As Gerry says, the meaning of life is to find your gift and to use it, and that the only time that we will find success is when we work for it - success does not come for free.
Gerry’s goal with this episode is to inspire you so that you’ll keep going with whatever you’re learning. Gerry says, “when our spirit is strong, we have this incredible will to live, which means we’re going to participate in life.” In the old days, we would help people to find their gifts in our communities, because when we don’t find our gifts, we often suffer. Even the youngest people in the community used to have work to do in order to contribute to family life, like gathering kindling.
At the age of six, Gerry was sent to residential school, which was where he learned fear and shame and began to doubt himself. Mistakes in the residential school were harshly punished, creating long-term challenges that Gerry had to overcome and heal from as an adult. As you might imagine, this didn’t create a positive experience for Gerry, or many, many others in our communities who’ve attended residential schools, but it didn’t stop Gerry from learning.
Gerry’s experience with education was fear-based, fearing mistakes. As a result, Gerry sometimes would not try new things out of fear of getting them wrong. This is called being a perfectionist; someone who won’t try new things for fear of being wrong or making mistakes. When Gerry was 27, he encountered an Elder that would become one of his many teachers over the years. Gerry was encouraged to find his gift by this person, and when he found his gift - to work with people and to help people - his life was filled with purpose. He calls it a beautiful feeling, finding his mission and knowing what he’s meant to do.
Gerry wants to share what he’s seen and heard from people who’ve been finding their gifts; everyone has a gift or gifts, and it’s up to each one of us to find it and to use it. Some of us are meant to be chefs, teachers, builders, healers, mechanics - many gifts and many people keeping things running smooth.
Gerry discusses some of the barriers and challenges Indigenous peoples face in accessing education through high school, college or university. Unfortunately, many of us will still face prejudice and discrimination when we attend institutions, but Gerry tells us that we’re not to let this get us down, we’re not to let this stand in our way. Many of us have felt this, but we have many ways to overcome these challenges. We have examples that Gerry shares about taking care of students as they learn and develop their gifts, ways that we can support our relatives living in the cities and attending colleges and universities.
As the old timers have told Gerry, when there’s a storm coming and you’re out in the canoe, you paddle through it. There are resources available to students, trained professionals whose jobs are to help you, the students, be successful. Support is very important while we are working at our educations, and making a circle of support around you is possible, but you have to make it happen.
Success comes when we work for it, so have a listen to this podcast, and let’s be successful as we achieve our goals and succeed in our academics.