Today is Thursday and after a long week we as a group are seeing the end of our journey here in La Plant, South Dakota. Overall, I would describe the week as a blur, but if I were to look back on what has happened here I would see snapshots in my mind; my brain flipping through photographs. Most of the photographs would include big, wide, toothy smiles, just to give you an idea of what I am seeing. Beyond that, some of my mental photos include different work projects we have started and will hopefully see through to the end before our time here is done. I am personally on a crew of five wonderful individuals placing a new roof on a shelter that will house the staff here at Simply Smiles, as well as some of the Pow-Wow costumes and equipment that the people here require storage for. After work in the mornings, we have been participating in a summer camp program for the kids here on the Reservation. That is where most of the smiles have come from. The kids have a boundless energy, which makes for non-stop excitement and adventure. These are just some of the activities that fill our day. The activities that fill our day offer us a mental break from what I feel is another important part of our journey here, and that is our daily reflection on what it means to be of a different culture and way of life. When I am not playing freeze tag or go fish, my mind wanders to the people of La Plant. During our time here, these people have acted as the anchor that holds us down in this windy place. Early on in the trip, after hearing some of the stories about life on the reservation, I had turned to my friend and said “right now, I either want to leave this place now, or stay here and give my life for this place forever”. While neither of those things were possible at that moment, I have often thought about the right way of going about helping these people, without giving up my whole life in service of it. Throughout the week, the staff at Simply Smiles has offered me a vision of what the good, honest way to help these people is. And as cheesy, as it sounds, it starts with a smile. After that smile, you have to start to talk, and in talking you learn that these people, in this cold, windy, and isolated place, still have hope. They have lots of hope. Dreams of future jobs, of making it big, of living a good life. These dreams come from the kids, and when we see them smile, it makes you believe that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. That is the mission of Simply Smiles. To take that simple little toothy smile, and nurture it through care and compassion, and then hopefully one day these kids can realize their dreams. The dreams that all started with a simple smile. That is what we are doing here, and it is very important. I want to thank the staff here and all of my fellow volunteers for being so gracious, kind, and helpful during my time here on the Reservation. Be well.