For a long time now, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of generosity. I have often wondered how in the world I could reciprocate and felt lost at how to do this. I finally realized while giving back directly might not be needed, giving back indirectly is definitely needed. One morning a few weeks ago, the executive director of a non-profit called Conscious Alliance invited me and the kids to go help feed 850 families on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This was not totally random. Lance had been on the board of Conscious Alliance (www.consciousalliance.org), which helps Native Americans in some of the most impoverished communities in the country.
This was a symbolic pilgrimage because it felt like a way of honoring Lance (he had been there too) and doing something meaningful and eye opening for the kids. Pine Ridge is the poorest reservation in the country. It’s population is 30,000. The average lifespan is 50 years old. 80% of the people are unemployed. The people are riddled with diabetes, heart disease, and alcoholism. People live in total destitution and hunger. They live in a world of no hope. A world that was taken away from them with no means to make money. It is just plain sad. Nothing like perspective to give your life a lot of meaning.
Our job? To bag and distribute 850 turkeys (brought up from Boulder in a huge penske truck) as well as veggies, potatoes, corn, stuffing and of course Justin’s Nut Butter. We did this both by people coming to us and by driving and delivering door to door. The Chief and his wife have been doing this for 16 years.
I’ve been to my fair share of third world countries but this felt somehow sadder than anything I have ever seen. Somehow the people in India don’t feel as if they have completely given up hope but this is what it felt like on Pine Ridge. And it’s right in our back yard…right here in our very own FIRST?! world country.
My kids LOVED this opportunity. In fact, Amélie could have stayed for a week. They loved the communal feeling of working together. They loved interacting with the people…just trying to make a small gesture of kindness. It made them feel good. It made me feel good. Nothing like community work to get you out of your head.
Lance and I had a shared dream of exposing our children to eye opening experiences and give them perspective on how many people in the world live. One thing I have promised myself is I will make this dream come true.
I greatly encourage you to go out and help. It can feel defeating to see the disparity of a situation but if we were ALL doing a little bit here and there, it could really make a difference…and you don’t have to go all the way to South Dakota. I am sure there are plenty of opportunities right in your home town.