The Gift of Inspiration and Hope
"The day the box arrived with my name it, …I was in shock,” says Cynthia Crazy Thunder, a native grandmother of Oglala. “I haven’t had a coat in ten years. If I get a coat, I always give it to someone else who needs it, usually an elder,” and that is the design of the Lakota culture. You share what you have with everyone else.
Four children and three adults live in Cynthia’s household. Only Cynthia and her two grandchildren are sponsored. The other adult and two children do not have sponsors yet, but are waiting. Cynthia had signed her two grandchildren up for sponsorship in 2012 with One Spirit after they lost their mother to a battle with breast cancer.
"I needed help. I always try to do everything myself, so the hardest part for me is asking for help." After the death of her daughter, One Spirit helped provide for her family. Cynthia soon received great news that a sponsor had been found for her grandchildren. "I didn’t know One Spirit helped find sponsors for everyone. Most of us here on the rez think it’s just for children."
So, the day Cynthia Crazy Thunder walked out and saw a box with her name written on it was the best surprise! Through text messages or calling, Cynthia and her sponsor stay in touch at least once a week. They send photographs by text, and Cynthia makes an effort to give gifts back to her sponsor when she can.
"In my culture, it is an honor to give. So when someone gives to you, it is important to give back in whatever little way you can." The Lakota word used in association with this kind of giving is "wopila" which has a multitude of meanings in the Lakota language. In this way, it is giving thanks for all of existence and the blessing inherent in each moment of it.
Though it took Cynthia a year to truly trust and open up to her sponsor, she says her grandkids immediately accepted their sponsor as a new Grandma. Communication is the key to establishing a good sponsorship, and friendship is one of the best gifts. A new connection outside of the reservation is created, and this gives a sense of hope.
"My doors are open to Debbie," says Cynthia Crazy Thunder. "If she ever wants to visit us, she can come see that everything we now have has been given by her." Cynthia is inspired and encouraged by her sponsor. She is now involved in the native arts community of beadwork and tries to help ease the suffering of the Lakota elders and Veterans. "They shouldn’t be suffering that much, it is awful. So many of them don’t have coats or warm blankets to use, and are living in these cold places." It has made her life better in so many ways. Cynthia’s hope is that everyone in need on the reservation will find a sponsor.
She walks door to door to check on families, and offers what she has because she knows they have nothing. She even helps fill out paperwork or calls her Area Service Coordinator to relay information about families in need. "My sponsor inspires me to be better here on the reservation for other people in need. She is my friend."
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