Monday, June 15 in Montana

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: given by Jeni (from Rochester Hills, MI)

“Preach often, if necessary, use words.” (Advice from a mentor back home in Michigan.)

JOURNAL ENTRY: written by Sherry (from Davenport, IA)

First Work Day: Like pieces fitting a jigsaw puzzle, we each sorted ourselves into our respective “Goldilocks” work sites. (The ones that were “just right” for us.) Our journal/thought for the day focused our minds and hearts on our broader purpose: kindness and extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Then winding our way to the Community College, we entered the work-a-day world of Bob Tailfeathers: well educated, articulate, gifted, artistic – maker of quill jewelry and teacher of same. A kind father finding a way to make a new color and design, motivated by his father-love at his daughter’s request and she motivated to help others…kind, beautiful. Denise and Sissy from Head Start – businesswomen on a mission, yet humble and proud all at the same time. Smokey and Ivan – workers of the earth, caretakers of nature…intuitive and industrious…Salt of the earth kind of guys.

Eagle Shield lunch ladies extraordinaire, Maria and Sissy, guardians of a kitchen so clean and orderly – it is unmatched by any on the planet, nay – the universe. Donning our plastic aprons and gloves, Maureen and I dished up tuna casserole, beets and pears, homemade buns to our hungry Blackfeet brothers and sisters. Can this be some sort of atonement for the sins of starvation and near extinction of their ancestors?

But a meal shared with us by Hiram and Yvonne, who is fluent in Blackfeet, became a feast of knowledge and understanding as they spoke of the importance of language in preserving the culture. For embedded within the language is the very code of respect and honor intrinsic to these Indians. Without their language – their language, they are reduced to mere words: men without chests, people without their souls. Why does it take so many Blackfeet words to make one English word? Because a table isn’t just a table, a thing – it’s a place where we gather to eat. A school isn’t just a building – it’s the place we gather to learn. And what is a computer? It’s Blackfeet name is: “He thinks on his own” not – it thinks on its own – he thinks on his own. For Blackfeet, everything created by God or man is alive with purpose. They don’t have to search for meaning – it is apparent every time they breathe a phrase.

Todd and Tim shared their stories as well as their sweat – picking rock with Ivan in the reservation sun. This is just the first stop in Todd’s excellent adventure. A journey of greater understanding of indigenous people and their cultures – which he in turn will pass on to his family and students. Next stop – Cook Islands – Tanzania – new mountaintops – even Kilimanjaro. He is the window on the world for a very fortunate bunch of kids from Indiana. Their own Indiana Jones. Binding, ironing, ordering words…Anita, we all owe you one for the tedious tasks you undertook and all with that trademark smile and good nature.

Trekking, digging and trekking again and again between Care Center and the Learning Center for God knows what. Needed gloves, much needed lunch, lost souls and found again… aren’t we all….

Finally, I speak of the wisdom shared with us by Joe, Joseph and young Gus….transferred rights to such insights that we are now entrusted to preserve and pass with the virulence of a small pox epidemic and the passion of one once near death – but restored to life – of one once blind who now can see, from one whom we have received Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound and healing the cry of the flute – of new friendship….take off your shoes – we stand here on Holy Ground.

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