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Some Kids I Have Known
Dan's Lecture to Kid's in Alternative Learning-November 2005


    My cousin, Charmaine, (we nicknamed her, 'Charmy), called to remind me of my brother's lecture to the alternative learning students. The weather was blustery to say the least with cold temperatures making me miserable when I stepped from my warm car.

    “This better-be-good.  I hope it is interesting enough for me to come out of my warm house,” I thought to myself as I watched the dry leaves rustling in tiny circles around and around on the sidewalk while the wind jerked and pulled them into a spiral.

    Life has a way of laying the cards on the table in opposition to what I see in my mind regarding my brother for when he was the baby of the family I held him so much of the time because of being the oldest.  He was the favorite of everyone and was treated by each one of us as special. Today, I had to realize my brother is an ageing man whose vocabulary and speaking ability is decidedly not that of a baby.

    There wasn't time to charge the batteries on the camcorder so I took the smaller camera even though I had no idea of how to operate it. As I seated myself and began to listen to his lecture it suddenly struck me why he was and is a leader.

    Dan opened his lecture with the words, “I spoke before a group of Chinese youngsters and later asked their superiors, "Where are the children of alternative learning?”  With this statement he, today, caught these normally restless kid's attention.

    “They told me,” he continued, “Oh! We have these children, but they are the future leaders and we give them a special classroom!”

    Probably from that moment forward my brother, Dan, held the attention of the young adults who are often like angry children with feelings of being isolated, and in a less desirable situation. They often feel less than that of  the “normal” student. The tenderness with which he held their minds and emotional state I felt was so much to be admired. In fact, he did identify with them and admitted this was where he himself had been at one time when he was their age.

    His introduction was brief and covered some of the achievements he had been able to make in his career with filming documentaries. To be the first American Indian invited as a member of the most prestigious group of film makers in the United States was something for which he was proud. He skipped over this and then introduced his film I had seen only as he was working on it. This was a narration of his book of poetry by very good readers who were people like Peter Coyote. The actors and actress's ability with words making the poetry come alive along with the striking landscape photography and soothing music caused the presentation to be altogether beautiful. Occasionally,  the photographer would switch back to Dan speaking and explaining about one of his poems.

    After the film was finished Dan involved the students in a method of mind exercises, that was to hold the kid's attention but became equally informing to the adults in attendance.  He started with a word, one word. That word was, “shoe.”  By working in a clockwise circle around the central word he asked the students to add words pertaining to shoe. There were the words; laces, leather, cow, boot, sandal, Nicki, size, color, and so forth and so on, that were called out from the young audience. These kids were involved. Then he went to the word boot and asked the students for words on that. There was cowboy-boot, steel toed boots, engineer boots. It was interesting to see how suddenly, the mildly interested boys  were now participating.

    From this Dan went to a pictograph of a Native American recording of  a story and told how these ancient writers worked clock-wise, in a spiral around a central word to tell of the event, much in the same way.

    When he called for questions from the audience the first question was, “How long did it take you to grow your braids?”

    In my reverie I began to think back to when Dan wrote his first work on poetry. It was during the time when my Dad was able to influence him with the great works of ancient historians he so much enjoyed. No one would have recognized this other than, myself. It gave me a strange melancholy. I felt happy to know this truth and wisdom in the poetry dealing with such popular issues of today was there so many years before. The issues of ecology, respect for the earth, spirituality of the Native American, were the values Dad always tried to inculcate  into us and this was all in Dan's poetry.

    Someone asked me, “when was the last time you cried.”

    It didn't take me a moment to say, “Yesterday!  It was the day I heard my brother, in a most humble and gentle way speak to the children of the middle school at the old Administration Building. This is where the kids with learning problems are only at the width of a hair away from the time they will have to go out on the streets to deal with,  heaven only-knows,  what circumstances. If some small ray of light came through to these youth while my brother spoke his gentle truth to them,  then a lifetime of toil and struggle will have been worth the effort. I didn't cry aloud and tears slipping down the side of my face were never seen, only felt, and quickly brushed away before anyone could notice.

    So, here I am. Today, I struggle along with promoting my book at a snail's pace, it seems. We are closer to the goal. I had to purchase Rhonda the low rider bike from my own book sales. The weather caught up with us but there will be warm days yet when she can use it. Somehow or another, this seeing my brother's efforts and work encouraged me to continue with my own. Rhonda, my cerebral palsied daughter, has few of the joys and escapes the people in the world around her have. The low rider bike when she was a child was one of them and this will have been good for something else, now. It will provide her with the exercise she so desperately needs. Every once in a while there is a triumph in this old system of things.


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