Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I was reminded

Something interesting happened to me today.

But, first, what led up to this.  I was asked about 6 weeks ago to give a presentation about Native American culture at a Boy Scout Troop meeting.  I conferred with the young man a couple of times about what he wanted from the demonstration.  I wanted to make sure how long the presentation needed to be, what it needed to cover, and who my audience was going to be.  I even spoke with the Scoutmaster regarding the presentation to make sure he and the boy were on the same page, and that I fully understood what they wanted from me.

Last night I made the presentation.  It wasn’t my smoothest of presentations.  First my introductory video didn’t work immediately.  Technical difficulties.  We didn’t really have much time to test the facilities with my equipment beforehand.  But, after about ten minutes the video finally worked.  But, by that time, I had already switched over to ‘old school’ mode. 

I’d begun with an introduction of myself, who I was to the audience, and why I’d been asked to visit.  I’d talked about where they might have seen me before, and some of them actually already knew me.  Volunteers are always helpful.  Once that was done I moved into the different styles of dance, and that is when the video began working again.  So, we watched about 2 minutes of a 22-minute video of Fancy Dancers tearing it up during an ‘iron-man’ or ‘last man standing’ competition. 

After that, I explained where modern powwows come from, including information on Buffalo Bill Cody and other Wild West shows of that era.  It turns out, none of the youth in the room, from 11-18 had even heard of Bill Cody!  So, I had to give them some explanation of who he was so they could understand the ramifications of what he had done.  I talked about George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (“Greasy Grass”).  I talked about how quickly the reservation period enveloped the Lakota after that point.  And I talked about how the dance styles developed from that point on.

That is about when I lost my train of thought.  I had parts of three different dance styles laid out, and I talked about where you could obtain pieces and tried to explain the differences they might see among the styles.  But, between the video and having to give a much more in-depth history than I’d planned, I’d lost my original intent.  I kept looking back to the boy who kept giving the sign to keep going, so I kept talking, rambling a bit about the outfit pieces, leather leggings versus blanket leggings, deer-toe armbands versus silverwork, etc. 

And then I tried to make a final point about learning other peoples’ cultures, being open to new ideas and ways of experiencing events.  I mentioned that just learning a little about someone else’s point of view will open up more opportunities for them in the future when they meet new people whether in college, military, or the workforce.  About that point I’d been talking for 45 minutes.  So, I handed it back over to the boy, who had everyone applaud my presentation.  Then he handed it over to the Scoutmaster who did the same thing.  And I began packing my stuff up.

The best part was when I had two boys begin asking me questions like, “how expensive is this?”, “is it easy to do?”, and the best question ever: “How can I get started doing this?”.  I had the fortune of being at a troop where several other members are dancers, so I was able to refer a lot of the questions to some of the more experienced dancers in the room, and thus help stir a dialog between the boys in the troop who know, and the boys in the troop who want to know.

But, the best part happened today.  I was at my desk, when my phone rang.  The person calling is my boss, so I thought he’d be handing me another assignment or task for the day.  But, he thanked me.  He thanked me for coming out the night before and giving such a thorough presentation.  You see, my boss also happens to be the scoutmaster at that troop.  But, the fact was he went out of his way to thank me again for being there for his troop and helping educate them on current affairs and historical relevance of the Native communities I am familiar with.  Keep in mind, he didn’t have to thank me – he’d already done that the previous evening.  But, to take the extra step of calling me and thanking me, made me feel very appreciated.  It is one piece of the puzzle that a lot of people miss – including me! – when working with others.  A simple show of appreciation makes a huge difference.  Whether it is just a ‘thank you’ in passing or a larger presentation about the appreciation, or something in between, simply reaching out personally, extending the hand, and saying ‘thank you for what you did’ can make someone’s day, or week, or month maybe. 

Some people don’t feel appreciated, but they work hard every day.  Some people don’t realize how appreciated they are for what they do.  Civil servants like the Police, Firefighters, EMTs, Medical staff; and others like Civic leaders, Ministers, and even Scoutmasters often do not get thanked for what they do.  More often we tend to take them for granted and assume they will be there when we need them.  And sometimes we abuse them when we perceive a mistake.  We are all human, and sometimes we just need to be told that what we do is appreciated.  

I hadn’t realized how appreciated I am for what I do for the boys.  I was reminded of that today, and it makes me feel good.