Mennonite Heritage Village

The Debt We Owe

by Gary Dyck

It is now January and the Mennonite Heritage Village is hosting our auditor, preparing to send out our donations receipts and making our plans for the months ahead. The staff are also busy preparing their budgets for 2021. Fortunately, 2020 was a good year financially for MHV, but more about that in a future article. What follows is a bit of a rant, but please read to the end for the positive ending.

We all have a lot of debts these days. We owe our government income tax, our infrastructure and civic duty. They in turn owe trillions to bonds and other instruments of loans in the world.

We owe our fore-parents who sacrificed so much to make a new home for us in Canada. We also owe the hosts of this glorious land who have shown us great kindness.

On top of this all, and as much as we take pride in doing our COVID duty, we are all probably feeling that life now owes us too. Life owes us extra treats, evenings out, a trip to somewhere warm. However, that mentality often gets us more in debt and as our leaders have modelled for us, in hot water instead of a peaceful state.

Here’s where the rant gets positive. Jennifer Michael Hecht has a different kind of perspective of the debt we owe: “we are indebted to one another, and the debt is a kind of faith, a beautiful difficult strange faith. We believe each other into being.” She goes on to talk about imagining yourself alone on this planet. What would you do? Would it still be worth doing dishes, going to bed at the same time, would you think of productivity, how would you conceive of what your life means. The point is, we make meaning for each other, culture makes meaning for all of us! Hence her idea that, ‘we believe each other into being’. We have little meaningful existence if we are not part of another’s existence.

During this pandemic, I have heard people talk about how it is the simple connections with others they miss. We didn’t realize how connected and how much we need those connections to live well. In Roman 13 of the Bible, Apostle Paul talks about how we have different debts to pay in society, including taxes, even income tax, respect and even honour to others. In the next verse he states: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Roman 13:8). This is the true debt we owe each other, and I think most of us actually enjoy paying this one.

During this time of mounting debt, let’s make sure we take care of these responsibly. Let’s keep loving one another and developing a heritage of care and community that will be a source of inspiration for the next generation. This is one of the primary reasons Mennonite Heritage Village exists. When we open again in 2021, we will be there for you and our community to connect with each other and to learn about those who went before us and believed us into being.