Desert Fathers “One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts Someone noticed this and said to him, ‘Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?’ He replied, ‘I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.’”
A young man, caught up in his misery, began shoving the younger kids around and yelling obscenities at us. We got him to go outside and then sat in a circle.
“How shall we handle this?” I ask.
“Why ask us?” demands one youth. “We have rules. Kick him out.” Arguments broke out in the circle.
We sit for a while. Finally I say, “I think that this is a Native youth issue. I think that some of you can talk to the young ones who were physically bullied and some of you can talk to the youth who bullied. “It’s not about rules. It’s about what will keep the future open for everyone concerned. No one is going to listen to me. You know best.”
I retreat into the kitchen for coffee as they form two groups to talk about this.
Later, one of the young adults asks me for the eagle feather and sage we keep in a special box. I get them for him and retreat to the kitchen again.
They talk in earnest to the young ones who were bullied and were still shaken.
Others go out to find the angry young man and bring him back.
They call me back in and we sit in a circle. One young adult smudges everyone pronouncing the words to “walk in beauty.”
They tell stories from their grandparents about the importance of controlling your anger and protecting the vulnerable. They talk about their Native pride in respecting others.
Very carefully, several youth mention the times they had messed up and how they regained their balance. No demands were made. Several youth promised the scared ones that they had their back and would keep them safe.
We all waited.
Finally the eagle feather and sage was handed to the angry young man. His face was contorted and the frame of his body rigid. Finally, he walked around the circle blessing everyone with the sage.
That was it. No other words were spoken.
Later, some of the youth told me that this usually their opinion were not sought. “I feel bigger because you left it with us”, admitted one of the young adults.
For myself, I felt that I was just learning the alphabet.