I recently took a volunteer position with an organization that finds sponsors for Lakota children and elders on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I’ll be matching sponsors to those who need one in two areas of the reservation.
Little did I know (and wasn’t told when offered the spot) that I would need to send out letters to over 200 contact persons. On my dime, no less. It will be the first and last time I do that, because I am also an active sponsor. I can’t fritter away my small fund of “tucked away” dollars on ink and postage when the needs of the family I sponsor are so great.
I tried to do a computerized directory to print labels, but something went wrong. So I ended up hand writing 222 addresses. Then I put on 222 return address labels and 222 labels on the self-addressed, stamped envelopes (all labels courtesy of my husband). I have to pick up the postage tomorrow – 444 stamps to pay for at a cost of $195.36, then put on 444 envelopes. If 222 wasn’t a number that has occurred frequently throughout my life in positive times, I might feel even more annoyed. You don’t believe that? Okay.
My complaints of writer’s cramp will likely lead to a small fibromyalgia flare-up. Writing by hand is one of the things that seems to irritate the muscles in my shoulder. I’ve already put on a Thermacare heat wrap to try to ward off the spasm. Fibromyalgia is such an annoying health problem – the most innocuous activity can set off pain that lasts for days. It doesn’t seem fair! Especially when I’m doing something good for someone else. But it is what it is, and after about 44 years of living with it, I’ve gained a few good strategies and a knowledge that a flare up will eventually end.
Besides, my pain is nothing compared with the pain of hunger, alcoholism, joblessness, domestic abuse and hopelessness that those who live on the reservation cope with on a daily basis.
There is a severe shortage of housing on the reservation. That shortage results in several families living under the same roof – sometimes 10 – 12 people in a 4 room house. There are trailers – mobile homes – that have holes in them; houses without insulation – or windows, running water, indoor plumbing. Imagine going to an outhouse in the middle of a blizzard in January. It happens on the rez.
I have a friend at church who grew up in Kenya. One day I brought some photos I’d received from a friend on the rez, the family we sponsor. The photos showed the house they’d just moved into. I put them up on the wall. When my Kenyan friend came in, she asked if they were photos from Africa. I told her where the house was. She was disbelieving. “No one lives like this in America!” she exclaimed. Sadly, they do. There are people who live in “third world” conditions in Shannon County of South Dakota, the poorest county in the USA. They’re the original owners of all the nation, as a matter of fact.
How could we let this happen? We didn’t “let it happen,” we created it.
How can we let it continue? Some of us can’t – it’s a sin!
So in the coming months I’ll be looking sponsors for over 400 children and elders. I hope you’ll consider making my job easier. Even if you can’t sponsor, do what you can to raise the awareness around this nation.