Friday, August 13, 2010
I drove 2 ½ hours to St. Francis on the Rosebud Reservation to talk to Fr. John, who has been my spiritual director for all 19 of the years I’ve worked in South Dakota. Though I’ve talked to John on the phone several times, I haven’t actually seen him since before Christmas, when the cancer was discovered and treatments began.
After recounting the ordeal from start to finish, John asked, “What kind of toll did it take?”
I have to say, the emotional toll was highest during the chemo and radiation phase. The physical toll was highest after the surgery. I’m only recently getting my energy and spark back. But, considering all I’ve been through, I’m doing OK. And, in that, I know God has seen me through.
Perhaps I’ve grown in compassion, and I certainly have a better understanding of the fears and struggles people with serious illness face. My brush with mortality certainly makes me less likely to sweat the small stuff. Like many important events that shape our lives, we often don’t realize the grace that comes with them until long after the fact.
After our talk, I was treated to supper at the Buffalo Jump Coffee House. It’s a new place in Mission that benefits the downtown Youth Project. Buffalo Jump provides both employment opportunities and activities for the Youth in the community. That alone is so needed in a community with such high dropout and suicide rates. The food was scrumptious, and the hospitality of the Jesuits and stimulating conversation made it a great evening.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Lower Brule Fair and Powwow lasted all weekend. I spent time there today at the rodeo, softball tourney, and of course, the powwow. The best part for me is that it’s like a big family reunion, where you keep running into people you know, not just from the Lower Brule community, but from all over. A stroll around the powwow grounds that would normally take just a few minutes might take an hour, as you see people and stop and talk.
I saw one of our St. Joseph’s sixth grade girls taking care of her 5 younger siblings. Some of our girls have a lot of responsibility thrust on them at an early age.
Tia, one of our new houseparents, sat next to me while the Grand Entry of the dancers was taking place. I explained what we saw, as this was her very first powwow. When you’ve taken part in many powwows, it can become somewhat routine. But, not for a first-timer!
Tia’s eyes were wide with wonder and enjoyment at all the color and pageantry. As the drummers in front of us raised their voices in song, and beat the drum in unison, seeing it through her eyes helped me reconnect with that initial thrill and inspiration.
Our annual powwow and cultural celebration is just around the corner. We host our signature event here on campus September 17-18. Everyone is welcome, and we’re all excited to see share such a joyous occasion with so many friends!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
At noon today all of our 19 homes opened, and I spent much of the day welcoming students back. I generally start my rounds at the health center. All of the students have to check in there, so I ran into many students getting their eyes and other basics checked.
Only a few students trickled in during the first hours, but that gave me plenty of time for visiting and checking.
Then, I made my way to each of the homes. The most popular food on the stove was chili since it could simmer all day and be ready any time someone new rolled in. All the clothes and possessions needed to be catalogued and initialed, paperwork and permission slips had to be signed, and many other tasks were on lists that keep the houseparents very busy.
At one home, the father of a student saw a staff member wearing a T-shirt from our last sobriety walk. He talked freely about his 14 years of sobriety, but also the difficulties he put his family through in his days of hard drinking. It’s a sad reality in too many families, especially the families we serve.
Since I last saw many of the students in May while I was still going through treatments, at least four children blurted out, “Your hair grew back!” Indeed, I’ve made a lot of progress since May. The hugs and smiles and talks with families make this a great day and a great place to be.