Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Michelle Thrush: It’s only one small step from riches to ruin

BY MICHELLE THRUSH, CALGARY HERALD

There have been some “dramatic” changes in my life.

Acting has been my chosen profession for close to 25 years. Some years were up and some years were down but I never gave up and I filled in the blanks as best I could.

The big changes began in 2009 when I was cast on this little Alberta-based television show called Blackstone — a show about a fictitious First Nation community somewhere in Canada.

At the time I did not realize how this would change my life. After the first season came out nothing was the same again. Changes that not only affected me and my career but also the lives of my two daughters.

I became a single mom in 2004. My daughters were two and five when their father and I decided to separate and remain friends. Needless to say, the first few years after were extremely difficult. My career was on a downward slope and my life was literally falling apart.

Looking back I would certainly define this as one of the most challenging times of my life. My daughters had a lot of readjusting. The important part was constant reassurance from their dad and I that none of it was their fault.

My oldest daughter has clear memories of those days, memories of us going to the welfare office. The three of us waiting in the seated area for my name to be called. She knew we were there to ask for help. This visit would happen a few times over the next couple of years.

They saw the worry in me as I gathered up my dignity. When my name was finally called, the three of us would walk in. I would hold back my tears saying I just needed one, possibly two, months of assistance at the most … I just needed help ’til I could get back on my feet.

They also watched as I pleaded with my kind-hearted landlord at the time to please wait a few more days, a cheque would be coming in the mail soon. They stood by my side as we waited at the food bank.

So many times they watched me struggle to make ends meet, make a small amount of money last the month and every time they witnessed my struggle they never questioned that somehow Mommy would make things work out. The three of us had no idea that in just a few years our lives would change dramatically.

In September of 2011 I found myself once again sitting nervously, waiting for my name to be called. But instead of a welfare office, I was at the Gemini Awards ceremony in Toronto. My daughters also watched nervously at their grandmother’s house. Then someone called my name and it felt like time stood still! I walked up to the stage to accept the prestigious award for “Best Performance By An Actress In A Continuing Leading Dramatic Role” and my whole life had changed.

Together my daughters and I have struggled to find our way and we have also learned the importance of giving back. This year has been one of the most inspiring in my career. I am working on three television shows as well as continuing my work speaking in communities across the country. I have always believed in using my profile to share my story with Aboriginal youth. Even during the times I was broke, I gave shows for free and spoke to youth about my life and the choices I made to get where I am.

There is a sacred teaching in our culture to give back. We are taught that when someone walks into your home, no matter how little there is, you always offer what you have. It is known as the “Give Away.”

This year, I have managed to save enough money to take my daughters on a family vacation. It is exciting and something I never thought would happen.

Upon booking our tickets I made it very clear to my girls that if we are going to do this we needed to make a plan to give back. So we made a firm decision that upon returning before Christmas we would volunteer for five days at a social agency in the city. We are looking forward to this, and as a family we will share what we have been taught — to give is to receive.

It is through the eyes of my daughters I see the world as it should be — when you are blessed with love, there is nothing more you need.

Michelle Thrush is an award-winning television, film and theatre actress.

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