Orientation Matters

Pretend that the room you are in is a timeline; one end of the room is the past, the other end is the future, and in the middle is the time you are experiencing this very moment. This was my first class in Peace and Conflict Studies at Canadian Mennonite University and our professor asked us to place ourselves on that timeline. He asked us questions like “How do you live your life?” and “How do you orient yourself in regards to time?” So, where do you find yourself?

I find myself, as I did in that first class, constantly oriented towards the past. I’m always thinking about what has been and what I can learn from the things that have already happened. I also tend to live jumping back and forth from idealizing the past, looking starry eyed into the future and am uncertain how to live well in the present. Our class was scattered across the timeline.

We learned that different cultures tend to birth differing orientations to time. Western cultures tend to focus on how the present will affect the near future and has a tendency to forget or disregard the past and doesn’t look far enough into the future. Many traditional ways of knowing in Aboriginal cultures have a strong sense of regarding the past while slowly walking backwards into the future. Both of these orientations to time are moving forward, however they are distinct in how they move forward.

A year ago, ICYA did a community assessment which acknowledged the gap between young people in the North End and the ability to find meaningful work that would provide a livable wage. The idea was born that we should have a program that focused on character building and competency building- hence the new program name, CB². The lives of these youth are often laced with many challenges. They tend to carry their past forward without the support to acknowledge it. There is hope for the future, and a yearning for jobs that are life giving.

Wednesdays after school the CB² participants meet. This is currently a small group of youth gathering together in our old drop-in space. We have had many conversations about what it means for them to find a job in the future. I have learned that there are many challenges for young people to find meaningful work at a livable wage in the North End. We have talked about the expectations that employers have – that showing up on time shows respect, about respecting our coworkers and ourselves, about working with people that think differently than us, about taking initiative, and many other things. I have learned that some youth are passionate about working with kids, and others dream about working with animals in the future. On Thursday nights, CB² participants volunteer their time at Kid’s Drop-in. It’s cool to see youth who have been attending ICYA’s programs for years come and serve the kids who are growing up in the same neighbourhood they did!

Each day CB² grows changes and evolves. Sometimes this new program is moving forward and other days we take a few steps back. Thankfully, we serve a God that dwells in the past, the present and the future. To God be the glory as we move forward.