There are many things I love about being here. I was reminded of this while helping a family get ready for a funeral. We were talking about my background and if I like it here.
I was honest with the gentleman and said that yes it can be hard but there is so much I love here. I exclaimed that there is so much beauty here. Yes, I do mean I think that land around us is beautiful. In fact, I told one of my Job Corp members that they take this place for granted. Since they have always been home to them it is normal and not special to them. But I find beauty all around me.
But the real beauty is in the people. I have met some of the best people. People that care for others, who love each other and help each other. And I have found that the people of Pine Ridge love to celebrate. The personal fireworks displayed on the 4th out showed the tribe’s official display. The sky was lit up in every direction. If there is a reason to celebrate, they will. Birthdays are big and there is a pre-school graduation parade down the main street.
Beyond that there is laughter. Despite the issues that they face each day, they still find a way to laugh, joke, tease, and play. Yes, sometimes it is a dark sense of humor. But still they laugh. They love to pull jokes on me and try to trip me up. I am careful who I trust with teaching me Lakota words. I know a group tried to teach me…. well inappropriate words. LOL
When they need to be they can be serious. I have been honored to be invited into personal stories, stories of pain, and grief. Stories of tragedy. Sometimes it comes out in a torrent and in other cases, it comes out over time. But it does often end with a quip or a joke. I am reminded of the line I had to laugh, or I would cry. Often the people talking with me chose to laugh.
Working here does bring me Joy. I am making a difference. I am doing God’s work in a place where God can feel far away. Yes, I can be worn out and sometimes I am drained or empty. And then we start over, and I run into someone who tells me that they: “Love you Pastor Dan”. And it brings me back to the joy I have in God’s Love. Knowing that God called me here. God called me to this beautiful place.