Saturday, December 15, 2018

The precious gift of stories shared

Joyce Sasse - A book of stories beautifully written by and about the Hutterite people, was a precious gift I received this Advent Season. As I read it, I am reminded how important story-telling is in helping us build peaceful relationships.

In “Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen” Mary-Ann Kirkby tells about the traditions, rituals, food culture and lives shared in a number of colonies across Western Canada. We can almost hear the laughter and singing as the women cook and clean, plant their gardens and slaughter their poultry. Many is the time the author is reminded of her own colony roots – from before her family left their colony when she was aged-ten, and from the traditions carried on by her parents during her growing-up years.

We learn about how young men look for wives, the decisions needed when starting a new colony, and preparing for rituals such as Easter communion.

In her notes the story-teller included pages from the diaries of a Head Cook, and an in-depth conversation with the Prediger (minister).

But this book is about far more than kitchen gossip and community living. When she writes about the prejudices and obstacles Hutterites had to face in the 50’s and 60’s, I remember those times – and the way negative insinuations about them were part of my up-bringing. It was against this background that I came to better understand the vengeful implications of racial prejudice, and appreciate our need to move beyond such biased attitudes.

What the book did was help me learn about and appreciate many of the nuts-and-bolts that hold this culture together. Much deserves our consideration, including their approach to rearing and educating children, the give-and-take of community living, valuing the accumulated insights of elders and traditions, and another way to look at responsible citizenship.

While I’ve enjoyed the friendship of many Hutterites, the book has given me a much deeper respect for who they are and the gifts we can receive as we hear their stories and enjoy their friendships.

In this Advent Season when we are asked to contemplate Peace-building, the sharing of real stories such as this adds depth to what it means to listen to, learn from, and respect each other. Such is surely the central message given by the Prince of Peace!

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