Sitting at my desk, I look at a painting which depicts a young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees into a clearing. It speaks to me of the spiritually innate nature of love, which we each possess, that can help lead the lost out of darkness.
Arizona has over twenty tribal entities of indigenous Americans. They make up one quarter of the State. How fortunate we are to be in their midst. I recently visited the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, Old Oraibi, on the Third Mesa in the Hopi nation. Aside from the persistent winds, it is quiet. The animals are not shy; they are friendly like the somewhat hidden community. There is a spiritual peace and modest strength in this place, despite the obvious needs. It is difficult not to love these people and to connect with their love of all that is around them.
In contrast, I was moved by an article in The Christian Science Monitor (April 13) that addresses high teen suicide rates on native American reservations a health problem for them and for all of us, as we do not live in isolation. The article cites experts who say this situation includes unemployment, alcoholism, drugs, school dropout rates, poverty and deprivation, all adding up to a sense of hopelessness.
This challenging condition is not limited to reservations, of course, but can be found everywhere. How is hopelessness displaced? The article mentions traditional tribal concepts such as having compassion for others, comforting those who are in pain, and interacting with those who exhibit suicidal tendencies. Also, the local reinforcement of cultural identity helps dissipate a sense of not belonging.
But is there more that could be done?
Yes. Hopelessness need not lead to mental darkness and depression, nor the taking of one’s life. This is not a new challenge. And, while some economic resources may well be part of the solution, as indicated in the Monitor article, the spiritual resources needed to break the cycle of depression are not limited nor are they untested.
One can read in the Scriptures where the prophet Elijah was sent to a widow in a distant town to find nourishment. When he approached her, he learned that she was planning to take two sticks, make a fire, and cook the last meal for her and her infant son, and then die. As a widow in her society, at that time, there was no purpose for her life and she could not sustain herself. But Elijah asked her not to be afraid, to forego her intent, and make a small cake for him first. She did. The outcome was that “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry”*. Elijah gave her the supply she most needed the recognition of being loved by God, the infinite, divine Source of all good. And, when she expressed her understanding of that idea by defying her fear of lack and acting unselfishly, that brought to light the practical provision she needed.
That capacity to prove the practicality of spiritual good is possible for all of us today. A woman of spiritual depth and love for mankind, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote this statement on the first page of her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” Understanding just how much God loves us and expressing that by our love for others can lift us and them out of the darkness of fear and hopelessness.
We need not be bystanders. There is enough inherent love in each of us to see and support this generation’s emergence from whatever darkness threatens their sense of identity. Like that young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees to a clearing, we should pray to see this generation led by divine Love into the “clearing” where their lifepurpose is fully evident and their path to fulfillment is engaged.
*I Kings 17:14 (NIV)
Published April 22, 2015, Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, Globe, AZ