Thanksgiving and Reciprocity

Pacific Spirit Park

Some books are better listened to than read.  Particularly when they are read by the author, and it seems like that author is talking directly to you.  Braiding Sweetgrass is one of those books.   Not a book to listen to in one sitting but a book to savour over time.  It is like sitting down to visit with either my maternal or paternal grandmother.  The pace is slow and the stories just seem to unfold out of pauses in the conversation or between cups of tea.  

Robin Wallin Kimmer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass (2015) was just talking to me about thanksgiving and the relationship with reciprocity.  She is sharing the teachings of the elders  taught in Indigenous cultures for thousands of years yet carelessly lost due to the inability of settlers to identify wisdom.   The relationship between thankfulness and reciprocity was lived by my grandmothers.  You accept what is given to you with love and respond not only with gratitude but with a desire to reciprocate.  I am thankful that both my grandmothers gave their love, their stories, their baking and meals without any conditions or strings attached.   There was never any doubt that they were on my team and wanted the very best for me.  Reciprocity was entwined with good manners and judged a fair expectation by the receiver.

Somewhere along the way the concept of thanksgiving and reciprocity became divorced from one another. Unconditional giving that had previously come from a place of love morphed into giving because it was the surest way to demonstrate superiority or buy favour, or influence, or silence.  The giving came with a cost.  Perhaps the cost of the gift replaced the sense of reciprocity that had previously existed.  Or perhaps the narrative of entitlement was assumed because it was easy. 

Robin Wallin Kimmer peels it back to the giving from nature that is still unconditional and our responsibility to reciprocate.  We can be thankful for our bounty but it is our responsibility to look for the conditions that allow to sustain the bounty.  We are seeing the repercussions on nature of over-taking, over-hunting, over-fishing, over-harvesting, over-reliance on fossil fuels., over-consuming, and waste.  Imagine the change in the world, if each time we took from the environment, we took some reciprocal action to give back.

My involvement in Wild About Vancouver, and its new iteration as a provincial non-profit called Wild About Outdoor Learning Society is spawned by thankfulness for my home.  Growing up in Vancouver, raising my family in Coquitlam, and my work as an educator in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Vancouver has given me appreciation for farm culture, the suburbs, and city life.  Recreational interests have taken me all over Beautiful British Columbia.  While we bemoan the rain for a good chunk of the year in Vancouver, our water is instrumental to every facet of our lives.  We most often pause to feel grateful during the plentiful options for recreational activity.  I am so thankful for the water in the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and snow on the mountains during ski / snowboard season.     It takes me aback when I see brown lawns, dried up ponds, and smoke from rampant fires in areas suffering from a lack of water.  

There are no shortage of individuals and groups that have considered the many possible ways for us to limit our consumption and take action to repair the damage that people have done to the environment.  Wild About Outdoor Learning Society as goals to familiarize people in British Columbia with ways to engage with the environment, be thankful for all it provides, and opportunities to give back. 

Wild About Vancouver, a grassroots movement started in 2015, has foraged some great partnerships.  Some are specific to Vancouver, and some have a greater reach.  Friends of False Creek aspires to restore the waters of False Creek to pre-heavy industry conditions.  Imagine being able to swim in False Creek!  Sea Smart uses education and positive actions like shoreline clean ups to make a difference in the environment and in the minds of our young people.  OceanWise aspires to protect and restore our world’s oceans with programs to help ships avoid whale collisions, shoreline clean-ups, and by selling sustainable seafood.   Year of the Salish Sea has joined with 90 other countries to protect 30% of their land and ocean by 2030 to coincide with the 2021-2030 United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.  

There are lots of ways to #getOUTdoors and #getINvolved while giving back.  A good addition to  the conversation on #Thanksgiving.  

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