By Rhoda Klein Miller
The year was 1973 and 6 year old Phyllis Webstad was so excited for her first day of school. Her grandma had saved her nickels and dimes to take Phyllis shopping for something special to wear to mark the occasion. Phyllis chose a bright orange shirt that matched the joy she felt about this new milestone in her young life. But her dreams and expectations were tragically destroyed upon arrival as the school staff immediately stripped her of her clothes, and chopped off her long raven locks. Phyllis had been enrolled in the Williams Lake residential school and would share the trauma experienced by 150,000 others who between 1800 and 1996 were robbed of their indigenous culture and language by mostly church-run institutions.
That precious orange shirt, a sacrificial gift from the family matriarch was never returned to Phyllis. Orange became a reminder of the worthlessness and disregard she felt as she cried without consolation for what was forcefully taken from her. She would not be allowed to return home to the comforting embrace of her grandma for 300 days.
On September 30 we wear orange shirts to honour the victims and healing journeys of our aboriginal brothers and sisters who suffered a gross abuse of power in the residential school system. As Christians we embrace Jesus’ sense of justice, which was imparted to us by our Creator. We were made to bear His image of love, mercy and justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 offers praise to this God who is perfect because His ways bring justice. Psalm 89:14 declares justice is the foundation from which God rules with steadfast love. Pursuing God’s justice means acting as agents to make wrongs right. Jesus demonstrated great compassion for the most vulnerable, overlooked and oppressed. As His followers we answer the call to pursue justice with a sacrificial love for those physically and spiritually broken. Its not much of a sacrifice to wear orange as an expression of solidarity. So go a step further, pray for them, pay taxes gladly knowing it helps fund recovery and reconciliation programs, bless an indigenous business, and extend the hand of friendship and a listening ear to an aboriginal neighbour.
Read more Words of Hope