Friday, January 16, 2015

Beauty is What You Make of it...

So at last, our time together has come to an end and here I am sitting in the Rapid City Regional Airport waiting for my flight to Denver, in which I will then switch to a different airline and fly to DC.  As I wait, figure I would have a chance to record some thoughts.  Yesterday was another full day of activity, as we went up to Christ Episcopal Church on Red Shirt Mountain and listened to their pastor, Robert talk about his life on the Pine Ridge Reservation and growing up Lakota.  Rev. Robert's talk was similar to that of Kelly Looking Horse's, as there is still a great deal of lingering pain through the generations from Wounded Knee and that there is still a great distrust of the U.S. government and rightfully so.  Promises have been made and broken time and again, land is given and taken away time and again.  So it is easy to see the frustration in the faces and hear it in the voices of the elders in the Lakota Nation.  But, there is a full trust in God among the population which is over 80% Christian and there is a strong sense of community and kinship among the people.  The church that we were at was once again taking a step back in time, no indoor plumbing and wood burning stoves.  But the views were quite spectacular, as Red Shirt Mountain is also the site of Taize that happens every few years.  We then had a nice lunch of soup with fry bread followed by Wojabe, which is a soup made from berries and choke cherries. 

Following our time at Christ Episcopal Church, we spent time driving through the badlands and while bad is in the title, it is a sight to behold, all of God's creation. It really amazes me how we have a diverse landscape in the United States.  While some people might think that South Dakota is bleak, dull, stark, and boring, it could not be further from the truth.  There is a beauty in the land and a diversity in the different landscapes, from plains, to rolling hills, plateaus, and mountains.  Each of these landforms are also a metaphor in how this immersion has been.  We could look at the poverty, the rickety modular homes all scattered around and feel sorry, or we can see through the eyes of our neighbors.  Yes, life is hard for many of them.  There is an exceptional unemployment rate.  There are numerous gangs that fight over territory, as well as high alcohol and drug use.  But there is also hope in their eyes and many do the best that they can and do not spend time feeling sorry for themselves.  Many sell their artwork, work in the stores in the different towns of the reservation, teach school, or receive assistance from the U.S. Government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  There have been peaks, there have been valleys, there have been plateaus, and rocky roads.  But the resilience of the Lakota people is amazing in my eyes, making the most of what they have.  But it has also been about what we make of beauty, and beauty is certainly what you make of it. 

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