Don’t Do Anything Stupid!: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 1


It was his first day in a new school. Most people would be nervous but not Lem. He was excited. He hadn’t had too many friends in his old school, you see, and this was his chance to start over.

Nothing stupid, nothing stupid, nothing stupid, he kept repeating to himself as he walked up the sidewalk toward the large impressive building at the end of the street. It looked more like a British manor house than a school, but that made it all the more exciting for Lem. He loved anything out of the ordinary.

Lem also had a very curious mind. That curiosity is just what seemed to be the root of all of his trouble at his old school. He was always going where he shouldn’t go, and he was always asking “why?” whenever anything struck him as odd or interesting. He drove his mom and dad absolutely crazy with his questions. Many of his teachers at his old school hadn’t liked it either. Don’t get me wrong, they encouraged his questions at first. They all commented on what a bright boy he was. In the beginning. But sometimes, he would ask questions that they couldn’t answer or questions that weren’t exactly politically correct. This began to make some of his teachers, and other adults in the community a little nervous. No longer was he a “bright boy.” He began to be more often referred to as a smart aleck.

Teachers began to give him fewer opportunities to ask questions in class. Parents started not wanting their kids to hang around him. It didn’t take long for him to become a social pariah. His classmates just avoided him at first, then they started whispering behind his back, then whispering about him when he was in earshot. Finally, some of them started just being mean. A few of the teachers understood and tried to help him out, but this tended to only make things worse. Let’s just say, he was quite excited the day his dad come home and announced that his company was moving them to Button Island. His dad was going to be in charge of setting up a windmill power system there, so they would probably be staying for a while.

Now, here he was with a new island, a new town, a new school, and a new opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask too many questions. Just blend in.

As he got closer to the building, he could see the schoolyard full of people sitting and talking, waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing around, his eyes stopped on three boys over to the left sitting cross legged under a tree. Their clothes didn’t stand out as any different from what everyone else had on, but that was where the similarity ended. Long black hair framed their bronzed faces, and their stern expressions and intense stares unnerved him a little. They seemed to be looking at nothing and at everything all at the same time. They must be island natives. He had been warned about them. In fact, one of the sailors on the ship that brought his family to the island had told him to watch out for them.

“It’s best if ye avoid them wholly,” he said, “but if ye have to do dealing with them, ye should be doing it quickly.”

“Why?” Lem had asked.

“Because they be a mean and vicious people. They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”


“I guess it be cause we’s came in and crowded them outta mosta their island. I spose they’s do have a reason for being angry,” the old sailor admitted grudgingly. “But that be many years go. Tain’t good to hang onna grudge so long. Sides, twasn’t none of us who done it. But I spose they’s still angry.”


“Well, they still got a rough time of it, seeing as they’s stuck on the far side of the island now, but they’s got a good village there. Sides, I don’t reckon they’d even want to live in town with alla us.”

The man’s voice rose with each sentence, and his face had begun to turn red. Lem saw the signs of impatience. He knew them well, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He really wanted to know.

“Why?” he asked. But that was just too much. The sailor threw up his hands in exasperation.

“I don’t know!” he yelled. “Go below and stop your jabbering.  Why? Why? Why? Ye’s worsen old Ben Tillley’s parrot.” He walked away grumbling and avoided Lem for the rest of the voyage. Lem gritted his teeth and gave himself a stern talking to.

No questions! No pestering people! Nothing stupid! A good first impression, that’s what I have to concentrate on.

Seeing the natives now, though, he wished he had found out more about them. These three certainly looked intimidating. He couldn’t help but remember what the sailor had said.

“They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”

Now, Lem was a smart boy, and he knew about prejudices, so he didn’t completely believe that, but looking at those still, expressionless faces, he decided that he wouldn’t risk it. He forced his feet to keep moving into the schoolyard and looked away from the intimidating sight under the tree.

That’s when a yell from one of the other boys caught his attention. It had come from a group clustered at the right of the school building over by the woods. They seemed to all be looking at something on the ground. Curious as always, Lem found his feet moving toward them. Another boy came running up to the group and yelled, “Whatcha got, Burt?”

One of the boys, Burt, apparently, turned and hollered back, “It’s a dragon.”

A Dragon? thought Lem excitedly as he ran over to see. 

On the Rez: The Story of Ayden

“Do NOT accept this child into your school.” “He’s nothing but trouble.” “You will REALLY regret it if you do.” Statements like these were what Anne heard when she looked over Ayden’s application to Windswept Academy. He had been dismissed from pre-school because of his behavior, but Windswept wouldn’t refuse him, couldn’t refuse him. After all, the whole reason Anne had started the school was to bring hope to the Native American children on the reservation. How could she claim that as her mission and then refuse to let one of them in. So, she accepted him. And sure enough, it didn’t take long for him to live up to his reputation.

The input he had been receiving all his life had him convinced that he was stupid. He thought that he couldn’t accomplish anything, so why even try. Depression and boredom had revealed themselves the way they so often do: Ayden acted out.

Trouble seemed to sprout up wherever he went. After one day when he was particularly active (throwing things across the classroom), he was sent to Anne’s office. He knew she cared, and she wanted the best for him, and after a heartfelt talk, he left with a desire to do better. And he did. The change wasn’t total and immediate, of course, but he did start trying harder.

When his father returned home from being overseas with the military, that added to his motivation to work harder. In addition to that, Ayden accepted Christ as his savior last year. All of this combined to push him forward. When he finally really buckled down in school, it became clear that he could do the work in his classes. In fact, he could do the work very well: so much so that on the last standardized test, he scored in the top 90-99% in the country.

If he had gone to another school, most likely he would have gotten lost in the crowd and ended up being labeled as a trouble maker. He may have even ended up in special ed. for being disruptive. Chances are he would have dropped out of school as soon as he got old enough to realize that was an option like so many other children on the reservation do. But now he has hope.

Because of the faith that the people at Windswept Academy had and his new-found motivation to succeed, Ayden has discovered that he’s not stupid after all. Instead, he is very intelligent. I believe we can expect great things from him, and I look forward to watching him grow and turn into the great man I believe he can be.
 For more pictures from the school, look Windswept Academy up on Facebook.

Hope on the Rez: A Day in the Life…

What’s an average day like in your household? If you are a mother, I would imagine that it goes something like this:

The alarm rings at early o’ clock, and you get up, take a quick shower and dress (if you can manage to do so before the kids come trying to steal your attention). Next, you have to wake the children, prepare breakfast, and pack lunches. Then it’s off to drop the kids at school. After a long day at school, there’s softball/soccer/ballet/whatever practice. Then you have to help the kids with their homework. You reach back into your mind in an attempt to find the complex math formulas that you forgot years ago then, when you come up empty, you search through the book frantically trying to understand, so you can then explain it to the expectant young face peering up at you. After the homework is done, a healthy dinner has to be fixed, then the kitchen cleaned up, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a little time to relax before you go to bed.

Now, let’s look at this from your child’s perspective. Your children most likely have parents who are there to take care of them. If they don’t have extracurricular activities, they probably at least have other entertaining things, such as video and/or computer games, etc., with which to occupy their time. And even if it’s difficult for their parents, I’ll bet they at least try to help the kids with their homework whether it’s by explaining things to them themselves or by hiring a tutor. The kids probably also have a mom or dad who has at one point in time talked to them about what they want to be when they grow up. They ask them about their hopes and dreams, and if they are like the typical American, they probably tell them that they can be anything they choose to be.

But what if your situation were different? What if you didn’t grow up with the past that you remember? What if you grew up on a reservation, on the Cheyenne River reservation? What would the daily life of your children look like then? Well, if you were one of 78% of the people on the reservation, you would be living at or below the poverty level. That means that in the winters, the very very cold winters, you would most likely run out of money to pay your heating bill. In the hot summers, you may not have much air conditioning. You may not have dependable hot running water with which to bathe and wash your clothes. If you were creative, like one family I know of, you might put a space heater underneath your trailer to try to heat your water. However, if you did so, you would most likely encounter the same results that they did and have everything you own go up in flames.

Instead of each child having their own bedroom, your children would probably sleep together in the same room on the same mattress on the floor because you don’t have money for even one bedframe. They could wake each morning crowded together clutching at their blankets for warmth. If life for them were like that of many of the families on the reservation, their mom could still be sleeping off the alcohol or drug induced stupor that she was in the night before. Their dad may not be anywhere around. They may not even know who their dad is.

They might have to get themselves and their little brothers and sisters ready for school while stepping carefully over soft places in the floor that were caused by water damage. Hopefully, they would get breakfast at school because there most likely wouldn’t be anything at home.

Once they arrived at school, their problems could continue. There, they could face peer pressure to take drugs or drink alcohol. Some children as young as 10 years old try alcohol on the reservations. They could also have to contend with gangs.

Those who are determined, stay in school and attempt to complete their education; however, 50% will drop out, and they begin dropping out as early as 12 years old. Why should they stay? School is difficult, and if their parents are usually drunk or high, they won’t offer much assistance or motivation to continue. It doesn’t really matter anyway. If they stay on the reservation, like most of them do, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get a job whether they graduate or not.

Once school is completed for the day, instead of having a parent come pick them up and take them to some extracurricular activity, many children on the reservation are on their own. Even some elementary-aged kids can be seen walking around town by themselves. And there is very little in the way of fun activities to occupy their time. If they are really studious, they will attempt to do their homework, but their parents may not be available or able to help them if they are around, and they may not be around since alcohol-related deaths on the reservation are 17 times the national average. If they’re lucky, the kids may have a grandmother that can help, but with the life expectancy on the reservation at 45 years old, that possibility gets slimmer as the children grow older.

Hopefully, they had a big lunch at school because many of them won’t have any food at home for dinner. What money does come in, can be spent on drugs or alcohol. And since the unemployment rate on the reservation is 87.5%, not much money is coming in.

If that’s all that happens to them on any given day, they are among the small number of lucky ones. Unfortunately, a very large percentage of children on the reservation are abused every day both violently and sexually. What hope can children have if they are raised like that? Do they think about their future and what they want to be when they grow up? Most of them are busy thinking about how they are going to make it through the day. And when it all gets to be too much, they can take the way out that so many others have taken. Suicide.

What if this were your life and these your children? But for the grace of God, there go I. Would you want the rest of the world to ignore you? Would you want everyone to pretend that you and your problems didn’t exist?

There is hope! On my first visit to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in 2009, I met an incredible lady who, through God’s leadership, had moved there with her husband to found Windswept Academy.

Obviously, they can’t solve all of the problems on the reservation immediately, but they are making a huge difference in the lives of the children who attend the school. They are giving them hope, a good education, a campus free of drugs and alcohol, help with their schoolwork and, in cooperation with one of the local churches, activities to fill their time after school and on the weekends. They are giving them counseling when they have problems they need to discuss; they are teaching them about their history, language and culture, and, most importantly, they are teaching them about God. With good guidance, these children have a chance at a better future, and through them, real change can come to the reservation.

I’ve been back to visit a few times since 2009, and each time I go back, I feel even more strongly the need for this school. I’ve tried to help them raise funds in as many ways as I can. Since most of the people on the reservation are poor, and the school is a private, non-profit institution, what they need most is money to pay for the teachers, food for breakfast and lunches, and the overhead. Even though the teachers are mostly missionaries, they only make $15,000 a year, the school still needs to bring in many donations to cover the costs of operation. I make this appeal to you. If any of you could help, it would be greatly appreciated. Think of the children. What if yours lived here? Wouldn’t you want someone to help?

You can find more information about the school on Facebook (just look up Windswept Academy) or on their website:

My First Trip to the Rez


It all started four years ago when I was standing in my closet trying to clean out some of my old clothes. I had several things I could get rid of, but the question was what to do with them. The natural thing to do was have a yard sale, but, ugh, the time and effort that goes into one of those did NOT sound appealing. Another option was to donate them, and that’s the option I decided to pursue.

Now, where should I donate my clothes? Several stores in town would take them, but I wanted to do more with them. I don’t know where the idea originated, but it suddenly came to my mind to donate them to an Indian charity. Excited now, I headed straight for my computer to do research.

My excitement quickly died, however, as one charity after another just didn’t seem right for some reason. I finally shut my computer in frustration as I came across one very large charity’s website. Reading through their pages, I had found the one that listed what they wanted people to donate, and what do you think it said?!? They wanted people to donate money, so they could build another warehouse to hold their clothing and food donations! Really!?!

That decided it. If I wanted my clothes to get to the people who really needed them, I would just have to take them myself. After all, I had always wanted to visit an Indian Reservation. This was the perfect opportunity. I went back to my closet and looked through my stuff again. Even if I donated everything, it wouldn’t really be enough to warrant a trip out west. I needed more items. With that thought in mind, I called my mom. Over the next several weeks, I researched reservations, and we collected clothes. We put notices in the bulletins of our churches, we told our friends, and I even went on Florence and asked for clothing.

When the week of our departure arrived, mom’s and dad’s garage was full. It took a while to sort through it all, but we ended up with a U-Haul truck full of boxes of clothes and other items.



 And so, the trip began. I must say that driving that big truck was a new experience for me. Once I got the hang of trusting the side mirrors, though, it became a piece of cake.


The drive lasted two long days. We finally arrived at the reservation late Saturday night. I was so tired that even the sight of our hotel didn’t go too far in quashing the excitement I felt at being able to stop and rest for the night. However, it did dampen our spirits a little. In my defense, let me just say that there are only two hotels on the reservation. Both showed up via an online search, but neither had pictures, nor could I find any helpful reviews. There was no way for me to tell what they looked like. Therefore, the sight of the purple (instead of red) lights lining the bottom of the roof for the length of the hotel took us by surprise. They shone out in the darkness illuminating the row of rooms beneath as well as the group of tied dogs in a corner of the parking lot.
Our arrival in a U-Haul truck must have seemed unusual because many of the doors to other rooms that stood open revealed people milling around in the entranceways looking at us curiously while little children peeked out from behind their mothers’ legs.

We got checked in and entered our room to find that the door lock didn’t work, so being the creative person that she is, mom propped a chair up under the door handle. With our security established, I walked over to the double bed on the far side of the room and dropped my bag on it. A loud noise made me jump, and I looked to see the side of the bed lying on the floor with the foot folded under. No, my bag wasn’t that heavy. Upon closer examination, it appeared that the foot had just been propped up under the bed but wasn’t really attached to it.

After securing the window (which also didn’t lock), we climbed into the remaining double bed and settled down, to the chorus of barking dogs, for a well-earned exhausted sleep.

Sunday morning, as is my wont, I slept as late as I could. As a result, mom got in the bathroom first. When I finally forced my eyes to open and my legs to pull me out of the bed, I was met with horrible news. There was no hot water. Now, I like to think of myself as pretty low maintenance (well, ok, medium maintenance), but the thought of cold water running down my back was not appealing at all. It actually bordered on being a serious problem. But what are Americans if not resilient, so I made the best of it. A very fast bath in a few inches of water and a quick shampoo executed by leaning my head under the faucet did the job, and I was good to go.

Leaving the hotel, we headed to the First Baptist Church of Eagle Butte. They had agreed to help us with the clothing drive, and we were looking forward to morning services there. Since the town isn’t very big, we found the church without much difficultly. We had arrived a little early to attend the breakfast that they regularly served to the children on the reservation. The fellowship hall was full of little smiling faces, and the guests seemed to really enjoy both the food and the Sunday School lesson. The adult service was also good, and we enjoyed meeting the people who attended, native and non-native alike.

After services, our work began (again). We drove the truck around back and started unloading. The wonderful church members provided a lot of needed help and delicious food. With everyone working together, it didn’t take us long to unload everything; however, even though the clothing drive didn’t officially begin until an hour or so later, many people showed up before we got everything off the truck. As a result, many boxes didn’t make it inside. We gave up trying to take all of the clothes out and let people look through the boxes. Thankfully, we had sorted everything by size, so it wasn’t too difficult for people to find what would work for them.


We had a large turnout, and everyone seemed to have a good time. At the end of the day, we packed the clothes that had not been taken into two or three small boxes to drop off at an Indian charity in another town.

 I can honestly say that that afternoon was one of the most enjoyable that I had had in a long time. I meet many wonderful people there. One of which was Anne Konur, the founder of Windswept Academy. (If you continue to read my blog, you’ll hear much more about this school.) I made many friends, some of whom I have been able to see again on subsequent trips.
Our trip back to Florence was filled with interesting sights and fun times, but that night and day that we spent on the reservation will always live in my memory.