My old friend Fear

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year.  I get to spend some quality time with my old friend Fear.  Fear has a lot to teach me, but I generally avoid her and don’t return her phone calls.  Once a year though, we get to hang out and have fun for a change.

At St. Joseph’s Indian School, I hang out with Lakota (Sioux) girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and they love Fear.  They love to watch scary movies and tell scary stories.  They love to jump out from dark corners and yell, “Boo!”  They love to hide plastic tarantulas in the coffee maker and severed hands in the cereal. They also like to cause Fear by screaming for no reason, failing to come back home on time, and playing contact sports with ruthless abandon.

This is what St. Joseph’s has taught me about Fear:

Talk about what scares you.  Ok, sometimes it’s true that sitting around talking about the winagi (spirit) in the basement causes everyone in the home to freak out.  But it is also true that if you talk about the winagi in the basement (or the elephant in the living room) chances are you aren’t the only one who is dealing with it. Phew!  What a relief!  And, chances are someone else knows what to do about it.  Sometimes a simple prayer or blessing can set things right again. Or sometimes you can get a friend to go to the basement with you, so you don’t have to be scared by yourself.

Stick together.  My houseparent partner Cathy and I took the girls in the Stevens Home to a Haunted House.  Two hours of waiting and 12 minutes of sheer terror… We moved through there like a tiny freight train, everyone packed tightly together.

Cathy led the way, taking the terror head on and clearing a path through the zombie minefield… Until she ran us all into a wall and then we got turned around and the machete guy had to break character and very nicely say, “This way, ladies.”

I grabbed someone in the dark and steered her to safety.  “I got your back.”  No child left behind in this haunted house!  “Wait.  You’re not my kid.”

Face your fears. OK, so if you’re in a scary situation like a haunted house, it is a good idea to laugh in the face of fear.  Or in Freedom’s case, laugh at the ugly machete guy and say, “Nyaa nyaa, you’re in a cage.  You can’t get me!”   What could go wrong?  Feeling braver already!

Or not.  Until you realize that there is a back door to the cage.  And he IS coming to get you.  In that case, apologize. “I’m sorry Mr. Crazy Scary Monster Guy! I’m sure that you’re actually quite nice!”    Then grab your friends and run screaming.

Have faith.  What makes Fear tolerable – either in the imaginary world of a haunted house or in the very real world of St. Joseph’s – is faith.  Even when we can’t see where we are going, and everything feels mixed up and crazy, we know that we are not alone.  We are surrounded by love and support.  We have faith that we can get through this, and that our calls for help will be heard.  We can see the Spirit at work in each other and in our Tiyospaye—our extended family.

The Lakota children wish you a Happy Halloween
Happy Halloween from the Lakota students and staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

There are other fears that we will continue to work on throughout the year, like Chantochurchophobia – the fear of singing in church.  We will prepare for scary situations by having fire drills, lock down drills and tornado drills.  We will talk through daily fears like, “What is going on back home?” and “What if I make a mistake in the basketball game?”  But for one night, we will have faith and we will befriend our Fear.

Happy Halloween to all our supporters and thanks for having our backs!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

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