REAL things; like a letter, or a card; a small art project or a hand drawn picture. When I receive these gifts I am reminded of what is important (and is so lost) in today’s world, and why I am writing this letter: sharing our gifts.
It is our responsibility as the youth of this nation that we learn about and develop the gifts that we each have inside of us. We all have ability, and we all have challenges; the measure of greatness is how you utilize those traits to benefit yourself and the people you love. So pretty much, if you are really good at something, and people know it enough that they com to you and ask you to share it, it is your responsibility to share it with them. There are 2 pieces of criteria for gifts: 1) you have to be good at it, and 2) you have to love doing it. Once you can say YES to both of those criteria, you probably found your gift!
Not Ours To Keep
The thing about gifts is…they are not ours to keep. If I am a beautiful grass dancer, that’s great for me, but that talent and skill is not mine to keep. I must share that gift with the community by dancing for them, and finding the teachings that come from every step that I would take. I must also teach others who are interested in developing their own gifts. If I see a seed, a spark, an inkling of interest in the eye of a young person around what I am trying to do, it must be acknowledged and it must be responded to. Its like all those teachings back in the day; our Elders would share the teachings with the community, so that those teachings could live on and serve the people beyond the life span of any individual. Its about survival of the community and for that reason, we all have a responsibility to share what we know to better the next generation. The Earth was not given to us by our ancestors, it was loaned to us by our children – Neechie Quote.
I know that its sometimes a pain in the butt to be constantly offering yourself to those around you, and I give you this piece of caution with this advice: boundaries are important. As much as sharing is something that we all must deliberately model so that the habit gets ingrained in the younger ones, we have to remember that we must take care of ourselves as well. And sometimes that means you can't say YES to every request. We have to learn how to say YES to taking care of ourselves AND taking care of others, because we are no good to the community if we don't take care of ourselves!
Traditionally, us neechies didn't do the 50% = a pass thing. When you did something, it was done in excellence, 100% and thats how we operated. That tradition is still alive today, even though modern standards don't enforce it. But what that means is, when we are sharing our gifts, we ARE giving as much as we can and we ARE sharing to the best of our abilities. We must do this AT THE SAME TIME as making sure that we are not giving away so much of ourselves that we have nothing left at the end of the day to take care of 'me'. Or we involve ourselves so much in the affairs of those around us that we lose sight of the simplicity of sharing…and being together with those that you love. Community is in interesting idea and I am so proud to come from a place where that word means something special: The North End.
We have our challenges, as you can see anytime you open the newspaper or turn on the news. Us North End youth are often under attack by the media and many others who do not understand the day to day lives we live in this end of town. But I am writing this letter because I want all of YOUth to know that we can change things. We can change those negative stereotypes by bringin’ on the integrity. We can act positively on purpose. We can offer to help whenever we can. We can walk away when things get shitty instead of engaging in violence or crime. We can talk about our feelings and encourage our brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbours to do the same. It doesn’t matter that our community has challenges and that there are many of us dealing with that challenge on a day to day, and very personal level. The fact is, we are all here now, together, and there is strength in that. There is possibility in that. There is momentum in that.
We can make a difference. It starts with learning about your own gifts, and sharing those with others. It continues when you begin to look at your community and start helping them share their gifts. It’s about taking care…of one another, ourselves and the entire Turtle Island. Mother Earth and our entire human nation deserve it.
So in closing, I have one thing to say to the youth of the North End when it comes to sharing our gifts and acting with integrity:
PS – and I know that I myself am challenged with always acting with integrity and being open to sharing my gifts, but it’s a learning process for me too. And I am committing to learning with you. I will make mistakes but I will learn from them and continue to move forward. Falling down is part of life….Getting back up is living.