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You Will Understand When You’re Older

I was raised on a Native American reservation in the southern United States. I remember this from this being told for forty-five years. I was ten years old and in the local small town that supplied most of everything foreign to a sheltered Indian child. One afternoon while visiting the town gathering place with my grandfather (Old Father to me), I witnessed him give a man—unknown and of non-Indian ethnicity—a one dollar bill. I asked him later, Old Father, why do you give your money to a stranger that has no trade with us? He replied, “Many years ago when I was young and not full with food and worked hungry, a white man not of wealth saw that I was short on trade and gave me a dollar bill so that I could fill our bowls. I tried to refuse but he insisted and so I accepted. I told him that I must return a gift of seven count weight and where may I bring a ham for the holidays? He replied to me, I have no need for a ham but you can repay me by doing the same for one of God’s children. So he continued when our bowls are full I help to fill a bowl of another when I can. You will understand when you are older. The next day I returned from school with no shoes. My mother asked me where my shoes were. I replied that I had given them a kid at school who did not have any. She said, now what will you do for shoes? I said, tomorrow I will wear them and the next day Henry will wear them. She laughed and said you are tilted by the stars today. I said, Mom I thought you would understand since you are so old. She was twenty-three at the time.”

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