By Lenore Three Stars
One question I often heard as a leadership coach for women ministries was, “How do we bridge the generation gap?” Since I had come to faith as a 30-year old Lakota woman, I didn’t readily grasp that church cultures often experienced a frustrating disconnect between the younger and senior women, and that elder women were not valued as culture carriers. It caused me to realize the value of my friendship with Kathleen. Maybe in another church Kathleen might have been caught in a generation gap, but I have a hard time picturing that.
Kathleen was an 80-something who flew under the age radar because she radiated life. I loved that Kathleen was ‘low-maintenance’ and ‘high-faith,’ and much too practical for interpersonal drama. Jesus was a natural part of her conversations, and even when she shared the grief in her life, it became an expression of faith. We trekked to theaters and bazaars, hockey games and art shows. We shared countless laughs, meals, bible studies, and prayer requests. Kathleen watered my faith and strengthened my roots.
If I were to emulate one mentoring quality of Kathleen’s, it would be how she listened. When I shared my fears and prayer concerns, she listened intently, a rare quality. Her wise counsel was a bonus. I’m not sure if Kathleen’s listening was a gift or a practiced grace, and it would not surprise me to know that she made an effort to develop this grace. I know that I do not have the gift, so practice, practice, practice.
As I think of Kathleen’s wise counsel, it was not the “fixit” type of counsel, it was mostly encouragement. When Kathleen told me, “of course you can do that,” or “that’s one of your gifts, stick to it,” or, “I know it’s not your nature, but you’ve got to try,” I listened. I’m a part-time graduate student because she heard God calling me and didn’t mind pushing me forward. She knew my heart, that I really wanted to do it but I had my doubts. She would have none of that. I’m still a part-time student because that’s what I can afford, but her spirit keeps me going, I can’t let us down.
In April this year, Kathleen stepped into eternity, I’m sure with a delighted look on her face. In her memory, I wish to say, “Thank you Kathleen for allowing my life story to be a part of your own. I honor your place in my life. Since Lakota do not express final goodbyes, I say ‘doksa ake’ ‘see you again.'”
Lenore was born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, where her father was born. Her mother is Minnecoujou Lakota from the Cheyenne River reservation. She received her BA from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO and moved to Washington State where she reared her son. Lenore retired from a federal civil rights career in Seattle and moved to Spokane to be Unci (grandmother) to her two takojas (grandkids).
Currently, Lenore is a part-time grad student (Master of Arts Intercultural Studies, North American Institute of Indigenous Theological Studies through George Fox University). She serves on the board of Three Generations, Ltd, a native nonprofit; as a Commissioner on the Washington State Human Rights Commission; on the Executive Board of the PacNW Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC); and on the ECC Christian Action Commission.