Lifesaving Eskimos

I believe to my core that I wouldn’t be alive today had it not been for eskimos.

One of my favorites, well he died a couple of years ago. He was a sober addict from LA. I met him a couple of times – or should I say, got to shake his hand after speaking engagements, the first time in 1986 in Calgary, Alberta, and again 10 years later in White Rock, B.C.

Bob E. loved to tell the story of a man sitting at the corner of the bar in Tuktoyaktuk, way up in Canada’s Northwest Territories. He’s listening to three pastors prattle on about the existence of God, and his many miracles. When one of the pastors tries to engage him in the conversation, the non preacher rolls his eyes and says, “Gentlemen I have no quarrel with the God of your beliefs, I just don’t believe in him myself.”

“Why is that?” one pastor asks.

“Because the only time I prayed in my life, he never answered me,” the man replies.

“What was the occasion that you prayed?” the other asks.

“Well, it was a few years ago. I was out hunting and honestly, I strayed too far from my camp. A storm was blowing in. I couldn’t figure out which direction to go and it was getting worse out. Way worse. Snow. Ice. Cold. For the first time in my life as a hunter I really was scared. So, I prayed.”

“Well, my son, surely God answered your prayers – you’re here! You’re alive!” exclaimed the preacher.

“Well, no father. Actually, there was no reply.”

“But you made it out!”

“True, but trust me it wasn’t God. Some Eskimo just happened to be wandering by. He gave me a lift back to my camp on his ski-do.”

The point of Bob’s Eskimo story is a well-used one, of course. We don’t know how God helps us. But we need to be humble enough to ask for that help. You’ve probably heard how He works in mysterious ways. All that.

For me, hearing that story in early recovery was fundamental to my development of a Higher Power concept. Being a man raised in an Anglican church family, I had been taught there was one God, he was up in the sky and you don’t make jokes about him ever. So, the idea of an Eskimo as some kind of gateway, a surrogate, well that was an affront to God, wasn’t it?

Apparently not at all. In recovery I was learning about God as I wished to understand Him, in whatever context, it was just fine. As long as He She It was omnipotent, all forgiving, all  loving, it was just fine, I was taught. I went with it.

Take what you like and leave the rest, my peers in early recovery suggested. Well, Bob’s Eskimo story was something I took.

My Eskimos? It’s hard for me to say when the first one showed up, but they’ve certainly had my back since I was little. Sisters. Relatives. Friends and their parents. Social workers. Ship mates. And those are just the ones I know about. If I knew how many have been there for me, I might be embarrassed by my lack of gratitude shown to them.

Eskimos. The term has become unfashionable because it translates that the indigenous of the north were barbaric eaters of raw meat. So, it is considered derogatory to some in that part of the country. But no matter whether you use Eskimos or Innuits, the point of the story is set. When you are in a bind, ask for help. Just don’t tell Him what kind of help you need. He can figure it out.

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