When Volunteering Feels Like Coming Home

highway sign for Lapwai Idaho Nez Perce Indian ReservationI am in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce reservation (the tribe is more correctly referred to as “Nimiipuu“–the people), working with kids on the rez, mentoring genius and agile young minds who gain confidence in their voices and stories right before my eyes. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done, and I’ve been blessed to return four years. This program of Mentor Artists—MAPP, is a huge force in my life.

In the program–a one-week, short burst of intensive learning where teens, many of whom have never seen live theatre, by the end of five after-school days and all day Saturday, will have written a two-character, one-act play. In a culture that honors storytelling, astounding imagery and characters as varied as the wind, Coyote, a gun, river grass, a silver necklace, a lunchbox, a wolf fighting for pack dominance, a diamondback, mother and daughter songbirds, and so many more come to vivid life.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, and one of the most inspiring vets I know, Tony Johnson, my brother here, passed up the big tribal community center event honoring vets for their service to instead build the fire, heat the stones, and prepare the herbs/medicine to sweat with us. This connection, these shared prayers and songs, this fraternal bond, cracks open my heart. Tony is one of many here that are truly my family, and every time I am lucky enough to travel here, they welcome me home. I am often hugged and told, “We’ve been waiting for you, Brother” even after two years between trips.

I wish this feeling on every single one of you. May you have the joy of watching young minds push boundaries beyond what they previously knew, ushering stunning story into being…may you discover a place where community connection is everything…may you take such a strong stand for young people that you will do everything you can to assure their burgeoning pride and success…may you know the feeling of having so much respect for another that it brings tears to your eyes…may you travel far from home to feel the joyous intensity of coming home…I wish this on every single one of you.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Well said Andrew! Glad to be here with you!!!

    Reply

  2. Truly beautiful and inspiring! Just like you.

    Reply

  3. Truly beautiful and inspiring. Just like you!
    Lorraine

    Reply

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