By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
A friend of mine related a random act of kindness involving one of our NRE Officers. My friend said that the officer spotted a homeless woman sitting outside of an establishment in Cherokee. The lady had been sitting outside in the cold for hours. The officer took the time to take the woman to a local hotel and get her a room for the night. He didn’t know the name of the officer or the homeless person, but my friend correctly identified the need for all of us to be more like that officer.
Treating everyone with courtesy and respect, regardless of their circumstance, is a behavior well worth emulating. This officer didn’t know anyone was watching, he just saw someone in need and he did what he could to fill the need. The officer didn’t call the paper or press to set up a photo opportunity. He didn’t insist that the recipient of his kindness write a testimonial to be shared around the Boundary.
During a political season, as a person in the journalism profession, you prepare yourself for some unusual requests. And at the EBCI, as we have discussed in earlier editorials, we have elections every two years and we are virtually in perpetual political season. Now, our political leaders do a lot of work for the community. That is the job. They are public servants selected, in one way or the other, to make life better for their constituencies; to do good for others. Many times, we’ll get requests from candidates to cover a good deed that they are being honored for or we are asked to print a photo in which the politician or candidate really had no direct influence, but happened to be there for the photo when the story was told. The act of kindness sometimes becomes secondary to the publicity, and votes, it may generate.
My mom always taught me that motivations are important. What you do matters and why you do it matters. She always told me that when I did things for her just to get what I wanted or complying, it negated the positive of doing the thing for her. If I tried to be intentionally seen doing things for her, she would kindly remind me of how often I didn’t fulfill her direction when she wasn’t looking, or I didn’t think she was.
I know you have heard the old saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Attributed to a 19th-century British politician, this saying speaks to the tendency for authority, particularly unrestrained authority, to change the moral character of an individual. Here is Cherokee, we talk about the “crabs in a bucket” syndrome. The tendency of those who are in the bottom of the bucket, those who don’t aspire to lead, to pull those back down who are climbing out of the bucket, those want to move to a higher level. Well, there are also those who get to the top of that bucket and decide that the best way to stay on top is to ride the backs of others.
Even those who go into leadership with the best intentions, to be that true servant of the people, are not immune to the lure of power and the seduction of absolute control. When a person decides to run for office, they might do so for several of reasons, but ultimately, elections are won by the person or persons who are most popular. Unless it is addressed with a strict qualification criteria, elections may be won by anyone who can convince a majority of the people in a particular geography that they are likable enough to be elected. As we saw in our last tribal election, there is a large portion of the constituency that did not participate in the voting process. There is not a definitive reason for the lack of participation. Many are too far away to make the journey to the Boundary to vote. Some may have been disenfranchised due to the political controversies of the past year. Some may have even thought that their vote didn’t matter and that the powers that be would do as they will anyway. We had some readership commentary on that last one.
Back to our NRE officer. He was in a position to arrest the homeless lady for vagrancy, escort her to the borders of the Boundary, or to simply ignore her plight. He didn’t. In his position of authority, he chose to show mercy, compassion, and humanity. And, he did so when he thought no eyes were watching to get him credit for his deed. In her eyes, he probably had ultimate power over her life at that moment. And, at least for that moment, she found not corruption, but reparation and redemption. I applaud him for his choice to show true leadership. We may never know his name and he would probably want it that way. He was much more focused on his duty than personal gain. May all of our elected officials and public servants take his example to heart. Life is a series of moments. Try to make each moment be about service to others instead of service to self, and may you have the wisdom to know the difference.