January 25th, 2018: Poverty & Humility

Click here to read about Day 6 on the reservation and the connections our students are making to their lives back home...
I pray that we have made a difference.
“Are we just passing through?” This has been the saying that we have focused on for this week that has touched me the most. As I have spent my time in 8th grade this week, I have finally begun to know how these kids work completely and knowing tomorrow is the last day with them kills me. Today one student was having a bad morning so I spent my entire morning focused on him, which I have no problem doing. However, I wish that I had the time to spend with each of the students. I have seen the potential in each one of the students and I hope that they can continue to harness this potential after I leave, after their graduation, in high school, and beyond in the future. I want them to be successful while also staying intact with the person they are at heart. Today, the 8th grade worked on their essays for Catholic Schools Week, which is next week. Their essay topic was “What does it mean for you to be both Catholic and Blackfeet?” So many people talked about how being Blackfeet enabled them to be themselves. Much like Robert, our speaker for the day told us about how important it is for future generations to preserve the language that the language needs to be preserved by future generations. Robert, a linguist with fluency and focus on the Blackfeet language, is not the first person to tell us this. Many people in the school and even “little-owl”, an elder who was our speaker yesterday, told us a similar message. This is minutely seen in De LaSalle Blackfeet School’s “Blackfeet Word of the Day”, which today, was the word for “to drink water”. Robert told us about how the language is very descriptive with each word. Instead of creating words, the Blackfeet language creates a new word by conjoining multiple words to describe whatever they wish to describe. For example, the word for dogs, which are almost more plentiful in Browning than humans are, literally means an animal that is like a deer but smaller. This is why Robert said that his language “doesn’t beat around the bush”. He said that there will be no confusion or difficulty if the language continues to grow because there will always be a way to create a new word. Unfortunately, the language will die if the next generations do not continue learning this language just like their potential will be put to waste if they do not work hard, focus on each moment in the classroom, and outsource to learn about the world outside of the town of Browning and the reservation in general. I understand that their families are here and there are connections to this town, but if they cannot see how other people are living outside of the town, how can they begin to create change in themselves and the community if they do not outsource. This is why I hope that they see any bit of work ethic in me. This is why I work hard to serve. This is why I pray that I am not “just passing through”. ~Michael'18

     As our time in Montana draws to an end and we reflect upon the lessons learned and relationships formed over the week, I can only imagine the difficulty of leaving this place. Montana has become a second home to me because of the relationships I have formed with each individual person.
     As for today’s schedule, the day started off fairly normal. We woke up and left the trailer before arriving at school at 7:30 am. After playing short games of basketball and tag with some of the De La Salle students, we began homeroom and went throughout the day in a fairly normal fashion. As an 8th grade mentor, we sat through long discussions of the Revolutionary War in History, elaborate analysis on the Holocaust in English, and a rather in-depth debate about the role of God in decision making during Confirmation class. Despite the already long day of learning, however, we had a linguist speaker come in to speak with us about the Blackfeet language and its tradition. Did you know that the Blackfeet people were named after a colonist identified one person as having a black foot? Following the linguist, we departed for the trading post where we purchased some last minute souvenirs before returning to our trailer to prepare for a large dinner we were hosting for some of the volunteers at the school. During our very eloquent grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner, we took some time of our own to clean up and prepare for our daily reflection. It’s usually through these daily reflections that people get the most out of their time in Montana and this reflection certainly qualified. There’s a unique sense that after a long day of work, a group of high school students can gather around a table at 10:00 pm to talk about their day and reflect on their life. After our very personal reflection, we gathered together for one of our last games of President and prepared for our final day at school tomorrow.
In general, this trip has been more than what I could have imagined. Taking time away to serve with a great group of guys and living a vulnerable and simple life with one another is truly something most people overlook, especially in such busy times in our lives. However, although I don’t want to think about leaving just yet, I need to prepare myself for it and make the most of the little time I do have. No matter what happens, though, I hope I never forget the relationships I have formed on this trip and the memories I have created with my students! ~Matt'18