This final blog entry from the Behavioral Health team is written by Cathy Meinecke, RN in Behavioral Health from Gundersen’s Decorah Clinic.
I submitted the first blog for the Behavioral Health team so it seems appropriate that I do the last day of our journey and it was a journey. Both to get home safely and the week itself. A journey that I feel safe to say has changed each one of us on this trip. In my day to day work at home I talk a lot about the balance of mind, body, and spirit for good health. That our health is like a three legged stool that if all the legs are equal, it is easy to sit on and you don’t have to work not to tip, but if one of the legs is shorter than the other or out of balance it is hard work to keep it up. I am not saying it cannot be done but it is more work and can be very exhausting. Our trip this week just reaffirmed that for me. And as I said earlier this week you cannot go out to this area and not feel the connection to the earth and the sacredness of the land. From the rolling hills to the majestic badlands or the amazing rivers and magnificent sunrises and sunsets, it is all around you. Put this together with the dichotomy of the poverty and harsh conditions the people of Pine Ridge live in and it becomes so clear why Global Partners sends teams out to the reservation.
Yet, I found over my week and especially driving off the reservation on Friday, I could only think of all the ways to admire the people of Pine Ridge. They are resilient and kind and spiritual. They are tough and hearty. Especially apparent for all of is driving back in the snow storm in the new rental van with good tires and a reliable engine that would not leave us on the side of the road. In our trip home, there was a continuation of the laughter and comradery we had shared with all the people we had met during the week. We were fortunate enough to be able to come home with some understanding of the Lakota culture taught to us by the very people we were sent out to help. They generously shared their stories and explained how their ancestors had done many of the very things we were talking about in trauma informed care just by carrying out their rituals. Rituals, many are trying to revive. It truly humbled us. This week had been about relationships and understanding. About learning what was needed and finding a way to begin giving the support to allow it to happen. I would say that mission was accomplished.
Thank you Global Partners for allowing me to be a part of that. I had an amazing week. I would encourage people to take time and learn about the history and culture of the Lakota people of Pine Ridge, but most of all if you get a chance to go and meet these amazing people, do so. In our van on the way back through snow and ice, we all talked about how we would like to go back again. We received so much from this experience. Our hearts broke for what we saw and all that is needed but they also grew because of all we were given and the kindness we were shown from people we hardly knew. Deb read us a resiliency story on the way home about being putting carrots, eggs and coffee beans in boiling water for twenty minutes and how they come out after. It had been sent to her this week from work, but seemed relevant to our experience. Our trip and honestly, who and what we saw all week, was about choosing how we were going to come out of the hard times. The people of Pine Ridge need support to figure out how to come out of the hard times transformed. They lack some of the tools to do so, but don’t forget they have many already when we are trying to help. Just like everyone else does. My trip was tiring and stressful at times but it was life changing. I am grateful for all I have been given. All I can say to end is wow.
By Cathy Meinecke, RN