In my pocket, like a polished stone, I carry around this saying from the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible and it is always possible.”
Pamela Beebe, with Vibrant Communities Calgary and from the Kainai Nation, also shares and collects the polished stone of kindness. The harsh rubbing of racism and poverty and the more gentle touch of hope have polished her call to kindness.
I first experienced Pam at a launch event of the “Enough for All Strategy” in 2014. She presented a Pecha Kucha (20 slides in 20 minutes), sharing her experience of racism throughout her lifetime, from not being able to get a job to being denied housing because she was indigenous.
Her final statement at the end of the Pecha Kucha was to call people to kindness, a call made powerful by the preceding story.
This fall, I reconnected with Pam in her new capacity as Indigenous Strategist for the roll-out of the “Enough for All Strategy” (Calgary’s Poverty Reduction Strategy). As our conversation unfolded, it was clear that poverty is the twin to racism. Pam’s family most recently experienced poverty when they returned to the Kainai Nation reserve near Lethbridge. They would go into town with containers to get fresh, clean water to drink, because the reserve water was brown.
Pam finds hope in the big goal of the Enough for All Strategy for Aboriginal People. “All Aboriginal people are equal participants in Calgary’s prosperous future. By 2023, we will reduce poverty rates to 50% of current numbers. Poverty rates for indigenous people will be equal to poverty rates of all Calgarians by 2023.”
Currently 4 out of 10 indigenous people are in poverty. To find out more about the strategies and opportunities of the Aboriginal portion of the Enough for All Strategy initiative, contact Pam.
Pam is encouraged by public support from the Mayor for the outcomes of the “Enough for All Strategy,” most recently at the launch of the United Way fundraising campaign and the Enough For All Campaign Kick Off.
Pam also finds hope in small but telling signs of culture change. She has been attending parent council meeting at her son’s schools throughout his 8 years of education. This September, for the first time, the chair began the meeting by acknowledging that they were on Treaty 7 Land.
I now carry a new kindness stone in my pocket, one shaped but not destroyed by racism and poverty and shined by hope. Thank you, Pam.