In this grim political season, I heard a story from my friend Susan Sekaquaptewa who’s Hopi. Her home in northern Arizona belongs more to the 16th century than the 21st. There you drive two hours over open desert to get basic groceries. Ancient dwellings made of stone and mud sit perched on far flung mesas.
And things are old. Hopi society had been thriving for 800 years before the Puritans set foot in Plymouth. They don’t need to be told who qualifies to be an American.
One recent morning Susan was driving her boy Atokhoya to school. Six years old, he wanted to know where he would go after elementary school and Susan explained that next was junior high, then high school.
“Then I go to college?” Atokhoya asked.
“Yup,” his mom answered. She and her husband had been speaking to their son for years about college. But in their world few people go on to higher education. In that forgotten corner of America the outside world and fancy careers feel as remote as the moon.
“What happens after you finish college?” Atokhoya asked.
Susan explained that we all go to work, but we get to decide whatever we want to do for work. And we should choose something that we like to do and enjoy. We can choose to be anything we want.
“I want to work in swimming pools,” he said.
Susan reminded him that once had wanted to be a teacher.
Atokhoya shook his head no. Not anymore. Instead he wanted to fly planes.
“You want to be a pilot?” Susan asked.
“Yeah!” he said.
Atokhoya thought for a moment. Then he said, “Or, I could be the President of the United States.”
Susan looked at him and smiled.
He said, “You didn’t think of that, huh, mom?”
“No,” Susan said, “I didn’t. But I’m glad you did.”
With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.
Andrew Lewis works with at-risk youth. He lives in Sebastopol.