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Changing Ways

~photo credit~
Winona had spent most of her growing up years dreaming of getting away from the rez, from the poverty, from the drugs and alcohol, from the violence, and from and the despair. She'd watched friends and family members succumb to all of them, she'd attended the funerals of two classmates who committed suicide. She didn't want to follow that path, she wanted something different for her life, something more. So Winona studied hard, got good grades, and graduated at the top of her class. She applied to major universities across the country rather than the small college an hour down the road where many of her classmates were headed, the ones who hadn't already dropped out of school.

Winona was thrilled to be one of three in her class who were chosen as Gates Millennium Scholars, which came with a full-ride scholarship to the school of her choice.  She was accepted to the prestigious Harvard School of Medicine, and her excitement grew as the summer following graduation passed and she prepared to head East.  What was it going to  be like she wondered, to begin a brand new chapter of her life in a place far from home, far away from everything she wanted to leave behind.

Winona arrived in Boston, her worldly possessions filling only three suitcases, and was met by a representative from student affairs who guided her to the shuttle that would take them to her new home in an old building with more floors than Winona had ever seen before. As they drove through the streets of Boston Winona was amazed and a little overwhelmed at the great expanse of buildings,  the busy traffic, and the crowded sidewalks. She quickly realized how sheltered her life had been on the small reservation in South Dakota.  She had only once been as far as Denver, and then only for a weekend in the company of her classmates on their senior trip. How was she going to find her way, make her home in this strange place where the locals talked with an accent she'd never heard before?

Winona settled into dorm room, went to the cafeteria with a few other Freshman from her floor, and visited a little.  It seemed that all of them were familiar with big city ways, and she felt that she stuck out like a sore thumb. She might as well have been wearing her braids and beaded regalia, they way they looked at her with a mixture of amusement and dismay.  Suddenly the girl who wanted to trade her rez life for the big world outside its confines felt very small and very much alone. She went to bed early that night and soon her pillow was damp with tears.  She hadn't even been there for twenty-four hours and already she was desperately homesick and wanted to go home; she wanted to run out the door and hop on the first bus headed west. How was she ever going to handle this, she wondered.

As Winona slept, her Grandmother came to her in a dream, "Takoja (granddaughter)" the old woman said, "I have watched you grow from the time you left the stars to walk upon the earth.  I have listened to your heart and know that you long to have a life that is peaceful and good.  But you have forgotten that you cannot separate your path from what you are, you will always be Lakota.   Fortitude, courage, integrity, honesty, humility, and generosity - these are the virtues that have been passed down from your grandfathers and your grandmothers. You have the courage and the strength within you to find your own way to walk the "red road" (the sacred path), even here in this place so different from all that you have known.  But you must also remember that it is not our way to think only of ourselves and what we can obtain for our lives; you will always be a part of your tiospaye (clan), and you must seek to use what you learn here to better not only your life but the lives of those at home."  This being said, Winona's grandmother bent down and gently caressed the head of Winona as she lay sleeping, and whispered a prayer  in Lakota, words familiar to her granddaughter's heart.

When Winona awoke the next morning, she remembered her Grandmother's visit as clearly as if it had happened in the light of day. She had never met her grandmother in her lifetime, the old woman had passed over to the spirit world years before her birth, and yet in her heart she knew her and knew the words that she had spoken were true.  Winona got up to begin the day with a new sense of purpose and determination.  Yes, she would be courageous, she would complete her studies here at Harvard, and she knew just what she was going to do after that. Rather than becoming a doctor with a fancy practice in the big city as she had originally planned, she would one day return to the reservation, to the people that she loved, to start a clinic there for the children, and the mothers, and the grandmothers like her own.  She knew that in seeking to help her people, she would have the best life of all. We cannot run from who we are, we can only seek to bring positive changes to our lives and the lives of others.
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This post was written for Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt choices this week are change and season...
Come and join us there!

24 comments:

  1. AWESOME! So true...no running! Give it back and pay it forward is the way to move ahead. Lovely story!

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    1. Thank you Zoe, this is what I believe too!

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  2. I think working together to highlight the joys and the positives in our lives, we change ouu spheres one at a time and like a ripple in a pond the change spreads from our individual spheres, to our communities, cities and the whole world. This the message I took from your story today. Thanks.

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    1. I think you got it just right, Mary! If we are authentic, true to ourselves, we will naturally impress those around us, and we will make a difference. Everyone can do that, everyone should!

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  3. I love this. She is going to do very well. As you have.

    Have a terrific day. Big hugs. ☺

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    1. Thank you Sandee, I believe she will too. She comes from generations of warriors, she can conquer homesickness and achieve her dreams!

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  4. You are very good at this prompt exercise!

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    1. Thank you Joe, I truly enjoy writing these little fiction pieces, something I'd never tried until a year ago. The concept of speaking on behalf of someone else, for representing someone else, is very intriguing!

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  5. Yes. The love and good poured into our lives is so we can then pour into the lives of others.

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    1. Exactly, Mimi! If we are nurtured, and then add to what is good inside of us, expanding, learning, becoming whole, then it only follows that we will share that and pass it on!

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  6. Great story and a good lesson! I like that she used her knowledge to go back and help. You write good native american stories! : )

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    1. Thank you Joseph! I am always proud of those who reach back to help bring others along! I have several friends on the rez in Dakota who are just entering their first semester of college in cities across the country. As with all of us, that first experience away from home is very intimidating and even moreso when the culture is so very different from all that you have known. I try to write about indigenous people with both honesty and respect. I hope that comes across.

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    1. Thank you Tee, I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment! :-)

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  8. I could feel Winona's fear and insecurity! Good writing. I hope she makes it and I think she will!

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    1. Thank you Ranci, I was hoping to show that she was feeling what most of us have at that point, multiplied by being in a place so very foreign to her. I absolutely believe that she can make it, and I'm praying that she will! The young people back home on the rez are desperately in need of role models to inspire them!

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  9. Hi Josie, nice write. I can identify with Winona although there weren't (back then) a lot of drugs around where I lived in Nebraska. I was overwhelmed by college and the city life.

    I adapted but only lasted in college (that time, for eleven years) for three semesters. After I got a factory job then I told the folks I had dropped out. They weren't paying for it anyway so that part wasn't a big deal with me.

    BTW, I loved Boston, still do, when I lived in New Hampshire for a bit after my Army stint.
    ..
    (Sorry I signed on so late, I wrote, rather posted, mine Sunday night.)
    ..

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    1. I grew up back there too, Jim, and yes - that first semester of college was pretty scary. Funny coming from someone who couldn't wait to leave home and small town life behind! Life on the Pine Ridge Reservation is truly brutal, I am ever amazed at the resilience of the children there. I am cheering on my friends starting college, and supporting as best I can with texts and emails, and cookie care packages as soon as it cools down enough to mail them!

      I have never been to Boston, but I'd love to some day. My son was in love with Boston, and all connected ball teams from the time he was two years old and Larry Byrd was a star!

      You are not late at all, contributions are always welcome, Jim! :-)

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  10. What an inspirational story of ambition mixed with duty to her own people. How lucky she was to have her spirit grandmother speak to her...all of us should listen for such advice.

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    1. Thank you Robin! I agree with you, I think that we do receive guidance in several ways, we just have to be attuned to listening, and then to paying heed! Winona will do fine, because she understands the value of tradition and seeing yourself as part of the whole. "Mitakuye Oyasin" as the Lakota people say, which translates "all my relatives" and means "we are all related". What each of us does affects all of us, always!

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  11. No matter what our culture or background, we all go through the awkward rites of passage. It is part of finding ourself, confirming our roots as we test our wings.

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    1. That's very true Annie, and part of that is learning to live in a world that is much larger than our small circle of comfort. We need to see ourselves and a unique but integral part of the whole. We all have something special to contribute!

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  12. I love love love this story, especially that she went back to her 'roots' and her 'home' to make it a better place.

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    1. Thank you Carrie! When we are young we so often can't wait to get away and out on our own, we have great fantasies of what that freedom will be like. As we get older we tend to miss those simple years of home and childhood, and it doesn't sound like such a bad place to be. If we are willing to use the gifts God gives us to make a change in the world for the better, I know it can be done - not just back at home, but anywhere. It is caring about others, and not just ourselves, that matters!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)