Advent | December 15, 2017
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In Relationships, Humility Instead of Helping

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
     Who, being in very nature God,
          did not consider equality with God something to be used
                    to his own advantage;

     rather, he made himself nothing
          by taking the very nature of a servant,
          being made in human likeness.
                                                                           —Philippians 2:5-7

Over 10 years ago, I visited the First Nations community of Mishkeegogamang. The chief of this community requested summer day programs for their children and youth, so I worked for a non-government organization (NGO) to help run a summer camp in this community. I felt totally out of place at first—I was astounded by the lack of running water in some homes, the need to throw toilet paper into the garbage cans because the sewer system couldn’t take the extra waste, and the small homes that had people sleeping on floors. It was hard for me to understand how people who lived in the same province as I did could live in such poverty.

I felt called to continue to return to this community. The more time I spent with the people in this community, the more I realized that I was there not to help people but to learn from them and to be blessed with new friendships. The children whom I met over 10 years ago are now young adults and are my coworkers in running summer camps in their community. Whenever I feel stressed, overwhelmed, or disappointed, they always seem to be the first to notice, give me a hug, and encourage me through the day.

It’s ironic—I thought that I was going to this community to help the people there, but they were the ones who taught me and cared for me.

We are called to humble ourselves to wherever God may lead us. But serving does not mean we are helping someone else who is lesser than we are—it means that God is teaching us to learn from someone who is from a different walk of life. I often feel that people think I have a difficult job helping Indigenous people fix their problems. But Indigenous people are my friends, and I am no better than they are. I am not there to fix problems; instead, I am on a journey to learn from and build relationships with my Indigenous friends.

I am astounded when I reflect on the thought that Jesus would leave a perfect place to come down to earth to dwell among sinners like us. He chose to come down to earth knowing that he would be ridiculed, suffer on a cross, and be betrayed, denied, and abandoned by his close friends. He did all that so that we could be reconciled to God and to others. I believe the process of reconciliation with others can begin when we recognize that our neighbours are equals because we are equally loved by God. We need to get rid of the standards of the world that measure our value in terms of our cars, homes, clothes, education, and jobs, and exchange those standards for God’s view of his people. We will be truly blessed when we humble ourselves and treat others as friends instead of people who need our help.

God, help me to open my eyes to see people as you see people and to love people the way you love people. Help me to humble myself so that I can learn more about you and others from the people you place in my path.

Heather Kooiman is a registered nurse with a background in biology. She has taught and worked on many First Nations reserves throughout northern Ontario and Quebec, including Mishkeegogamang, Attawapiskat, and Moosonee. Heather currently works in an emergency department.

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