The Star Quilt, Gift of Compassion
In the Native American culture of North Dakota, the star quilt is a symbol of compassion. It represents the deepest feelings the giver can express. Most often given at funerals and farewells, receiving a start quilt from a Native American is a great honor. It means that the individual has given above and beyond the call of duty.
During my four years of living among the Native American people on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, I came to understand compassion in a way I never thought possible. I used to equate compassion with disaster; i.e. people coming in droves to assist during cleanup and rebuilding. Brotherly love is felt and shared by all, those giving, as well as those receiving.
In Indian Country, grief and trauma are generational. There is no one that has not been affected in some way. Pain and suffering are ongoing, and there is no end in sight. Families struggle to survive as loved ones fall one by one to a host of societal ills, including accidents, illness, violence, drugs, alcohol, abuse, and infidelity.
Those who choose to enter Indian Country do so at their own risk. They take upon themselves to step into a world where time ceases to exist. The past is the present, the present is the future, and the future is the past. It is necessary to listen, feel, and learn. There is no other way to survive.
Although the service is difficult, it brings unanticipated rewards. Daily acts of kindness facilitate acceptance. Individual differences are overlooked. Bonds of friendship are formed. Talents and abilities grow and develop. Guests are welcomed and extended family members invited to participate. Words are shared that build and strengthen individuals and families.
Just like the star quilt is built one diamond at a time, with patience and long-suffering, the seams are lined up and the shapes coordinated to form the patterns that bring the desired result, The relationships formed through compassionate service form bonds of brotherhood that bring in the influence of powers beyond our own. Lives are saved.
The gift of compassion not only benefits the receiver, but the giver. Hearts are softened and forever changed. Life takes on new meaning. Gratitude for the small and simple things is expressed more frequently and openly. Indeed,
The star quilt symbolizes the eternal nature of life. The Natives teach that the soul enters and leaves the world through the stars. The quilt is constructed with a ripple affect, the star in the center usually being of a solid color, then the star being duplicated in multiples through the strategic placement of color. The eyes move outward with the pattern, giving a feeling of connection to the infinite, the universe, and nature.
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