A scene stays in my mind from the movie Dances With Wolves. Lt. John Dunbar was a white man. He became friends with a group of Sioux and went with them on a buffalo hunting expedition to gather food for the community. Before they found the herd, however, they found the carnage left by white hunters who had dishonored the animals and themselves by only killing for greed and sport, not for sustenance.
There was tension in the party, now. They kept riding. No one spoke. They acknowledged the grief of the terrible scene by not distracting each other from it with words. In his heart, he felt that he was seeing the acts of “a people without value and without soul”, “with no regard for Sioux rights”. He and everyone with him knew that what they were seeing was not the work of native peoples. What could he say?
His journey that day was to ride silently with those hurt by his own kind, feeling remorse without attempts to deny it, excuse it, or claim his own personal innocence. He didn’t ramble on about how not all white people are that way. Silence would demonstrate that better than explanations and defenses. There are some situations in which every denial uttered convinces your listeners one degree further of the opposite of your point. Silence is valuable, then. As much as I love words, words might serve to obstruct the justice of silence.
But my original point in starting to write all this comes from the next scene, when Dunbar is lying down to sleep that night, some distance off from where the Sioux are gathered. His thoughts: “It was hard to know where to be. I don’t know if they understood, but I could not sleep among them. There had been no looks, and there was no blame. There was only the confusion of a people not able to predict the future.”
Is confusion not one of the vines of grief? It tangles our feet and holds us in a place we would rather not be…until the movement of friends nearby invites our own struggle forward. The season of Lent has found us, now, in a confusing time, and we are unable to predict the future, and some of us do grieve losses. As you lean into your journey, may your movement be joined by the hoofbeats of friends who do not blame, but who have the grace of practical silence.