It was a simple, informal, unexpected conversation with the check-out gal at the local grocery store.

She was wearing an “Every Child Matters” bright orange shirt. I commented on it and said that I was sorry I wasn’t able to get to the rally on the weekend. She said she couldn’t get there either. And then she said “I’ll never forget the children and am grateful for my mom.”

I asked what, in particular, brought her that feeling of gratitude and she said … “She made us go outdoors every day and shout as loud as we could.”

Neighbours would ask the children why they were shouting and their reply was always the same “Mom told us to.”

The grocery story clerk never understood ‘why’.
She just did it.
And then she continued …
“Mom also made us run as fast as we could to the corner store and back and said she was timing us. Each time, we had to at least do it as fast as we did it the day before and try to beat our own record.”

Again, she never understood ‘why’. She just did it.

When the store clerks’s mother died, she never had the opportunity to ask her mother ‘why’ and didn’t think about either of those incidents again … until the first group of unmarked graves of Residential School children was discovered.

And then she realized … her mother was teaching her and her siblings what to do if the government came to take them to the Residential School.

Stories that are emerging from the students of the Residential Schools speak of children who disappeared and were never heard of again. Many of those children were quiet and didn’t run away.

Most residential children who shouted and tried to run away were punished. But they didn’t disappear.

The grocery store clerk wishes she could speak with her mother and thank her for the lessons of shouting and running. But she can’t. Her mother died.

So instead, she often wears something with the colour orange on it.

Today, it was the orange “Every Child Matters” t shirt featuring four sets of hands encircling the words ‘Every Child Matters’ against an orange back drop, created by Andy Everson of the K’ómoks First Nation in British Columbia, Canada and that tshirt sparked a conversation about “Lessons Mothers Teach Their Children” that I will never forget.

© June Maffin

T shirt design artist: Andy Eversonof the K’ómoks First Nation, British Columbia, Canada