by Linda Myers
(note: Linda wrote this piece for the recent ANE newsletter. As we start a new year it serves as a reminder of the power of Linda's vision and the strength of her purpose to help the Elders.)
Twenty-five years ago my life changed after watching a documentary called Broken Rainbow and listening to a young Navajo woman speak about the plight of her people. I didn't know what to do - but I knew I had to do something.
When I traveled to the land with Grace Smith Yellowhammer, she said something to me that I still remember. "The people are so despondent and helpless. They're giving up caring. They need someone to care about them, even a hairbrush or a jacket, something that would make them feel good about themselves." As I looked at the condition of their homes and the simple lives, I knew I had a voice and somehow I would find a way to share with others about their simple needs.
As I look back, I think of so many people who offered help to me. When I would get home from work at night I would sort through donations and pack food in any boxes I could find. We have come a long way since those days, and even though times are challenging for us now, they haven't changed very much on the land for the Elders over the last twenty-five years.
Many of the original Elders twenty-five years ago relocated and were given new homes. Many more were displaced and left the homes and returned back to their homelands.
Poverty on the reservation is hard to rise out of - education is the greatest way out and presents many challenges to students because of lack of funds and support. My goal with the old ones is still the same - to help them live out their lives in their traditional ways.
Food is the greatest gift I know -firewood has helped relieve their greatest worry of freezing to death. Drinking water in many areas is only safe by buying bottled water. The Elders have taught me a lot about survival. To sell their rugs for them is to touch each of them daily, to feel their hands in the rugs, to know even in their old age they will weave to eat and feed their families. They have shown me how giving and generous they are with so little.
Their strength has kept me going many times when I am tired and overwhelmed. I have experienced a different kind of love not in words but in the gentle touch of holding their hands and feeling their prayers. They have blessed me and all the volunteers who help them.
With five hundred Elders we assist now, it isn't often I visit each of their homes. We send letters to them from the program letting them know we are thinking of them and, through donations, include Food Certificates or Firewood Checks, and boxes of yarn to weave their rugs with.
When I visit their homes, I often see the letters taped to the wall that show the pictures of the volunteers or the families that sponsor them. I look forward to the New Year and to the blessings it will bring. We have struggled to keep many things going as simply as we can, to help the money donate to go to the Elders directly.
I have so much gratitude for all the volunteers and supporters who come into my life daily with working hands to give their time, such a precious gift, and to all of you who adopt Elders and generously give to help them.
We send you our Heartfelt Blessings.