Theosophical Order of Service
Happy belated summer solstice. If your TS group is like ours, you may be taking a break from TS meetings for the summer. So . . . what better time to plot and plan a service project that will be fun for your group, increase your group's camaraderie, and alleviate a bit of suffering in the world?
One idea for a fun summer project is to do what the Houston group did--beat the heat by working indoors at a food bank. Food banks always need help--always. And the benefit is that they will assign your duties, so all you need to do is coordinate a time for your group to go, and they'll let you know what to do. Look at those happy faces in the photo of the Houston volunteers below!
This past year the Wheaton Action Group stepped in to make sure the annual Christmas giveaway for children on the Rosebud Indian Reservation went on as always, even though the usual organizer, Karen McCormick, was unable to participate this time. Many of you have faithfully supported this annual activity, so please accept our heartfelt thanks and enjoy the photos below.
Finally, I'm sharing some of the things I've learned about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Like most things involving human beings, it's a study in contrasts, and the article below features points of both light and darkness. In the middle of Pine Ridge, the poorest region in the United States, I discovered a brilliant point of light: a Waldorf School! Below I offer ideas on some easy and fun ways to help them out.
Do you love the bear cub photo above? I love that photo, so I looked up "bear" in naturalist Ted Andrews' book, "Animal Speak." He writes about how bears go into semi-hibernation in the winter, to emerge in the spring and live life to the fullest, raising their cubs, scratching their backs on trees and dipping into honey when they can find it. Ted concludes that bears remind us that we must go within to awaken our power, then bring it out into the open and apply it if we want to enjoy the "honey" or sweetness of life. It's a lovely reminder of a very theosophical and service-oriented principle, and it's offered as a little gift of service to you--with love from the bears.
TOS Liaison Coordinator
|Houston TOS helps fight hunger
On April 12, 2014, Houston TS/TOS members headed back to their community food bank to lend a hand in the fight against hunger. This was their third visit to help out the food bank.
For three hours, 17 members sorted and boxed items the food bank had received from donors. Working together with other volunteer groups, they packed thousands of meals to be sent to agencies that provide food and shelter to those who need help. Watch their video that captures the spirit of the day.Though the Houston volunteers got some serious work done, TOS Liaison Zarine Balsara says, "For us, it was fun to be involved."
|Would your group enjoy volunteering at a food bank? Locate a food bank in your area by clicking here.
contributed by Ananya Sri Ram Rajan
To the Lakota, according to Dona Mares, "Waziya" means old man of the North or the wizard.
For many years, the Waziya Giveaway has taken place due to the hard work of TOS member Karen McCormick, who has close ties with the residents of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Every year Karen shops, sorts, boxes, and drives or ships clothes, toys, blankets, and school supplies to the families of Rosebud to ensure a happy Christmas for some of the poorest people in our nation.
Waziya has been busy! (Photos by Ananya Sri Ram Rajan)
Danelys Valcarcel sorting the gifts in the classroom at Olcott
For personal reasons, Karen was unable to coordinate the Giveaway last year. As a gift of gratitude to her, Ananya Sri Ram Rajan, Paula Finnegan, and Danelys Valcarcel from the Wheaton TOS Action Group took it upon themselves to shop, sort, box and ship the majority of items to Rosebud. Donations of jackets, hats, sweaters, gloves, and other items were generously donated by other volunteers as well.
A total of $700 was spent that helped about 12 to 15 families as well as the extensive Camp family whose clan mother, Linda, has for years overseen the distribution of items to the various families. Right before Christmas (and soon after the boxes arrived) Linda's husband, Carter Camp, passed away due to illness and age. His passing is a great loss to those at Rosebud as he was a well-respected elder and leader.
The Wheaton TOS Action Group was happy to be able to provide this service to one of our own as well as to the many residents of Rosebud. A big thanks to those who regularly donate to the Rosebud project--without you the Giveaway would not be possible.
What happens to all the kids' coats the TOS sends each year? Watch the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's video "One Sunny Day in Winter" to find out!
To ensure Waziya's success again in 2014, please consider a donation (even a small amount helps); click here, then select "Native American Support" in the drop-down box.
Thank you Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations)
|A Light in the Heart of Pine Ridge
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota is the home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux people. At 11,000+ square miles, Pine Ridge is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
The Lakota people live within a rich spiritual and cultural heritage anchored by the four Lakota values: Generosity, Courage, Respect and Wisdom. Lakota tradition places an emphasis on home and an extended concept of family, and spirituality plays a role in every action.
Tribal elders worry, though, that knowledge of traditional Lakota ways is gradually disappearing. There are very few speakers of traditional Lakota language left in the world.
Conditions on Pine Ridge are harsh: it is home to the second lowest per capita income in the country ($3,700.00 annually in Shannon County) and a staggering 80% unemployment rate. Residents of Pine Ridge suffer serious chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease at a rate vastly disproportionate to the rest of the nation. The life expectancy for men is 48 years; women on Pine Ridge can expect to live to 52. The school drop-out rate is 50%, and the teen suicide rate is 150% that of the national average.
In the midst of the suffering at Pine Ridge is a brilliant light: the Lakota Waldorf School.
Lakota Waldorf School, Kyle, SD
Waldorf is a humanistic model of education founded by theosophist/anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner in 1919. Broadly speaking, the Waldorf model seeks to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Early years in a Waldorf school focus on practical, hands-on activities that encourage creative play and social capabilities. Individual schools have a great deal of autonomy, and the Lakota Waldorf educators use this freedom in a unique way. Classes are held in the traditional Lakota language so the children are fully immersed in their traditional language and culture. Watch a video that lets you see the educators and children in action. Presently the school offers kindergarten and first grade.
"We are a great team here at the Lakota Waldorf School and we are also very blessed to be around such spiritual power that the children bring with them every day." --Tabor White Buffalo, teacher
Pine Ridge families are not asked to pay tuition. The Lakota Waldorf School operates entirely on donations and receives no governmental or tribal funding. You and your group can help ensure a solid future for the school and a brighter future for the Lakota people by sending items from the school's wish list. Another fun way to help is to donate books to the school--click here for a wishlist of books.
Learn more about life on Pine Ridge by reading MSNBC's article, "Glimmers of Hope on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation."
Or watch National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey's TED talk about Pine Ridge. The site of some of the bloodiest atrocities in the 19th century war between the US Government and native people, Aaron refers to Pine Ridge as "ground zero for native issues in the US." Aaron offers Lakota viewpoints on the history of Pine Ridge, the Lakota and Sioux people, broken treaties, genocide, and how a tumultuous past led to present conditions that qualify Pine Ridge as the poorest region in the United States. The photos below are reproduced with Aaron's kind permission.
"It was like I'd witnessed a small version of Hiroshima and I kept having to go back to see it." --Aaron Huey
Right: in a basement in Manderson, SD Copyright Aaron Huey
"It was really dark and hard to process, and I kept giving up over and over again but then getting sucked back in."
Above right: C. J. Shot, 3, bathes among dishes. The Oglala concept of tiospaye—the love and unity of the extended family—means that homes are often overcrowded, especially with the severe housing shortage on the reservation. In 2008, when this photograph was made, 22 people lived in the three-bedroom house. Copyright Aaron Huey
Many more of Aaron's photos are featured on a Slate.com blog and offer a rare look inside Pine Ridge. Aaron was introduced to Pine Ridge in 2005. He spent the next five years figuring out how to process what he was learning. Aaron explains, "[Life there] is just too hard; it's the saddest and scariest thing I'd seen on the face of the Earth. But I loved the people and the families I became a part of, and I think over time I learned how to hear them."
Your support changes lives. Please consider a donation so the TOS can continue its Native American support such as granting scholarships to the Oglala Lakota College School of Nursing on Pine Ridge. Scholarship recipients are selected partly by their willingness to use their nursing education to "give back" to their people and alleviate suffering.
"A union of those who love in the service of all that suffers."