(Note: Close friends Joan Trabucco and Valorie Marshall attended their first food run in August of 2009 at Oljato and Navajo Mountain. Click here to read Valorie's account of their experience.)
I found ANE through Cowboys and Indians magazine. I am part native American and thought this would be a wonderful way to give to the Native people as a whole. I was soon sent an Elder to adopt along with her profile. Her name is Zettie Smith, and she is beautiful. She lives in the Oljato area. I decided then that I wanted to help at a food run to make sure that my hard-earned money was being used properly, and meeting Zettie would be a bonus. I talked my good friend Valorie into going with me as my co-pilot. We spent over a year planning for this trip.
Our job was to bring onions for the food run - - - 300 pounds of onions from California. The day I left my home I smudged myself and my truck, said a prayer, and headed off to pick up Valorie and the onions. They were nine hours away. After spending the night at Valorie's house, we double checked our possible routes and then headed to the backyard to bless ourselves with the cornmeal we had received from the Program. After smudging the truck and saying a prayer, we were off. We allowed three days to get to the food run which was good because we probably spent a day getting lost and taking wrong turns. I had arranged for a personal tour with a Navajo guide at Canyon del Muerto as a special treat for Valorie. He and his father sang a special song for us at the end of the tour. We both cried. Each night we wrote in our journals about the day's adventures and the emotions that went with it.
The big day came for our first meeting with the group. Valorie and I discussed how we hoped that everyone was there in the "right spirit" as we both have been disappointed with people that just want to stand up and boast about themselves saying, "See what I did for these poor people! I'm so wonderful". We were so elated to find that EVERYONE was wonderful and were there for the right reasons. We came to love everyone we worked with. They will be a part of our hearts and memories forever. The next day we would go to Oljato to deliver Rainbow Food Boxes, onions, giveaways we brought from home, and the special box of items for Zettie.
Valorie and I were working at the Oljato Senior Center when Linda approached and said, "Your Elder, Zettie, is here". I instantly lost all train of thought and use of normal speech. "Where?", I said. Linda smiled and pointed at Zettie sitting at a table at the back of the room. One of the Navajo helpers went with me to interpret. Tears started to come down my cheeks along with emotions I didn't expect. As I approached her, she held out her hands and clasped mine tightly in hers. The emotions just overwhelmed me. I instantly fell in love with her, a complete stranger I'd never met before. The connection we felt for each other was spoken through our clasped hands.
Everything was spoken through those clasped hands, I couldn't speak. I'd forgotten everything I wanted to say. I looked up and said to my interpreter, "What do I say?". She said, "Why don't you ask a question". I couldn't think of any so we just sat holding hands and looking at each other. Here eyes were gentle, caring, and compassionate. Later on I received a beautiful picture of our clasped hands. It is now framed and hanging by my kitchen window.
The day's activities continued on, and I had to laugh when one of the lady Elders slapped Valorie on the butt because she wanted to make sure she was getting her share of giveaways. It was wonderful to hear the Navajo language spoken; it takes a long time to say something in Navajo. I saw the quiet smiles and small nods of thanks as each Elder received their items. I watched as the Elders found their boxes and guarded them possessively, their gifts of love. But they had no idea that the gift they gave to me was greater than anything I could give to them. My heart, soul, and physical being were filled with things I can't explain. This "Quest of Giving" I had started on had now become the "Quest of Receiving".