We were short a couple of drivers, but that didn’t keep us down long. Since Mark is starting to use the flatbed trailer, which usually means a bigger load, we were lucky to be able to work with at least ten volunteers. After last month’s cuts, this past Saturday we handled a more comfortable number of boxes.
Some One Spirit supporters had come to help with Food Day. Mya and Tony and their daughter came out to South Dakota to enjoy some summer fun on the Rez, and to help out. We had about the same amount of goof-ups as we usually do. Some of the situations that pop up would make anyone laugh hard, and some of the stories people come in with are way out there, too. But in any case, the people really are happy to get the food. We are using more workers in the garage these days because the weather is hot and it is vital to keep the meat as cold as possible. Basically, we have to work fast, so having more helpers is vital. July is one of the best months for garden fresh vegetables, and it really was this time. Rilling’s Produce must have a big garden because there certainly were lots of fresh vegetables with big company logos on the boxes.
After all these years, I still find real joy and satisfaction in participating in the One Spirit food program. For the last couple months, I actually found myself getting into stress mode as the list of food requests kept growing. In a short time, we went from making 250 boxes to 600. The Food Program has really grown in the four years I’ve been here. After an updated list for this month, we felt a bit of relief in handling 400 boxes. The lower number really seemed to be more relaxing and less stressful. Unfortunately, the food still seems to run out faster and when it is gone, it is gone. People have to really be ready to get their boxes even when the numerical count is lower. After a going to a lower number of boxes, we now don’t have extra food sitting around if someone isn't home. This means the effect of having a lot of food and then moving to a lower number creates a challenging situation to ensure the food is handled safely and stays fresh.
It especially touches my heart to see a grandmother come in and smile at our work. That is always a highlight of the One Spirit food program for the crew in the garage. When it happens, it has a way of stopping everyone from what they are doing, pausing in the presence of an elder. The people here highly respect elders. When you encounter one, you stop whatever you’re doing and acknowledge them. We had the privilege of seeing Grandmother Bessie Waters come into the garage this Saturday. She greeted us with a smile and a warm hug. It was a short visit but somehow it reminded me of what we are actually doing: helping people in a place where that help is truly needed. I saw a warm hearted, caring grandmother and the love for her people in her eyes. It reminds you what you’re really doing, and how it recalls the way things were in the days of old.
In the old days, when Lakota hunters returned to camp bringing buffalo, they were greeted with special honor. Sometimes they were out for several days as the buffalo got harder to find, which meant the tribe's main food source was nearly being wiped out. When the warriors brought back food, the people cheered and war cries of happiness could be heard. There was a sense of honor.
In the same way, when a grandmother walks in and smiles at your work, that’s an honor. We become full of pride and slow down for a moment to relish the moment and be thankful we are able to do this. Everyone working in the garage stopped what they were doing and walked over and shook her hand or hugged her. I really loved this moment. To feel that honor is important as a reward and a reminder that we should feel it in every good thing we do every day. In other words, it means to walk in honor.
I sit here looking back at two whole days of passing out food and I feel I can’t wait to do it again next month, but I don’t want the summer to go by too fast either. We stopped about 2:00 PM Sunday when we ran out of food, putting us at the CLP (“Critical Low Point”). It makes you feel good to help the people, and it feels good to walk in that honor.
Thank you, One Spirit sponsors, for bringing smiles to the people once again. Wopila Tanka!
Report by Bamm Brewer