Bridging the Gap
Our world is calling forth change. It always will. And always, also, an incredible leader will step up to answer that call. It is human nature to care, but it takes superhuman strength and heart to break trail for the future. The solutions have to be created and then sustained long enough for the world to know how to bring those solutions into their everyday experience. In a way, the leader bridges the gap with his or her life and body, until the rest of the world is ready to accept and execute those changes. This takes time, perseverance, and an unbending faith in humanity.
Our topic this week – Movemeber Mancrush – is near and dear to me. I am lucky to have great men in my life, and I am especially lucky to have the opportunity to experience the great leadership of James Hodgson of Nish Tees.
I’ve known James for a long, long time; we’re high school friends, and old school pals. We have 30 years’ worth of hilarious teenage shenanigans, co-inspiration, and now co-leadership. I am always grateful for the innovations our conversations bring into my own projects, but in these great days of accelerated change, I am so grateful for his contributions that allow Canada to experience his genuine and insightful action. He is a humble and quiet leader, who requires zero recognition. It is this exact gentle nature that enables him to create great and lasting change.
What does James do?
Well, on the surface, he owns and operates a t-shirt company in Peterborough, Ontario. He’s the creative designer, the printer, the folder, the shipper, and the customer service. He will be the person who answers the phone, listens to what you need to achieve with your design, and then delivers perhaps the funkiest version you could ever imagine of whatever you ordered. He doesn’t just over-deliver as a small business person, he makes you look and feel like a rock star. It may be something as simple as your personal logo, t-shirts for your team, or an enviro-mug for your event. Whatever the “thing”, he creates something that represents you, fully. Not one detail of your fabulousness is left out.
As a graphic design and t-shirt company, you couldn’t work with anyone better. But there’s more. If you spend a few moments on his website, you will quickly be welcomed into the re-emergence of Indigenous culture in Canada.
You will see James on location at pow wows, community events, and as the initiator of local language events. He is committed to the awareness of Indigenous land and water rights, small business, arts, and most visibly, language preservation. It’s a big job, and yet James makes it possible and accessible with his printed designs. Most importantly, he makes it possible with the event and initiatives he chooses to promote and support, where he focuses his attention.
Recently, James created a big success—not just for himself as a business owner, but as a monetary donation for his local community, his people, and for Canada. It’s a bit hard to define by his actions who his people are, because it’s all of us; he represents and personifies the strength and beauty of human nature—our kindness, our ability to create great things from our good thoughts and intentions. He sticks a hand out to all of us.
However, with his recent Orange T-shirt Day Fundraiser, James created an opportunity for shirt wearers to promote Anishinabe language and culture, while simultaneously honouring the children separated from their homes and families by residential schools. This is truth and reconciliation, at the same time. It is the step forward that Indigenous populations in Canada deserve immediately, with no gaps and no hesitation. James provides for us a bridge.
So, what does James really do?
James is a connector, a fundraiser, a representative, and an example. He is a leader and a mediator for Indigenous relations in Canada. He is a teacher. With is heart, his life, his body, his creativity, his insight, and his inexhaustible work ethic, he creates a way for all Canadians—all of us equally—to connect to a living Anishinabe culture. A sustainable future is in the Anishinabe language itself; it is not a past event. Each word teaches a living worldview where we can witness our own coming from the Earth, that we are a part of a great ecosystem, and that we can participate in its perpetual rebirth. We are not separate and surfing on an unstable future; we have the power to create it. Anishinabe language is a living and breathing gift from the land. James gifts us all with the ability to speak it.
Miigwetch, my incredible friend. The truth is that what you do—with everything you are, and everything you offer and teach the people around you—makes it possible for all of us to reconcile not just the history of our country, but the separation from the Earth, from our whole selves. You show us how it’s done. You create ways for us to participate in loving and sustainable action. You make it possible for us to be an innovated one.
It is evolution itself which James designs into his t-shirts. True, that.