As I pulled into the parking lot a worker from the cemetery yelled over to me, "Excuse me ... are you with the Indians"?
"Yeah, that would be me."
There was the old veteran who sat and talked to me for quite a while Sunday morning before things got going. By all appearances life had been pretty hard on him. His skin was weathered, he had a bad heart, a bad lung and was missing some teeth but his pride in his service to our country and in his Native American heritage was unmistakable. There was a humility about him and a deep desire to do the right thing. I can't quite explain it but when he left I felt blessed that he had stopped by to chat.
The lady making Fry Bread in the booth next to me (if you haven't had fry bread you really should try some) was very kind and gave me her tips from the weekend. On Sunday she had a few of the kids working for her for spending money and I sat and listened and marveled at her patience and grace. I overhead her saying, "You have to check things. In life you have to check everything and make sure other people are doing their job and if they are not, then you have to do it. I know its not right, but its the way it is.". As she said this there was not the slightest trace of irritation in her voice. Nothing but grace and patience and understanding, acknowledging that there is indeed a higher standard but still accepting people as they are - imperfect. Her own children are grown and I'm willing to bet that they are some amazing people she raised. What a way to teach kids responsibility and instill in them a desire to reach the higher standard while offering grace to those who do not reach it. That is no easy task and I may be all wrong about it, but as I listened and watched her I felt pretty blessed to be near enough to witness her interactions with the kids.
At one point I saw a family walking along the outer ring of the PowWow, a Lakota mother and four or five kids and for a split second I could have sworn I was on the Rez. It was so much like something you would see there that it made me really, really "homesick". Somehow she and I connected even while she was a ways off and she made a purposeful walk in my direction. Turns out she was not from Pine Ridge, but from the Rosebud Reservation which is right next to Pine Ridge. She was very grateful that someone was doing something to help her people.
And there was the Lakota elder from Pine Ridge. I spoke with him and found out his children and grandchildren live in Allen, the village we go to each year. It was just ... I don't know... gratifying?? to know that we know some of the same people. For all I know it may be one of his grandkids I swing around or give a piggy back ride to each year.
Things operated at a different pace this weekend, a pace known as "Indian time". Things happen when they happen. Things start when they get started and end when everybody's ready for them to end - never mind the schedule. And the cool thing about it all is that these things don't matter ... people matter.