It has been an amazing two days on the CRST Reservation. The Lakota are amazing people and it has been a true honor to meet each and every one of them, to hear their stories and to be here in this beautiful place with views unlike I have ever seen before. I have more highlights that I could share with you on this page. We are getting lots of work done for sure, but it is the connection with the children and the people that exceeds any hope that I could have had. To watch so many of us making connections in our own ways with the children is absolutely heart filling. There is a lot of love here and you can see it in the many faces of the volunteers and the children. With all the beauty and the love here there is also a lot of sorrow. These people have had their share of struggles... a history that is too complicated to put into words now.... but you see it in the eyes of the elders and the children. Especially the quiet ones who keep their distance and say very little. Tonight, Stephen, a Lakota neighbor, joined us for dinner. He stops by here a few times a day. When you first meet Stephen, although he is incredibly friendly and kind and wanting to share his many interesting stories with us, you immediately sense a heaviness about him in between his stories and his smiles. I learned that this past November his 12 year old son committed suicide while Stephen was in the room right next to him. It is hard to imagine that a child just 12 years old could feel such despair that he would take his own life. But this is a reality that this community faces way too often. The suicide rate of youth is much higher here than the rest of the USA. These and many other terrifying statistic explain the sadness and despair that the Lakota feel!
What Simply Smiles committed and amazing staff are doing for this community is CHANGING lives here. And you see it and hear it every where you look. It is a beautiful sight to see and every person that you meet will tell you how much they love what Simply Smiles is doing for their community. I feel honored and blessed to part of something so AMAZING!! This experience has changed my life and I am so grateful to know such inspiring people.
I look forward to what tomorrow with bring.... I am sure more projects and more connections, more art projects and more piggy back rides.... the most amazing stars at night and more using the out house and looking out over the plains of South Dakota!