Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking Back - Part 3

"There are a whole lot of historical factors
that have played a part in our being where we are today, and
I think that to even begin to understand our
contemporary issues and contemporary problems,
you have to understand a little bit
about that history."
Wilma Mankiller
(First female chief of the Cherokee Nation)

On our last afternoon at the Oaks, most of the Good Goers team climbed into a well-used old truck and headed down to the place where a concrete foundation had been laid at the beginning of the week. Near the edge of the creek, an earthen overhang sparkled with dancing reflections of the water, was the site where original Cherokee elders prayed. The foundation was the beginning of a worship center that would be built by other teams coming to the mission. Our task was to clear away brush and weeds and rocks. Within minutes of arriving at the spot the sound and smell of gasoline-powered weedwackers broke through the reverent silence.

Each of us went at our own pace, whacking or raking or picking up sticks.

Hope declared herself a litter picker upper, which was a rather unique way of getting to cool off by walking in the creek. Our leader, Steve, accomplished one of his goals by finding a spear head in the pile of dirt that had been displaced for the concrete.

Eventually a fire was started to burn away the debris. The dry timber burned well, but the green vegetation pretty much just smoked. Still, as with most fires it kind of mesmerized all of the tired workers who braved big ugly spiders to rest in the holiness of God's outdoor sanctuary.

As promised on the first day at Oaks one of the house parents, Travis, whose lineage goes all the way back to the Trail of Tears, joined us to tell stories. Like most early historians Native Americans traced their heritage and beliefs through the tradition of oral story telling. His slow, mid-western drawl and flair for oratory, made Travis a natural. It was as much fun for me to watch the others as it was to hear Travis. While the kids tried playing some stick ball, Sweetie and I slowly made our way back to the dorm house.

Friday night at the mission was all about the High School football game. Most people hurriedly ate their dinner, donned sweatshirts and walked across the street to the field. Sweetie and I knew there was no way we'd make it home if we didn't get our bags packed and settle in for the night. But we could hear the loudspeaker announcing play and a low score for our team from our room, so we weren't totally anti-social!

~ ~
Before turning in every night, our team met for a recap of the day and some prayers. Each of us was asked for our "picture" of the day - something that moved us or spoke to the task we were doing. I found it interesting how we had a different pictures even though we'd all pretty much done the same thing all day. What really impressed me was how even the two children on our team (Hope age 9 and Zo age 8) sat without fidgeting and always spoke from their heart. After the trip was all over, and we'd gotten home and I'd rested my feet which cried "Uncle" somewhere near the B concourse at the Houston Airport, the memory of the kids was my picture of the week.

A week spent with and for children was like a magic elixir for my heart. I told myself I would leave all expectations for the week at home in Florida. But a part of me still expected (wanted) some kind of life-altering experience, a Moses moment, if you will. I really hoped God would tell me of His plan for my life. Alas, no visions or sky-writing. Just a knowing that the Divine One uses each of us where we are. The service I do right here in my own back yard is as important as traveling to third world countries.

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity to do something so far out of my comfort zone. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned, for time to draw closer to my Sweetie. I'm grateful to the people of Oaks Indian Mission who have stepped up to the plate to make a difference in the lives of the children they serve. And I'm grateful to Good Goers for all the work they do.

Wishing for you unexpected blessings,
Merry ME

Note: You can't really tell from this picture but the object of stick ball is to catch a little ball in the itty bitty cup of the sticks (think LaCross) and pass it around to others on your team (think football) and somehow try to fling the ball to the top of a really high lodgepole (think basketball). Stickball was a way to dispute smaller grievances without going to war. Men from disgruntled tribes would meet in a field that was hundreds of yards long. It's been said that anything short of murder was allowed on the field - biting, crippling- tackling, etc - and players did die on occasion. The point of the game was to score a pre-determined number of goals. The game was never called for inclement weather. Even if a few players were killed in a game it was considered better than going to war. Usually men played but there were times women were allowed in the game. From the sounds of it, the women were given the advantage.

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