Words of a Stranger

Oct 19, 2023 | Blog, Elder Story Series

by Taishayla Jim (Diné)
Diné College
Student, Associate of Science in Public Health

Have you ever looked at a stranger and wondered what they do for a living or in their free time? Would they have some advice that would change your perspective on how you view the world?

Well, one woman not only changed my perspective, but she also made me feel intelligent, worthy, and capable. Although I had only met this charismatic woman once in my life, I will always look back on her helpful words about pursuing my education for a lifetime.

My dad was a chapter official when I was younger; he did this for 20+ years. On this particular day, during summer break, I was with him at a conference training in New Mexico. Many people from different chapters and groups were there representing organizations for the roads on the reservation. Other groups were there to discuss the state of emergency plans and funding for elderly people who lived far from the paved roads.

As everyone was catching up after the meeting a wonderful lady who carried such a warm and comforting energy walked up to me. During an event where most adults try to avoid children, her cheerful spirit and outlook on education radiated much support and encouragement for every person’s different interests. The woman had a big smile. I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach because I could tell she was nice. She was wearing a red shirt made of a soft material, dangling turquoise earrings, and a delightful perfume that was sweet and floral and made me think of elegant, feminine energy.

Little did I know how much meaning and motivation her teaching would hold for me, not only education-wise but in my life and in my attitude about the world and its people. I never viewed another person as unintelligent if they did not know about a specific topic. It just made me wonder about all the things they do know or could learn. The advice she gave me helped me never to feel less than for not knowing something.

I remember the moment she told me, “It is better to know something about anything than to know nothing about everything,” a common saying, but that summer was my first time hearing it.

She started asking me questions to break the ice. When most people would try to make you feel like a bad kid/student if you were not in school, she did the complete opposite. She asked what my favorite topics were in school and if I enjoyed school. She had told me that in her college years, she went to school to learn how to style, color, and cut hair. Then she said, “And now I am here taking notes and talking to important people.” Which was when her words all hit me like a ton of bricks. It does not matter what you do in life, the “traditional ways,” or learning a new trait if you are bettering yourself in one way or another. It might look different from everybody else, but you are capable! You are smart! Most importantly, you are worthy!

From that day on, I carried that little saying with me in the back of my mind. Her reassuring words pushed me out of my comfort zone, motivated me to push myself more, and showed me that if I fail in one subject, it is not the end of the world: try again or try something else.

She also taught me that you will fail a lot, but nothing is possible without failure. Having a positive attitude is what sets you on the right path. Prayer opens the doors for you, and not beating yourself up, along with how you carry yourself will determine your future and how you view the world.

 

Read more from the Elder Story Series here.

The College Fund is inviting TCU students, faculty/staff, leadership, and community elders to share their stories. Learn more here.

Recent Blog Posts

May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust Partners with American Indian College Fund to Support Native Student Veterans

May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust Partners with American Indian College Fund to Support Native Student Veterans

The American Indian College Fund (College Fund) has received a $50,000 grant from the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust to implement a six-month fellowship focused on empowering Native student veterans to success. The Naabaahii Ółta’í (Student Warrior): Native Student Veterans Peer-to-Peer Program is a mentorship opportunity that builds relationships between veterans based upon their shared experiences.

American Indian College Fund Launches “Make Native Voices Heard” Voting Campaign

American Indian College Fund Launches “Make Native Voices Heard” Voting Campaign

Native Americans are more impacted by the law than any other group in the United States. Native students in higher education, or seeking a higher education, in particular are impacted by federal and state laws impacting funding for education, such as Pell Grants, student loans, and federal funding for tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), 70% of which comes from federal sources.

Support for Native People in Higher Education Includes Permitting Sharing of Tribal Affiliations

Support for Native People in Higher Education Includes Permitting Sharing of Tribal Affiliations

Employees at the University of South Dakota were told to remove tribal affiliations and gender pronouns from email signatures, citing a policy by the Board of Regents. This move lacks support for Native individuals in higher education, according to Cheryl Crazy Bull of the American Indian College Fund, who urges allies to stand with Native faculty and staff by including such details in their signatures.