It’s easy to grow up in the US and know next to nothing about the original inhabitants of what we call the Americas. For us, through Plenty, we’ve had the good fortune to meet and get to know peoples like the Mayans of Guatemala and Belize, the Caribs of Dominica, the Mohawks of New York, the Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge, the Garifuna of Belize, the Wailaki of Northern California and the Biloxi-Chitimacha of Louisiana.
Most of these people happen to be materially poor, certainly compared to the average middle class American. Yet, what they have to teach us contains the key to our survival as a species. Whether or not we’re very good at it, one of the best things we have learned, and continue to need to learn and practice, is humility. There’s a saying that has been attributed to the Nez Perce people: “Every animal knows more than you do.” Let’s just take a moment to ponder that intriguing thought.
In the excellent book, A Seat At The Table, which is Huston Smith’s interviews with Native Americans, Charlotte Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota says: “All things that live on the earth are children of the earth, and they are our relatives. I don’t have a greater right to live than a tree does. An elk doesn’t have a greater right to life than a fish does. We all have equal rights. Our ceremonies teach us that everything desires to live, and because we were created to make choices, we can perform ceremonies that will enable all life to live together and to live well.”
Such thinking certainly wouldn’t make for a winning political platform in the United States. It’s based on an acknowledgement that we’re not only part of each other, we’re dependent on each other and, in truth, ultimately responsible for each other’s wellbeing.
We love that through Plenty hundreds of good-hearted folks have been able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, that we’ve gotten to know thousands of different people and learned that we’re all very much the same. We love that working together with people around the world on projects to improve the health and wellbeing of their families and communities helps to alleviate fear and cynicism and makes us all more hopeful about a human future that our children and their children will share.
At the same time, it’s clear that all that is being done is not enough. We will always need to do more, but when we wake up in the morning we can be grateful for another chance to try.
Our spring Bulletin contains reports on most of the work Plenty is currently involved in and plans for 2012 and beyond, and we thank foundations that have most recently provided grants to support this work. I wish that we could thank every one of you personally because, while foundations and funding agencies contribute up to one-third of our budget, two-thirds comes from you and other individual donors and groups.
Plenty’s individual donors are like family to us. There are just a couple thousand of you but, gracious, you sure are faithful and generous. Even the foundations who fund Plenty are primarily what are known as “family foundations,” so we can say for certain, it’s a family affair, which is just the way we like it.
PS: Kiowa proverb: “Walk lightly in the spring. Mother earth is pregnant.”