Life on the Rez

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The agonizing 13 hour car ride starting at four in the morning was nothing compared to what I was about to witness. When got to the mission center called Re-Member on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I didn’t know what to expect. The next morning I found out.

I woke up at six in the morning and put on my, what I considered to be tattered and dirty clothes. I felt dirty because there were some holes in my shirt, and some paint on my shorts. At seven o’ clock, we loaded a van, full of people and lumber, and drove to a work site, which is where my whole prospective on life changed.

We got out of the van and started to unload the power tools and lumber needed to accomplish our project, when two little kids came tearing across the yard, which wasn’t anything but dead grass and dirt. These kids were so excited to see all of us. I loved using power tools and building things, but that day I decided that while the other ten people in our group built the ramp for the lady who was directly in need, I was going to help the children who were, on that day, indirectly in need. I decided that I was going to play games with these kids, talk to these kids, and hopefully make these kids smile.

I spoke earlier about how I felt dirty and thought I was wearing dirty clothes, but when I saw these kids in shorts that were two sizes to small, and shirts that didn’t fit them, I felt like I was wearing designer clothing. I felt bad for these kids; they were suffering from obvious malnutrition. While the group got started on the ramp, one of the kids ran over by the car they had parked in there front lawn and grabbed a basketball. He asked me if I would play with him, because there was no one else in the neighborhood that would, and of course I said yes. We spent roughly 4 hours playing basketball, tag, and any games they made up as they went along, before we had to eat lunch. All the volunteers got sandwiches, cookies, chips, and soda, while the kids ran inside to find their fridge empty. I took some Oreos, and ate a couple, but then I took a couple more and saved them. I waited for the kids to run back outside, and once they did, I gave each of them two Oreos.

When we left at five, I noticed that one of the kids I was playing with had a rash under his armpits from his shirt because it was too small and he was sweating, so I took off my yellow Marquette University shirt and gave it to him. After I did that, he came up to me and said, “Thanks for the brand new shirt Brian, I’m going to wear it to school tomorrow and show all my friends”. That changed me, and from that day forward, I have rarely ever taken anything for granted. I also realized that when I have something that I don’t use anymore, I should donate it so that kids, like the ones I met on the reservation, can have something that they will think is new and make them smile.





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MruffThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm
I love this story. I live in Pine Ridge and I work at RE-Member during the summer! Hope to see you again Brian! And keep writing!
 
DongHoon said...
Nov. 28, 2012 at 10:55 am
Nice Job! Really liked the word choice. I could easily picture the clothes of the kids. That was really nice of you to give your shirt to the kid
 
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