This archived article was written by: Jordan Sanders
In one’s life, there are few things that can be said to have changed one’s thinking or altered one’s life, and spring break is not often among the top of the list in most cases. However, I had the opportunity for two years in a row to be a part of the SUN Center-sponsored Spring Breakaway that helped me, and many others like me, to become more appreciative of what I have and what I have to give.
Both years I visited a place that most U.S. citizens will not have a chance to visit in their lifetimes, the sacred Navajo Mountain and the reservation that surrounds it. As a group, we helped the Navajos improve their living situations through giving them the access to water, electricity, plumbing and other necessities that many of us take for granted.
Last year as a group, we set up septic tanks, remodeled bathrooms, re-roofed houses, put in cellular towers and weatherized, caulked and painted houses. This year we worked on ramps for the disabled, put in water lines, water heaters and roofs to houses that were in dire need of repair. But truly, was it these simple acts of service that made the trip meaningful? Not to me. The most meaningful part of the whole experience was the chance that I had to better understand another culture and the richness that it contained, and to better appreciate my own culture and the many luxuries I enjoy.
Many on the reservation think of running water and electricity and plumbing as a luxury, not a necessity. I can’t even tell you the of the number of complaints by service-group members when the showers were either too hot or too cold. I found it incredible that until groups like ours and other selfless members of the Navajo community gave of our time and expertise, many of the citizens of the Navajo Nation haven’t even known the sensation of a shower head providing water to them.
Hank, a member of the Navajo tribe, who supervises volunteer groups, told us how he was raised in a hogan with dirt floors and nothing but a stove and some pots and pans to his name. He lived off the mutton he raised in the fields, off the land and was never exposed to electricity, plumbing and technology. One fateful day, some memebers of the LDS church gave him the opportunity to gain an education in California. That experience changed his life. He went from red rock, sand and cedar trees to sky scrapers, cement and street lights in the course of 24 hours.
With the education that he acquired, he set out to improve the lives of the citizens of the Navajo Nation and show them the incredible liberties and luxuries he had discovered in California. He has hosted service group after service group and helped thousands of Navajo people enjoy the miracle of plumbing and electricity; improving their lives, one family at a time. But the amazing aspect to me, is that among all of the education and “White Man” ways, he never let go of his Navajo beliefs. He still holds onto the sacred bond of family and the idea that perfection is impossible, but it is important to improve oneself every day. Those are some of the core beliefs of their people, and what incredible people they are. They are humble, happy and family oriented and I learned much from their example.
My time on the reservation also opened my eyes to the many wonderful things that I have and the wonder of the situation in which I have been raised. I have been lucky enough to live with indoor plumbing, electricity, education, technology, entertainment, all of these luxuries and blessings and am glad that I have the chance to make the best use of them possible. It is incredible that an education is open to me if I work for it and do my best. It is amazing that I have the means to write this article and have it published for others to read.
Millions of people in this world are not so fortunate and shame on those of us who do not take full advantage of the amazing things that we possess. May we take a moment and realize those things which we have been fortunate enough to have. May we use the resources that we have to make a better life for ourselves, and most importantly, may we use the talents and resources that we have to improve the lives of others so that they can do the same for generations to come.