Elder Dr. Dave Courchene answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
I’ve given a lot of thought to that question and there’s been so much good things that have been done that I’ve been blessed by through many, many people that I’ve been able to share what I believe is a spirit of kindness. But I remember this beggar on a street and everyone was avoiding him and going around him. I remembered this teaching that this grandmother had given me as I was being taught about our way of life as a people. And then she says, “Don’t you ever, ever avoid the homeless people, the people that are disadvantaged. Don’t ever avoid them.” And as I was standing across the street from where I saw the beggar, noticed that everyone was going around him, because they didn’t want to make contact with him. But as I remembered the words of the grandmother, I was encouraged to go and great this individual. As I walked toward him, of course he recognized that I was walking towards him.
And then I said to him, “Good morning, brother. How are you?” And then he issued a big smile. And then as he was standing there, I reached into my pocket and gave him some money that I had in my pocket. And as I gave him that little bit of money that I had in my pocket, I looked into his eyes and I saw the light shining from his eyes. Then he said, “Thank you, my brother.” He said, “It’s never the money we want.” He said, and continued to say, "It’s the attention that you give me that’s made me feel really good and makes me happy.” He said, “You made me feel that I matter too.” And he kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you, my brother. Thank you.” Once again, I thought the Creator had sent a messenger for me to learn about the power of giving and what it can do to your own soul.
That day, I was the one who benefited from meeting the stranger that many considered a beggar. And what message that he brought me was a teaching of love, kindness, and how to give. And I remember the tears running down his eyes when I spent this little bit of time to acknowledge him and ask him how he was feeling. Then he went on his way. He filled my heart with such joy. And I realized that it will be my responsibility and duty to keep on that example of reflecting a true, kind, caring human being.
And another lesson that day that he gave me was never to judge another human being, that we are all brothers and sisters. And we are all living and searching for joy in life, a joy that can only come from each of us. And this happens when we are living in that spirit from the heart. Then I realized that he was the messenger that day. He was the true example of living from the heart. The stars that I saw in his eyes penetrated through straight into my heart, almost feeling ashamed that I almost walked around him. What a wonderful gift he gave me that money could never buy.
It was the power of kindness that I received from this messenger, the homeless man. He showed me the power of caring, sharing, and offering the simple hand of kindness. Today, I know peace must come from each of us, that we must be willing to share to make someone else happy. And by the fact that I was able to make him happy, he made me happy just as well. And I thought of that experience that that is what the world needs is more homeless people that can teach us how to give, how to share, and how to be kind. There would be many, many other stories that I could share, people that have touched my heart that gave me teachings.
There is one final story that I want to share and it has to do with my mother. It is our mothers that carry the original, deep understanding of life, because it is through their gift to bring life into this world that they’re also given the intelligence and the knowledge of how we should live and behave as human beings. One day when my mother was on her final days of her life, she could not attend the feast that I had in the lodge of our people. And I had a plate prepared for her and I took it to her. And when I walked into her home, I could see her smile, and just being there with her made her very happy. And then when I brought her the food, she asked me to sit down and we started to talk. Most of it was in laughter because mom liked to laugh and I like to laugh. We laughed and talked about many things.
And finally it was time for me to leave. And as I was walking to the door, she said something in the language of my people that stayed with me for the rest of my life. This happened when I was much younger. And she said, “.” Translated it means, “My son, this good deed that you did today, the Great Spirit will reward you.” That is a profound teaching that I want to share and hope people could understand that knowledge that was given by my mother.
The real reward that we seek in life is the reward that comes from the highest source of power, that we have come to understand and believe that there is a Great Spirit, a great mystery that operates on the principles of love and kindness. And my mother reminded me of that. “The Great Spirit will reward you for the goodness that you have shared today.” These are two very quick stories that I wanted to share this morning with you that have changed my life, that has helped make me who I am today.
Elder Dr. Dave Courchene, Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man), has traveled internationally, carrying a message of hope and peace. Elder Dave shares ancient Indigenous knowledge that he believes can act as the foundation in supporting the new life that Mother Earth is now entering, and that the elders have confirmed has arrived. He has created a special place for sharing ancient Indigenous knowledge — the Turtle Lodge — built based on a vision he received many years ago. Indigenous people have always relied on visions and dreams to give guidance and direction in life.
Dave was honored by Indigenous leaders and elders at the 2010 International Indigenous Leadership Gathering, and with a National Aboriginal Achievement (INDSPIRE) Award in Culture, Heritage & Spirituality, and the Volunteer Manitoba Award for Outstanding Community Leadership in 2012, for the work associated with his message and vision, including the work he has done inspiring young people.
His recent work has involved initiating International Roundtables Supporting Ancient Indigenous Knowledge at the Turtle Lodge (May 2010) and at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC (September 2010), which have been co-led by U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He delivered the opening keynote and conducted the opening ceremonies at the 2010 G8 Summit on World Religions. In 2011, Dave shared the stage twice with the Dalai Lama to bring a message of peace in Newark, New Jersey and Monterrey, Mexico. In Spring 2011, Elder Dave initiated the Makoose Ka Win and the Vision Quest rites of passage to take young people of all cultures entering adulthood back to the land and the elders to find their uniqueness and promote peace.