Herald Journal Columns
July 31, 2006, Herald Journal

A trip out west

By SAM SCHOMMER
I recently took a trip to the good ‘ol state of South Dakota.

Yeah, lots of excitement there, with all those miles and miles of – well, pretty much nothing.

Oh, wait, there were some cows.

Have you ever played “Hey Cow?” Well, it’s like the best game ever, consisting of yelling “Hey, cow!” out the window.

I know, it’s quite an exciting game.

Anyway, I didn’t just go to South Dakota for some wild fun. I went there on a mission . . . literally.

The Holy Trinity mission group went to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to help out the people there.

Yes, these people are Native Americans, and yes, there are problems in their communities.

There’s about a 90 percent alcoholism rate, and about 80 to 85 percent of the children there have been or will be sexually abused before they are old enough to know better.

(Don’t quote me on the exactness of the percentages, but it’s something like that).

The reservation is a dry reservation, yet the alcoholism rate is high. They get their alcohol from a town on the Nebraska border, which is home to about five or six bars and liquor stores.

This town, alone, sells more alcohol a day than the entire state of Nebraska does in a year. I believe it was about 1,100 cans of beer a day. This is a huge problem.

Wrapping my mind around that number was kind of hard, but if you look around the reservation, you can see that there’s a problem.

The people there live in, well, shambles.

Garbage is found almost everywhere you look, there’s stray dogs running around begging for food, and there’s graffiti on the houses and over the road signs.

The houses, which four to 10 people live in, are in very bad condition. If they aren’t falling apart, there’s graffiti on the outside or the houses have been egged.

It was rough to see the condition that these people live in, but when you see the smiles on the children’s faces, you just know that you were sent there for a reason.

For two days, we painted a family’s house a bright teal color.

They didn’t talk to us much, but they did allow us to use their bathroom whenever we needed.

While we were painting, a little puppy came and befriended us. After about a minute with this little puppy, I absolutely fell in love with it.

This puppy was the bright cheerfulness that my group was longing to see amid the hotness and the sweat.

On the second day of painting, the kids from the neighborhood came out to play.

They just soaked up the attention that we gave them, and they were more than happy to share our lunches with us.

The cutest thing, to me, was seeing these big guys in my group play with these little kids. I totally saw a softer side in them, and that was adorable.

The other two days of our program were spent at Kids Club.

Basically, we picked up a bunch of the kids in these big white vans, and then brought them to the park, played with them and taught them about God for the afternoon.

Over the course of two days, I found myself bonding with these children who rarely get to see love.

One boy, that I chased around all afternoon, loved hugs almost as much as he liked me to chase him.

I seemed to get along with the older girls pretty well, also.

I made them laugh by doing impressions, and they told me about their families and what they like to do.

The little girls were so cute! They love to jump rope and swing, and they’re so calm, compared to the boys.

At one point, I had three little girls pulling me in three different directions saying “She’s mine! she’s mine!” You can only imagine how popular I felt.

I felt so blessed to be able to give some love to those children, who are deprived of the attention that they deserve.

These kids amazed me. Despite the poverty that they live in and the way they were raised, they manage to always have smiles on their faces.

Seeing the way that some people live was sort of an eye-opener for me and it has definitely made me a lot more grateful for the blessings I have been given, like a house with air conditioning and a family without alcoholism.

I urge you to look around and see the things that you would normally take for granted.

So, if you asked me if I learned something on my trip to South Dakota, I think I’d have to tell you that it would be to sleep with one eye open when you’re sleeping in a room full of girls because you never know when one of them will let all of the air out of your mattress.

Thanks for that lovely early morning surprise, Kim.


Back to Sam Schommer Menu | Back to Columns Menu

Herald Journal
Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | DC Home | HJ Home