Learning Patience by Living on “Indian Time” – Montana

Volunteer project“We’re on Indian time”, he said with a hint of an eye roll. “He” being my co-type A personality team member, Steve. We laughed and sat down for lunch. Brother Paul joined the table. “Time is a fluid thing here on the reservati . . . although nothing like in Africa.” He went on to tell a great little story about the time he was there attending a 10am wedding. He arrived at the bride’s house shortly before 10 and was greeted by the bride’s sister with a “What are you doing here…the wedding is at 10!” He checked his watch…sure enough, 10. He proceeded to wait….and wait…and wait some more. He waited until 3pm and thus learned that there is apparently a 5 hour time differential in Africa. Steve and I were like ‘HUH????’ and ‘ What a waste of time,’ buzzing in our over-busy little brains.

I went back to the Boys and Girls Club where I began round two of hand mowing the 40 acre jungle that is the playground. Back and forth over and over gave me a lot of time for reflection. Yesterday I had recited “Patience is a virtue, patience Is a virtue, patience is a Virtue” willing myself to believe it as we drove from place to place in search of a workplace. My “I’ll meet you there at 11” or “be back by 2” wasn’t coinciding with theirs. I came here to “Do Something” after all. In all fairness, Michelle had warned me that the U.S.’s busy little bee, goal oriented, time obsessed behavior is not, surprise! adopted the world over. Who knew?

And so as I pushed the non-self-propelled mower, over rocks, uphill both ways I began to ponder the “rightness” of my entrenched belief about being on time and accomplishing goals on schedule. There are a lot of good things to be said for them, of course. But, and here is where it gets a little blasphemous… I realized that if everything had been ‘on time’ and ‘as scheduled’ I would not have heard Brother Paul’s story, or listened as Sam told of The Flying Elvises and the grand opening ceremonies for the casino or seen the riders practicing the horse relay, or have met Neil who won Indian Nationals in the horse relay, or hear Joe say, “the only people who predict the weather in Montana are fools or North Dakotans”, or heard how Bob Tailfeathers makes jewelry out of porcupine quills, or learn the difference between buckskin and rawhide, or find out that “Appendix” is a horse that is ½ thoroughbred and ½ quarter horse.

And certainly if I had stayed on task and completed my goal of mowing the entire Back 40 at the Boys and Girls Club instead of surrendering to the mower (although not before wearing one of its wheels plumb off) I would have never have sat with Laura and learned that she has three children and one grandchild, went to colleges in Kansas and New Mexico, met her husband from Oklahoma at college, came back to the rez because her grandmother was dying, stayed on the rez because she found good jobs, has a house that will be paid off next year, loves to travel, and may move to Spokane in two years.

And you know what else? The world didn’t end because I didn’t finish my task…on time, as scheduled! Maybe a little “Indian time” really isn’t such a bad thing.


Thought for the Day: “Patience is a virtue.”

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