One of the greatest values to the Oglala Lakota is wacantognaka (generosity).
The concept includes more than simply sharing with others. It includes as well showing kindness, compassion and sympathy towards other people and towards all of nature without a price tag, i.e. without the expectation of reward. The simple act of providing wacantognaka is its own reward, making the individual better and happier in life.
There is an old Lakota saying that sums this up beautifully: "What you give away, you keep; what you keep you lose."
The town of Allen, while called the poorest place in the country financially, is far from poor in spirit and the sense of community. Recently, the young people of Allen decided to demonstrate their wacantognaka in the following way.
The community playground had become overgrown with weeds, the play sets in poor repair, and no one to restore the place so the kids would have somewhere to gather and play and develop their sense of belonging. Out of the clear blue sky, the young people who are about to enter high school for the first time took it upon themselves to get a few tools together and voluntarily perform the hard work needed to get the playground shipshape and usable by the younger kids of Allen.
This seems like such a worthy and inspiring idea that we of One Spirit decided to offer new school clothes, shoes and coats to the workers. That resulted in some more volunteers, and we will accommodate all of them for their expression of wacantognaka. There are twenty young people who are joining the group to work on the playground.
Needless to say, our response to the young people will cost some extra money, which is always in short supply once we have set the food program for the coming months.
In addition to providing the school outfits for the new high schoolers, One Spirit is supporting the celebration of a “lock-in” at the youth center on a weekend. We will need to provide food and some bedding for this part of our outreach, and once again additional donations are urgently needed to cover these vital needs to keep the kids safe and well nourished.
We are always grateful for our loyal donors, who make it possible for One Spirit to continue our efforts to expand the support we can give the Oglala Lakota, while respecting their traditional culture and remarkable values. As a result, we are publishing this article to see if you can find it in your hearts once again to undertake your own acts of wacantognaka and send a special donation for the amazing young people of the Allen community. As the saying above states, what you give away, you keep.
By helping this new program, you will be happy in keeping the knowledge that very deserving folks among the oyate on the Pine Ridge Reservation will be greatly helped because of your generosity. You will be able to keep that gift in your hearts forever.