By: Marin Williams
September 16, 2015
Today was a big day. Last night I was feeling so many emotions and I was really overwhelmed with all I was learning and seeing. This morning I woke up early and climbed a dirt hill to watch the sunrise. I was able to focus myself and pray for a day of peace. I felt determined and ready to work. My job today was assembling bunk beds in people’s homes. After breakfast, I played cards until Ted (the Director at Re-Member) did Wisdom of the Elders where he shares information each morning about the Lakota people and the culture. Then we loaded up the trucks and headed off. Jerry-our instructor for the day- said our group was going to an area of the Reservation that very few non-natives got to see. As our van pulled-up to the first trailer, we saw a little boy and his mother waving us over: the boy jumping up and down in excitement. They greeted us and the five-year-old boy named Cash, hopped into the van and started hugging us. I was really nervous as I sat in the car waiting for the scout team to call us in. Nathan came out and called me in to help move an old mattress out of the trailer. When I first stepped foot into the 1,000 square-foot house, I was bombarded with an overwhelming smell; one that resembled rotting cat litter. The open-concept kitchen living room was really dark; all the windows had been shut. There was dirt and trash everywhere. Cabinets of the kitchen had been ripped off and clothes and garbage filled the empty spaces. In front of the couch lay two stacked mattresses covered in stains with holes and tears. I concluded that based on the amount of mattresses and beds in the house that the majority of the residents were sleeping on the floor.
Our group went to work removing the mattress and assembling the first bed. I tried focusing on the job at hand but I kept getting distracted by the complete disarray of the house. I wondered how people could possibly live in these conditions. It is one thing to have a lot of people crammed into a small space, but to live knee-deep in filth? When I first entered the house, I noticed a man on the couch watching T.V. He was watching an illegal download of the movie Straight Out of Compton. He did not move an inch as we moved around him trying to accommodate the new bed in the small space. I wondered if I were in the same position, if I would snort with a haughty disinterested attitude like he did. As a volunteer, I was expecting tolerance for what I was doing, but secretly I was dissatisfied with the lack of receiving praise or gratitude. The T.V. was blasting with inappropriate language and racial slurs. In my opinion, it was not conducive to a positive development of a child. In the kitchen on the wooden stand was a 28-gallon jug of water. It was supposed to last the household at least a week. It made me think about the length of my showers. As I moved from one area of the house to the next I kept running into more residents of the household. I lost count of how many inhabitants there were but I noticed all of them were overweight.
As we moved into the room for the next bed set up, I took a look at the room. They had not organized or cleaned anything. There were references to marijuana and profanity written haphazardly over the walls. The spot where we were supposed to stick the bed had trash all over it. Concentrating my thoughts, I continued to assemble the bed. My ponytail caught in something as I was working, and I found out it was a long piece of fly-paper, hanging from the ceiling, covered in dead flies. I also encountered cockroaches crawling all over the walls and molding food containers. We finished the job and the beds were done up with new linens and blankets. They looked beautiful. When Cash came in to the room, he was so excited about his new bed. He jumped on it and seeing his face light up was on of the most gratifying moments I had ever experienced. This child who had never slept on a bed before now had a warm and comfortable place to sleep at night.
I finished the day with so many frustrations and questions unanswered. However, I had the opportunity to experience what it means to serve others without expecting anything in return.