serving others Blackfeet Reservation

Global Volunteer and father, Mark, describes serving others on the Blackfeet Reservation with his daughter.

This morning when the daily volunteer projects were assigned, we got the word that our help was needed in the town of Babb. Tai asked me to get her lunch together while she gathered her work clothes. I hastily packed two dry peanut butter scoops into a sleeve of wheat bread, a handful of goldfish, 4 cookies, and no drink.

Our Blackfeet hosts for the day were Oral and Jason – both enrolled members of the Tribe. Their mission was to “strip the floors” and clean the Head Start (Early Childhood) Center – with our help. We enjoyed a scenic drive to Babb while getting to know more about each other. Tai didn’t say much on the way out but expressed concern with the quality and quantity of the lunch I had prepared.

Work began in earnest with Tai and I helping Jason. We scraped and picked up debris and vacuumed in preparation for Jason to machine scrub the floor. The environment was pleasant to work in despite the task being very labor-intensive. Tai then washed down the walls of a large classroom to prepare it for paint.

serving others Blackfeet head startHappy to just be with my daughter for the day and serving others on the Blackfeet Reservation. Tai seemed more at ease with the project and some local residents. Within a few hours of this admittedly hard work, I think Tai began to reminisce about Mondays gardening and weeding project with Kelly and Rachel and realized it wasn’t such a bad gig after all.

While I may be long on finding the zen of the moment to reflect on the simplicity of the work and time with our children, I am less adept at social cues from kids. Perhaps Tai was not as enthusiastic about having a work lunch, a staple of mine for 30 years, or just the inadequate quality of the lunch. It dawned on me later in the day that perhaps Tai’s questions about whether the clocks were all correct, what we might be having for dinner, and what we might work on tomorrow were less-subtle cues that perhaps dad was the only one staying in the moment.

helping students on the Blackfeet Reservation

Tai counsels student on library computer.

Jason and I got the message that it was time to change up tasks. We kind of missed the memo about asking for team input (in this case Tai). Our next project for the afternoon consisted of taking down light fixtures (which were full of fly carcasses) and scrubbing them clean. Tai found this more repulsive than ever. She gave me a teen eye roll and said ” Oh, I get it, we need to be ‘flexible’, thanks Dad, way to go”. Any how, Jason and I enjoyed making banter over “fly in one’s soup” jokes for the hour while Tai dug into the work at hand, hoping not to barf.

I am very impressed by Tai’s work ethic and unwillingness to quit. Tai immediately fell asleep once we started the 40 minute drive back to Browning. While I was writing my journal, it occurred to me that Tai has likely asked Linda to be reassigned to another partner or return to weeding. Regardless, Tai got to work with real Indians. Although she may have missed the interaction part, unless you count asking Jason and Oral for a paint scraper.

Here’s to a new day of service. So I ask Tai like I have since she was four years old, “what do we know about badgers?”

“The badger sometimes gets his way.”

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