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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Four: Mail Order Bride and the Leap of Faith

6 Jul

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What if… you were a young woman in Finland, writing back and forth to a young man from Finland living in Canada (whom you have never met) who has taken it upon himself to pioneer out to Canada in the early 1900’s? You have been hooked up to each other through friends and are now part of a series correspondence blind dates. Through beautifully scripted hand-written letters (as you are both creative), you forge a strong friendship over the course of a year. You start to learn more about him and his adventures in Canada, and he starts to learn a bit more about you. You exchange a couple of photos, and the rest of the correspondence is an outpouring of hopes and dreams.

You realize that you are getting older (late 20’s), and are now one of the few single ladies left in your town. This is an eligible bachelor, well-respected in his community (through word of mouth) regardless of his desire to live in another country. Even though you haven’t met him, you have a pretty good feeling and intuition about him through his letters because he is educated, articulate and motivated to make his way in the Canadian frontier. If he proposed on his next visit to Finland and asked you to go with him to Canada, would you?

From Mail to Meeting: This was the correspondence that occurred over the course of several months between my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus; and my grandfather, Onni Kattelus while he was getting oriented in British Columbia. In 1931, he went back to Finland to finally meet my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus) in person; marry her; and, as a result, return with her back to Canada (all in one trip). It was a magnificent leap of faith. The words and the time that they took in their initial correspondence helped them to forge a strong enough belief in each other and their respective dreams, to act upon them.

Settling: After much hardship surviving the rough and undeveloped landscape around Field, BC, they eventually settled into Golden, BC where my mother and her two siblings grew up. They had a hard-working life amongst other Finnish settlers in the Columbia Valley with very little leisure time. I remember from my visits to their home that they were always working at something on their property: chopping wood, planting and harvesting the orchards and gardens, making carpets on the loom, etc. However, I especially enjoyed the hot steam saunas that we would share at the end of the day.

They had a small farm, a larger garden and ran properties within the town, while my grandfather worked on the CPR as a carpenter until he passed away and left my grandmother to tend all of it on her own. She took care of her property admirably until she passed away in her 90’s. In the end, they were well-respected members of their community, and she in particular as one of the oldest living Finnish pioneers. In retrospect, both of my grandparents were highly conservative people with an incredible aversion to risk and failure. They worked hard and were incredibly meticulous and careful about everything that they did. By nature, they were not prone to making large risky decisions.

Leaps of Faith: Sometimes our circumstances, personalities, dreams, fears and issues call us to make leaps of faith. I am always fascinated by what actually motivates people to take that final step. The idea of “readiness” is an important one, but sometimes, people may not be entirely prepared for the big jump, but they do it anyway. Why?

Impetus: I would suspect that sometimes people want to jump out of the fire, hoping that they will land anywhere but where they have been. The fire that they are escaping is burning them alive, and they need to jump away, just as people sometimes do from burning buildings. Other times, people believe that what they are jumping to is so incredible–this fantasy opportunity, that they will do anything to experience it. These motivators, I believe, are the two extremes on the leap of faith continuum and can also sometimes be equated with being “impulsive”. However, other leaps of faith happen for other reasons (sometimes ranging from the simple to the complex). The stories about why people make these life-changing decisions can be fascinating as each tale holds some very small detail of their impetus for change. “Impetus”, from the Latin word “Impetere” means “to attack”. It often involves the passion to actually “attack” our dreams.

Second-Order Change: However, what is even more fascinating to me is why so many of us don’t leap. Fear is the obvious reason. None of us like to be outside of our comfort zones for long. In some cases, it is wise to stay put, and be present in the now without having any need to search and grasp beyond this moment in time, place or people. However, there are times in our lives where if we pay close enough attention, we know that we need to make a change. However, sometimes, in order for the change to be the meaningful one that we know that it needs to be, it has be to be a big change. There is no other way around it. We can’t just talk about it. We can’t pick at it or tweak it. Instead, it needs to be true “second order change” (starting all over again and building from the ground up). It requires incredible courage and then fortitude to first make the change, and then to make the change work.

Commitment: I think of so many immigrants to Canada whose stories were successful ones. They made their decisions work. There was simply no choice. They had no safety net or people or finances. They just did it. Others pioneers, some from my father’s ancestral family (writing that I will save for another article), were not as successful. Therefore, leaps of faith require leaps of intentional action, but they also need steel-willed fortitude and calculated follow-through. It may not need to all be preemptively planned and orchestrated ahead of time, but there needs to be a deep commitment by the people involved so that they can draw upon it when they need to count on it for determination: “I am going to land on the other side, and I am going to enjoy the landing.”

Sisu: I write this article because I have taken a leap of faith moving to BC, and am now working on “enjoying the landing”. What will I need to do to be sure that I am happy and successful now that I have made the leap? It will continue to require of me a tenacity that is sometimes evasive. Therefore, I look to my Finnish ancestors as examples of those who took a leap of faith (independently and interdependently) and made it work on the other side. I have to trust that I, too, have this Finnish personality trait defined as “sisu” that my grandmother always said that I possessed. It means “bravery, determination and resilience”. In some cases, I also think there needs to be a measure of good luck, and so I will wish for a little of that as well.

“If we never had the courage to take a leap of faith, we’d be cheating God out of a chance to mount us up with wings like eagles and watch us soar.”
― Jen Stephens, The Heart’s Journey Home

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