Our final day has finally arrived and Connor and Alex were responsible for today's blog.
Day 7 – Wisdom and Action – Alex Brune/Connor Hastings
Well, we’ve made it. We’re on the plane right now flying from Minneapolis to Reagan airport. It feels like we’ve been awake for years, as we decided last night the best option was to stay awake until 2 AM when we had to drive to Great Falls to catch the first of our two planes today. Currently at about 29 hours, with some naps here and there.
Looking back on this trip, it started just over 7 days ago. It feels like a few weeks since our flight was cancelled and we took the day todiscoverin DC. We went with whatever came during travel and decided to make the most out of it. We found the zeal of so many Americans who fought for us in the Arlington cemetery. Through this travel we also just wanted to be still with one another. We stayed up playing some games that night, and rested knowing we had a busy week ahead. Our trip really started on the plane from Reagan to Salt Lake City which started with the quote in their safety video, “sometimes the best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself.” I immediately looked around to make sure others in our group heard that, I could tell God was saying “you’re doing the right thing, this is where you are meant to be.” In a state of fear and nervousness for what was to come, it brought me peace. After heading to the grocery store and realizing how much food we wanted to eat, simplicitycame at just the right time on Day 2, but it also came at a time where we realized we needed to look for the simple things. Attending mass in the morning brought us to see the simple things that brought joy to us from the Blackfeet people. As the sign of peace came around, everyone shook everyone’s hand. We learned in our training with the school’s immersion director that the Blackfeet’s tribe true Blackfeet name translates to “the real people.” That’s what we wanted, a week with real (authentic) people. Day 3 was our first day in the school working with Mr. O’Brien, Brother Dale and Bro. Jim. We focused on prayerand spirit. We realized that every action in our lives, the 3,000+ decisions we make every day, plants a seed and we can harvest through prayer. If we don’t pray on our actions, then we just have these seeds. I think a lot of us wanted to harvest relationships, but we wanted to go deeper. We had to identify what we wanted our seeds to blossom into and pray for that. Day 4, our first day in the classroom. We didn’t know what to expect, we were up at 5:45 racing to the showers then the kitchen to see if we would get the brown sugar or the strawberry pop tart. After the day we were ready to crash. I personally felt defeated, almost like a new kid on his first day of school. I didn’t know if kids liked me or if I was helping them at all. I realized later during night prayer that we had to continue going in with this zeal to help them. We had a De la Salle Alum, Martha, visit us for dinner and she explained they don’t need saving, just help. I quickly realized that our zeal this week was to help the students, the teachers, the community and one another. Our lives are built on relationships, so therefore it’s one of the things we are most zealous for. Day 5 came around, our second day in class…some tiredness kicked in. A nice game of fortress dodgeball started off the morning including all 14 of us and students as they came in. We continued teaching and working with the students, while they beat us in dodgeball and basketball. Compassion and presence were today’s words as we continued to strive on building relationships with the students. In order to be present in a relationship, you must show compassion for that person. We took a walk with someone around the mission. Each night the stars were alive in the sky making it worth freezing cold temperatures. Day 6 came around, even more tired but we continued letting this zeal light us on fire, so we played dodgeball again. Humility and poverty. Perfect words on our second to last day and the day we visited Glacier National Park. We were impoverished of energy, but we fought through making every moment the best moment. Glacier was a humbling experience as we saw God’s creation, and how truly small we are but at the same time how big we are. God made these mountains and he made us, what more could someone ask for?
And finally our final day in Browning and we have such an incredible week to look back on. We started the day with our great routine of Fortress Dodgeball, but today we convinced Mr. Wozack (8thgrade homeroom, gym teacher, and seeking pro dodgeball contract) to play with us. He wasn’t messing around. After losing two rounds with his team and giving a pep talk he turned the game around. Mr. Clark, dual holding balls, attempts to wipe out Bleacher, slips and falls on a fortress (Mr. Clark’s mother – I promise he is okay.) Wozack doesn’t stand for this. He picks up a ball and beams me (like MLB pitching speed) right in the face. Name a better way to start the morning.
We felt this poverty of sleep again today as we’ve been enjoying each other’s company in the evenings. Last evening, we spent some time with the Lasallian Volunteers who are some of the most incredible people. I think that each of us has gained a huge amount of respect for all teachers knowing now what no sleep and 15 hour days feel like.
We worked with our classes this morning on science MAP testing, then went on throughout the day. We’ve been helping a lot of them work on their Catholic Schools Week essay all about being Blackfeet, LaSallian, and Catholic. The fourth grade essays summed it up. In one stating that he liked being all three because “he was a child of God.” Then another stating that some people don’t have God. “Wow, Just wow. I mean wow, wow, wow, wow,” he stated. Name a better way to sum up God from this week.
As we began walking out of our classrooms towards the exit of the school some students came to give an extra special goodbye. Maddy, in the 6thgrade class, stopped me and said “Can I have your nametag?” I was looking forward to keeping this to hold onto, some of the kids had decorated it giving it some character, so it was hard to part with. Maddy and I had read a few times together throughout the week and played some volleyball during recess. I handed her the nametag and she immediately went to put it in her phone case. This opened up something we didn’t think we’d see the compassion we had for these students, they had in turn for us. Ty gave me a big hug saying, “Please come back next year.” As Bleacher finished giving Matthew a hug and started walking down the hall, Matthew said “Love you Jake” then turned to his friend and recollected that he’d never see us again. As I look onto this, it was something that I didn’t know what the outcome would look like, I didn’t know if the kids would just walk out and say bye or show the love as they did. From the start of our formation process for this trip, Mr. Clark stated that our 12 words assigned to each of us were truly assigned to all of us. You can’t be presentwithout compassion. You need the spiritto be harvested through prayerto find your zealin which you will build on your relationshipsto find the simplicityin life and discoverwho you truly are. In the process it takes humblingyourself to be in poverty and to know where you are lacking, not just of money but of spirit, of faith, or of family. We felt lost pulling up into Browning with no street lights, or getting off the airplane to their two baggage claims. But it takes getting lost sometimes, to find yourself.
So, what’s next? We have so much wisdom right now. Wisdom from our reflection, our prayer and our experiences. We had a true zeal this week that brought us the wisdomto take action. But we can’t stop there. Taking action requires something that most people don’t want to do. It takes becoming weak sometimes. But are you strong enough to do it?
When I was first given the word action, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was making a lot of decisions about my senior year ahead of me and about my future after high school. I had to take action, some things I had support on while other people questioned me. I had to weaken myself to reflect and decide if these were the right decisions. My time in Montana has shown me there is more than just making decisions on what you’re going to have for dinner or lunch. You need to take action in your relationships. The Blackfeet community takes action to welcome everyone to everything. We were welcomed everywhere; from Church to Subway. I asked Maddy why she loved DLSBS, she responded “Being Blackfeet makes us a family and we all share so much.” At the same time of sharing so much, they share so little yet they take the action to make sure everyone is welcomed onto their reservation. I’d like to take action like this, building my relationships to the next level that I may have wanted them to go but have been too afraid to do it. At the end of the day, we fall sleep with ourselves so we have to take action on the things God is calling us to do. Open a path for the Lord, sometimes we may get lost but it takes getting lost to find yourself again.
Day 7 Blog: Connor Hastings – Wisdom
On Friday, we embarked on our final day of classes. During our orientation, I remember Mrs. Ficaro telling us that she constantly hears immersion groups say that they wish they had one more day, so we need to make the most of the days we have. However, missing Monday for MLK Day and taking a half-day on Thursday for our trip to Glacier National Park left us with basically 3 days. All of us told ourselves we would make the most of the time we had, but we all ended up wishing we had more time.
The school day went by very fast, and was cut short due to no enrichment, ending at 3:15 with a bunch of photos being taken with the students.
In terms of wisdom, I would say one way in which I grew wiser was by discovering that the Blackfeet aren’t in need of some sort of hero figure. Instead, they just need help and someone to depend on in their struggles. I also learned that they are the same as all of us, just flip their economic status and family. Next, I grew wiser through the teachers’ ability to control such a crazy and energetic group of sixth graders. Another way in which I grew wiser was through my peers. Communal living was new to all of us, so things like coordinating dishes and stepping up to clean or cook gave me new and valuable experience that will definitely help me when I go to college. Lastly, I grew in my wisdom through the time I spent with the children. Their attitude of everything is going to be rubbed off on me and helped me feel more comfortable around them and less anxious about working with them. This trip has been such a blessing and I am so glad and thankful for being able to attend it.