The other day I heard a story from the life of Helen Keller that I had never heard before.
In it, she recalls asking a friend who had returned from a walk in the woods what this friend had seen. The friend replied, “Nothing in particular.” Helen was dumbfounded and wondered, “How is it possible to walk for an hour and see nothing worthy of note?”
This anecdote whet my appetite and I had to look for these insights of hers in context. To my delight, I found them contained within her extraordinary short essay titled, “Three Days to See.”
Here it is:
The other day, my friend Ada and I were discussing the discovery of Indigenous children’s undocumented remains outside of the former residential school in Kamloops.
Ada is passionate about the Arctic and through her studies, research, and work is involved in cooperating with Inuit in the north with sensitivity, respect, and mutuality.
I could tell the news had shaken her and so I asked whether she had ever been to a First Nations cemetery.
“Yes, twice,” she said.
It was 2018 and Ada had just completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria. As a member of the Catholic Students’ Association, she joined four other students, led by university chaplain, former Anglican-turned-Catholic priest, Fr. Dean Henderson, on a cultural mission exchange to a First Nations reserve in British Columbia.
Tomorrow, April 7th, is Genocide against the Tutsi Memorial Day.
Nine years ago, I participated in the Reflections on Rwanda program to study this genocide, especially through encountering rescuers and survivors and listening to their stories.
Some of my family and friends were not sure why I wanted to go on a genocide study a trip.
I even met a professor (of Genocide Studies, no less) who described travelling to the sites of historical genocides as voyeurism.
In 1993, John Paul II inaugurated the World Day of the Sick to be celebrated each year on February 11th. He wanted the annual day to serve as “a special occasion for growth, with an attitude of listening, reflection, and effective commitment in the face of the great mystery of pain and illness” and he specifically addressed all those who are sick, calling them “the main actors of this World Day.”
What did he mean by this?