Which is Higher–Our Hopes or Our Barriers?

Korah and Kelsey's Bead People

This was an earlier post from the last day of 2007 that I still like.  At that time we were still just making plans to build our house.  Tomorrow we are heading back up to northern MN for the new spring/summer/fall season of construction and gardening.  Love those New Year’s Resolutions.  Also, since that time, over 6500 Bead People have traveled to over 17 countries–and today a woman from Kent State ordered 25 books for her globalization class.  We will be adding new countries soon!  (www.thebeadpeople.org).  Be sure to learn about this project and lend your voice.   Leave a comment–it keeps me coming back.  For those of you visiting for the first time, I taught English at Oglala Lakota College for five years and only recently quit.

December 31, 2007

I entered the semester at Oglala Lakota College in mid-August and am just now coming up for air. I took on a load of six classes, traveling three times a week to Pine Ridge for classes and meetings.

Today I was driving back across this beautiful land beneath a bright sky. The land, normally burned and dry by now, is still green. I was thinking about my students and imagining our goodbyes a few weeks from now and tears came to my eyes. I had just heard Elizabeth Lynn-Cook (a Dakota scholar and writer) speak and was moved by her talk. Such obstacles for our indigenous (her word) people. This semester three of my students had babies, eight of them lost a loved one, at least half a dozen faced court dates or watched a brother or uncle go to jail. It is hard sometimes to know which is higher–their hopes or their barriers. I also realized, as I crossed the miles one more time, that I would rather be here doing this work than just about anything else (well, maybe working on my novel).

In truth, it is not just Indian people who have barriers. We all have our own distances to cross, and we do it in the best way possible for us. Sometimes those who have the greatest distance to go emerge the strongest. A hopeful thought and one of my favorites. We all have the potential to become strong activists for life.

I turned 54 in October and feel like now my life is about putting my hands together so others can put their foot in it and boost themselves up. I want so much for them–for all of us. My expectations are high. When a person is as blessed as I am–with good family, good friends, a great husband–there is no other path but to serve in any way I can.

I am only one person but there are a whole lot of “one persons” out there. Let’s think about all that we can do in this upcoming year. Here are just a few ideas:


  • Look at other people and not just yourself.
  • Smile more–it costs nothing and earns much.
  • Weed negativity out of your garden with love,
  • only love.
  • See God in each other.
  • Use less of our precious earth’s resources. We simply
  • don’t need all that stuff. Stuff robs energy from our real lives.
  • Watch carefully for opportunities to help
  • someone out.
  • Forget the miniature emergencies and work
  • on the big picture–your vision of the world.
  • Be yourself as authentically and as honestly
  • as you can.
  • Give your time, your money, and your good state to others.
  • Make a New Year’s Resolution to stop all
  • gossip, blaming and other injurious forms
  • of communication.
  • Breathe more.
  • Give more money to your favorite charities.
  • Teach what you know. Do it now and quit worrying
  • about whether you will be “good enough” at it.


That is all that comes to mind at the moment but I am sure you have your own lists. Oh, and by the way, The Bead People have journeyed to France, Germany, Texas, Washington D.C., Maine, Oregon, Mississippi and Eagle Butte, South Dakota. The Bead People project is being used by church groups, schools, girl scouts and who knows what else. It makes me smile–so much for self-doubt. You have to read my August newsletter to hear about the birth of The Bead People.

Maybe you have the tiniest spark of an idea that you think is just plain silly but needs (NOW) to be in the world. Go for it. Love the ones your with and, most importantly, be gentle with yourself.  For Milt and I, our focus will continue to be to create a world where the human spirit, diversity and creativity are celebrated. More on that later.

2008–here we come.

Love to all,

Jamie Lee


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