What do you do while you are at Pine Ridge?
This is a question I often receive back home in Maine. Initially I struggled to answer, but now I simply tell the truth.
“I don’t really ‘do’ anything at Pine Ridge. I just spend time with the people who live there,” I now reply.
Most nonnative people who visit Pine Ridge are government agents or nonprofit volunteers. There is typically a specific event or cause that brings them there. There’s no agenda to my trips beyond being present. I travel to Pine Ridge because the place and its people give me strength. I meet people and listen to their stories. That’s it.
Yet one day it occurred to me: Meeting people from another culture and listening to their stories is in and of itself an act of courage and change.
I see you. I appreciate you and I know what happened here. That’s cross-cultural connectivity, and anyone can foster it. All it takes is the willingness to get out of our comfort zones.
Marginalized communities don’t need to be fixed, saved, or changed by people from away. They simply need to be respected, heard, understood, and empowered. The people of Pine Ridge are amazing exactly as they are, and they hold all the power they need to create change for and within themselves.
I still see the difficulty and the pain. But even more clearly, I see the humanity and the light.
Awareness and connectivity are powerful acts.