CathyHird banner 09Nov22

A church I once worked for that was putting a lot of effort into greening its building and activities. While I was there, they put up solar panels. It was a major project requiring long conversations, a patient decision-making process. Fortunately, there was a window of opportunity from Hydro One and a substantial bequest at the time. I remember it as a live-giving, productive but difficult project.

Visiting a friend recently who is working hard to green their life, they showed me the building where they are going to put solar panels. The company had come out, looked at the three structures and recommended the garage. They identified a couple trees that should come down, but in all made it sound so simple. And with enough exposure, really worth while.

As I spent some time in December considering more ways for us to green our lives, their example came to mind. I realized that our south facing garage is the perfect flat roof. The front is all broken up with gables, but the garage is flat and faces south. Yes, there are some trees in our neighbour’s yard that no one is going to take down, but there might be enough light. And I know that I can call the company my friends are using to figure out if the exposure is adequate. If not, a wind turbine down by the shore might work. There is a member of the family I have to convince, but I think the company’s concrete assessment will help with that.

Putting panels on the church was a worthwhile but challenging project. My friends made it seem doable for me. This example reminds me of a commercial that is making the rounds right now. It shows a young girl going through doorways, talks about the opportunities that education opens up for people. It’s the conclusion that catches me as the voice argues that the doors we go through are important, but it’s the doors we leave open behind us that really matter.

Role models who are near to us, like us, help us to imagine our pathway. Distant heroes we might admire, but it is the ones who walk a similar path who show us doorways we can go through.

As a child, my mother frequently told me that I could be the prime minister of Canada if I wanted to be. She meant to tell me that any pathway I chose would be possible. She did not say out loud that her choices had been much more limited. Her message did encourage me to see all careers as open to a woman.

Prime minister not so much. We’ve only had one woman prime minister, and while she had done good work in other places, she did not exactly open the door for other women to seek that position. It is possible, by our actions, to slam doors shut in the face of those who follow.

I remember a newly ordained woman minister, a second career middle-aged woman, who rammed her particular feminist theology down her church’s throat. Not that her ideas were wrong, but she imposed them without consultation, without dialogue, without respecting the history of the people of the congregation. Conflict erupted. She had to leave. And in thirty years, that congregation has not hired another woman minister. Door shut.

Our lives make us role models whether that is our objective or not. We show others what is possible. And we demonstrate what does not work. We open some doors, and even though it is not our intention, we shut others.

As we watch others around us, we see paths that are easy to walk and some that look to be nearly impossible. But a shut door is not the end of the story. There are keys to unlock a door. In a congregation where I have been the first woman minister, a slow, gentle approach has opened a way forward for us to work together. Kamala Harris is working away as vice-president in a way that makes it possible to imagine a woman president for our neighbour to the south. We can open doors for ourselves in such a way that we leave them open behind us for others to pass through.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.




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