The thesaurus offers such synonyms to spontaneity as naturalness,
freedom and impulsiveness. What a way to describe the summer break home at St. Joseph’s Indian School!
The structure of time is different. Routines are missing but not missed. There is plenty of unscheduled time to fill with spontaneous adventure: riding bikes and then ditching them and running into the woods to build (or add to) teepee-like forts – one for the boys and one for the girls. Finding a dead bird while playing outdoors becomes a search for the perfect burial spot complete with prayer and a homemade headstone. Walking to town to go swimming may include rolling down grassy hills at Barger Park or stopping at the Derby for a cookie. For now, there is no “have to.”
One of the children’s favorite things to do (still) is to go out to the new playground at St. Joseph’s. One recent afternoon, there was a noticeable shift in mood on the playground.
It could have been because of sun shining too brightly… or just being tired. Instead of mirth and mischief there were complaints and grouchiness. The decision to move on from the park was simple. On to the next thing!
Except no one could agree on anything… We moved to a grassy area and just sat. We talked about what they were experiencing and the next moment throwing handfuls of grass in random directions. “Random” meaning in my direction…
I was covered in green and laughter! Then Scott, one of St. Joseph’s Family Service Counselors, appeared and invited us to be part of a prayer circle with the high school students. Within moments, the children went from feeling restless, to rolling around in the grass, to actively praying. No planning necessary.
I am partial to spontaneity and the idea of being open to “Divine Appointments.” One afternoon a student, I’ll call him R, appeared to be very unhappy. I asked him if he would be willing to help carry some things back to another home.
His response seemed more like a test than just a “no.”
I turned away and then heard a quieter “Ok – sure.” I must have passed the test.
So I gathered up the supplies while R enlisted the help of his younger brother A. I let them lead the way, which seemed important, even though I would have preferred staying away from the mosquito-infested grass. Moving quickly, wanting to complete this chore and move on to the next unplanned activity, I almost missed our divine appointment.
A baby bird was perched on the back of the bench. I turned and saw R and the bird, starting at each other with no more than two feet between them.
Why isn’t this bird flying away?
Something important was happening.
A and I stopped at a distance and watched in awe at the connection happening between R and this delicate-looking bird.
“Look we are both the same!” exclaimed R.
Both R and the bird had a bit of white hair on top of their dark heads. The boy and the bird seemed taken with each other.
Then, perhaps because of the awkward load we were carrying, all of us started walking again. I wish we hadn’t. A spell seemed to have broken. The bird continued to watch as R walked away.
He wondered out loud if the bird would still be there after we finished. It was. This time A cautiously approached and the bird quickly flew away.
Something then dawned on R and a smile brightened his face. He turned to face me, his gaze saying “See I am special. This bird that looks like me told me so.”
A tear fell as the purity of this moment hit hard. It transformed this child with his very bad mood, into feeling something very extraordinary.
To have correctly experienced this natural, unplanned and unprompted event, you kind of had to be there. It loses something in the written delivery. Thinking of it, even now, brings up emotion. I hope R clings to this spontaneous and significant moment forever…
He really is exceptional. A bird that looks like him told him so.
You should be able to give away your most cherished possession without your heart beating faster.
This defines the value of generosity in the Circle of Courage. In helping others, youth create their own proof of worthiness and make a positive contribution to another human life.
Six young ladies from St. Joseph’s Indian School set out to do just that before school ended. To put generosity in action, they spent a Saturday serving at The Banquet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Several weeks earlier, I tentatively asked the girls about an outing that would focus on volunteering. Since their ideal outing generally involves shopping and eating at a fast food restaurant, I was surprised when I received a resounding “yes!”
The Banquet’s mission is to provide food and fellowship through their ministry. They provide a safe place where people can gather, receive nourishment and experience love in action.
The day of our visit, the girls participating woke up early and were outside at 8:25 for the ride to Sioux Falls. Once they settled on who was going to sit where and seat belts were on, we took off. The other houseparent and I knew that music and volume were going to be the central issue for the next two hours.
Arriving exactly on time, we went in and put on nametags. All the volunteers sat at tables while the manager announced the groups volunteering. In all, there were about 40 volunteers. When it was announced that students from St. Joseph’s were present, everyone turned to look at these young Native American women who had given up part of their Saturday. Several of them hid behind their hands, sheepish at the attention. They were the youngest volunteers in attendance.
Everyone was encouraged to talk with visitors at The Banquet. Additional instructions were given for our safety, such as not sharing our last names, not giving out money and not offering transportation. A volunteer offered up a prayer and then we went to our different areas.
In the next hour, approximately 290 people came through the doors. Of these, 48 were children. The girls poured 17 gallons of milk, plus coffee and water. They made
conversation where possible and at the end of the hour, they helped sweep and put up chairs.
Everyone met for the closing prayer. The manager made a point of saying the “St. Joseph’s girls rocked” and everyone applauded them. We were certainly invited back to help again sometime.
What I really wanted to know was what the students thought. And would they do it again? Again, I received a resounding “yes!”
Here is how they described their day of generosity:
Cool – I really liked it a lot.
It felt cool to help others.
It felt good to give back.
I liked it because I got to do something positive.
One of The Banquet’s visitors told the girls to stay in school and get as much education as she could because that’s the best way to get what she wanted.
Thank you for providing opportunities for the Lakota boys and girls to serve others! Without your generosity, these life lessons would not be possible.