From time to time you meet someone, hear their story, and it just haunts you. There is a little boy on the Reservation whose image I can't shake. I suspect those of us who went on the trip will all remember Billy (not his real name).
Billy is a sad kid. An outcast among outcasts. He is an albino. His white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes set him apart from the other kids who are almost all full blood or mixed blood Sioux. His home is a dump of a trailer that sits on the outskirts of the village. His mother tries, she really does, but it's not easy raising a child in poverty and living with an alcoholic husband. She once aspired to be a lawyer who would take action against child abuse on the Rez. I've not seen her for a few years and have no idea if her dream ever came to be. In all likelihood, probably not.
Billy never smiles. He is joyless, walking around with a blank stare as he goes through the motions of living. He is by far the most depressed child I have ever seen. He doesn't even fight like the other kids. He's given up caring enough to fight. He rarely speaks. Sometimes when spoken to, he will answer but usually he responds with a look of distrust as if he's wondering if he should respond or not. It's hard to tell if he's afraid or if it just takes too much energy to respond.
This year a strange thing happened. Billy smiled. We have pictures to prove it. For a moment this sad child forgot his sadness and enjoyed something as simple as play. For a moment he connected with someone who cared about him. Looking at that picture, it is all worth it. All the hard work is worth that one little smile.
I worry about Billy. I wonder what the future holds for a kid like him. I wonder if he has a future or if he will succumb to the hopelessness and become another statistic of despair on the Rez. I wonder what can be done for him. I am frustrated because a week on the Rez is simply not enough time to make much of a difference in his life. I can only pray for him and hope he remembers a moment when he experienced joy. I pray too that the memory of that experience may spark something in him ... the hope that he may have other moments like that one. And maybe that hope will see him through.
( I am not posting his picture out of respect for his privacy.)
- My passion is helping others defend themselves and their families. I am an NRA Certified pistol instructor, a NRA Chief Range Safety Officer, leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - North Cincinnati, and the state leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - Ohio. I also have a heart for the Lakota people and lead mission teams to the Pine Ridge Reservation each year, am founder and director of Backpacks For Pine Ridge,, and do various volunteer work in my own community. My greatest joy is being a grandma and hanging out with my husband of 30+ years.