Last Friday night, the St. Joseph’s Children Count Mentor Program headed to east to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a picnic and corn maze. For those of you who have never
been to one, a corn maze is a series of paths cut into a corn field. Once inside, you must follow the twists and turns to find a series of 10 clues, using a map, and the setting sun for a compass.
Small groups of mentors and their matches travelled through the maze together. The Lakota students, full of youthful exuberance, quickly bounded into the corn field shouting, “I found the path!” As if there was just one path and not, oh, 7 or 8 of them. It really didn’t matter which one, since everything was brand new and exciting to them.
Off they went, with us slow adults in tow, struggling to keep up. About three turns in, we were hopelessly lost. Well, not hopelessly. After about 10 minutes of random running around, we actually bumped into the third clue completely by accident.
This is when the map came in handy.
Having established our location, deep in the corner of the maze, Cindy deftly took over and began guiding us, turn by turn, back through the rows of corn until we found the preceding clues. This was how we proceeded for the rest of the 90 minutes we spent in the maze—Cindy guiding us carefully to the general vicinity of the next clue and then
the kids fanning out and locating the clue with a lot of shouting and jumping up and down. “I found it!”
This is how relationships at St. Joseph’s work a lot of the time, really. Kids are exuberant and full of energy, but aren’t always able to discern the right path. Adults can guide them most of the way, advising them where to turn and where to stop along the way. In the end, the kids have to make it to the goal themselves.
Life is like a corn maze, isn’t it?
There are plenty of opportunities to reach dead ends, back track and start over again. We can take shortcuts, but mostly we have to go the long way around and just be patient. Sometimes we’re not lost, we just don’t know exactly where we are. The important thing is to stick together, listen, and look out for each other. Also, be open to the tiny miracles along the way. Like a red moon rising over the horizon. Or someone unexpectedly offering you their gloves for your frozen hands.
My group found all ten marked clues, and headed triumphantly for the exit, brandishing our flashlights in victory. Eventually, all kids and adults were accounted for, giving a new twist to the No Child Left Behind law. We trundled onto the bus for the two-hour drive back to Chamberlain and St. Joseph’s Indian School, happy and tired.
I’d like to say thank you, not only to the people on the Mentor Committee who worked so hard to make this happen (Celia, Dee, Sherry and Jim), but also to the generous benefactors who support us in our work. Like flashlights in a maze, every little bit helps us to get where we are going!