I just got back from an amazing weekend spent with my birth family. I learned more about family love and how big that container actually is to hold each member up as individuated essences of divinity. My older brother Ralph (by 3 years) was adopted at the age of 1 and 1/2 by my birth family. I learned this weekend, that my mother saw him on t.v. and God whispered to her to adopt this little boy, when she saw the monitor of his picture, with a plea for intervention on his behalf. My mother then went to my father with her plea, he said okay, and they started the process of adopting him into my family. They had no idea of what they were getting into.
My brother’s background is of Aboriginal descent. His mother was Scottish, Irish Cree and his father was French Metis. My brother was adopted into a white family (Norwegian heritage). His journey has not been an easy one and we learned more about that challenge this weekend. My dad was a successful specialist and had a lot on his plate when we were all growing up. When Ralph was acting out for the majority of his childhood, he created a fair amount of challenge for my parents who were trying to raise him.
Growing up so different than everyone around him was tough and it showed; Ralph got in trouble repeatedly with authority and was kicked out of high school. He abused drugs and alcohol and even flirted with suicide at one point in his life. His first wife left him but he has a beautiful son that came out of that marriage. He has since remarried a beautifully, supportive woman and is happier and more content than I have ever seen him.
Because Ralph went off the path substantially for many years, when our family heard about this weekend and how he was invited to speak in Seattle, we were mainly just excited to see him, support him and see what he had to say. My Dad was a little nervous because he did not know what my brother was going to say, especially in a church; after all he had never spoken in his life, other than speaking up like a smart ass in his high school classes. But he made a choice to come which demonstrates my dad’s ability to forgive and forget and keep an open mind and be open to healing any residual stuff from their relationship.
Ralph was invited by a former classmate, Peter, to speak at his church in Tacoma (outside of Seattle) on Native American spirituality. He has spoken to some other churches with the same real and beautiful message around his own redemption and healing; not all churches have been okay with his message because it might be too raw for them but that did not stop Peter from believing in him enough to have him come to his church. Little did we know how much Ralph would teach us about unconditional love, embracing your roots, and being proud of your heritage.
My brother’s life as a teenager was fraught with much frustration over the white worlds way of learning and his native way of seeing the world. He led a two hour seminar on the Saturday, going into these differences in more detail and expressing what a challenge it is for Aboriginals to be in the traditional school setting.( Aboriginals have a suicide risk ten times the level of the national average. ) Natives brains are wired differently- they tend to be more artistic. I recall my brother spending hours drawing action figures at our kitchen table when we were growing up. He had a gift for art- more right brained than left brained. He talked about spirituality being a way of life for many Aboriginals and that being in the White world of materialism and competitive hierarchy as being so far away from his native heritage.
In the native world, it is all about community and you think with the view, how can I help the community versus how can I help myself? Indian time is so much different than linear time and schedules that we must follow in the western world view. He talked about meeting the Aboriginal population with an open heart and learning from them, going to sweat lodges and pow-wows to see their experience of the great spirit and reconnecting to his own heritage as a means to feel whole again. I learned a lot about my brother in this two hour seminar and a lot about his heritage that I never knew. I saw my brother through an entirely different lens. I was super grateful to my brother when I was growing up because of his lightness (think Will Smith) but I had never seen the rich depth of his character that was evident this weekend.
My brother grew up with a lot of charisma. He has the personality that we all wish we had inherited but was largely amiss in our Norwegian gene pool (sorry Dad for the joke!). He has a great sense of humor and has a gift of story -telling. He is animated in his expression and has lived a very full life with lots of experiences. He is memorable on a first meeting.
When he got in front of the church this weekend with his tattoos, one large, visible on his face and the others on his arms, it was obvious that this was not their typical guest speaker. But when Ralph opened his mouth and started talking from his heart there was not a dry eye in the house by the time he was done. He owned who he was in all his painful nakedness at the pulpit in such a way that we could all relate to. He shared his humanity, his heartbreak, his feelings of being lost and now found, and his message of being met with love wherever you are; that God’s love is unconditional, no matter how broken you are, that the well of love is there for you to drink from always and that it never goes away. He commanded the stage with such presence that we all, including my Dad were beaming with pride. He was born to bring his message of spirituality to his Aboriginal people and any church that has an open mind.
His message ultimately was about how we are all connected in our humanity and that no matter how broken you feel there is always the power of redemption and healing, if you are willing to trust that there is love and healing out there for you, it will find you. Nothing is beyond healing and love is the greatest healing force in the universe. You are loved no matter who you are, what you have done, acceptance of you in the moment, is all you need to heal in the presence of God’s love or the Great Spirit’s love. All of my family members sat in the pews, literally weeping, watching our brother heal us with unconditional love and acceptance- the circle comes to a path of completion with love being the bridge- who would ever have predicted this moment in time. We are all so blessed!! XOXOXOXO