by Barbara Gironda
Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” I thought of these words often as I looked at the beautiful Montana Mountains. It has been 27 years since I ventured to Glacier National Park as a recent college graduate, eager to start working at St Mary’s Lodge. I had several reasons for wanting to return and one of the biggest ones was to share this beautiful place with my daughter, Joy.
Spending this entire week staying on the Blackfeet Reservation and interacting with so many people truly enhanced this experience. My stay so many years ago was about exploring the beauty of a place that seemed unreal to me. I feel in love with hiking, biking, and enjoying all the natural beauty God placed before me. While I enjoyed myself, I did not take the time to meet the Blackfeet Indians that also shared this area.
Taking the time to work with other volunteers and the Blackfeet community enabled me to learn so much more about this area and the proud people that call this place home. I had the pleasure of working in Eagle Shield with Maria and Landon. My daughter worked at the Care Center. Both places were opportunities to interact with Elders. In the midst of socializing, helping, and laughing – I thought about how differences really do not make a difference. All human beings have the same basic needs for themselves and for their children; love, compassion and understanding. My daughter enjoyed listening to, socializing with and assisting the Elders in any way possible. For her to tell me that she wished we were staying another week…I knew she enjoyed thinking of others first and felt that she was appreciated for her efforts. Being able to volunteer on a project separate from me was a great opportunity for her to realize the value she can bring to volunteering. An open heart and mind, as well as a desire to contribute, will produce a large range of results.
The untold riches of the Blackfeet culture and community were there for both of us to learn. I am sure we only scratched the surface and it has kindled a desire to learn more. I looked at Montana, Glacier National Park, and the Blackfeet Community and all the people we met with new eyes and, oh, what a sight to behold. I encourage others to take a volunteering opportunity like this for so many reasons. It is almost like taking a journey outside of yourself and realizing the value you can give and all that you can receive. It is a blessing that yields benefits for both sides. I continually leave my Global Volunteer experiences with a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation. So much can be accomplished in a week and we are grateful to have played a part.