Pearls of Giving

The Raven and the First Men, Bill Reid, Canadian Haida artist

I come from two giving grandmothers. One gave constant prayers for her family and families around the world. She gave away part of the family dinners to a family less fortunate down the block. My other grandmother gave away food, flowers for her church’s Sunday services each week, and her handmade crocheted doilies or afghans to nearly everyone she encountered. There was no end to my grandmothers’ giving natures.

Today, people are more likely to give others COVID. Why are we not masking and thinking about giving others their healthiest chance to be COVID-free when we enter crowded public transportation? What are we missing in this millennium?

I wrote these lines and then re-read them. These thoughts emerged from opposite parts of my personality! Sometimes a mind feels like a seesaw with up-then-down thinking. I return now to thoughts of a giving legacy.

At Printer’s Row Lit Festival this weekend I witnessed a giving man at the book-selling space next to mine. The man looked through a lovely children’s picture book, Seeking Best Friend, written by Angela Marcotte and illustrated by British Diane Ewen. A woman stood next to him, also flipping pages of the promising pictures. She said she wanted to purchase a copy for her school’s library to support friendships among students. The man turned to her and announced that he wanted to pay the $20.00 cost for her copy! She was stunned. The author was stunned. I was captivated.

I am reminded of the giving nature of a Canadian Haida man, Bill Reid (1920-1998). A prodigious artist, Reid was a gifted jeweler, painter, sculptor, and wood carver. He wished to seek the best relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in fostering an accurate history of Canadian culture. Mentoring Indigenous youth with an interest in the arts through internships was a giving goal. 

Due to discriminatory edicts of the Canadian “Indian Act,” where women marrying a non-Indian were expected to give up their native heritage, Reid was not told about his First Nation ancestry. While his mother had Raven matrilineage of the Haida Nation, his father had Scottish-German heritage. However, in his teen years Reid noticed Haida symbols on the gold and silver jewelry worn by his aunts, sisters of his mother. He discovered his silversmithing ancestors. He later became involved with totem pole salvage and restoration.

Reid’s yellow cedar carving from one wooden block, The Raven and the First Men, tells the creation story of his mother’s people, the Haida. After flooding, a raven detects a clamshell, partially buried in sand. Inside the protective shell are cowering people. Raven coaxes them out to explore new possibilities. This magnificent work of art was unveiled by Prince Charles, now King Charles, at the Museum of Anthropology, in Vancouver in 1980.

Our planet needs our giving possibilities.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

115. What giving examples have you experienced in your life?

116. How might you engage in some giving legacy?               

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

3 comments

  1. Parents and grandparents are crucial in setting examples and legacies of giving. Both my parents demonstrated that to my sisters and me growing up. My primary goal is to pass that example on to my children and grandchildren.

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