The Pipe Will Be Passed...
THE PIPE WILL BE PASSED
When I was a little guy, I was a Sea Scout. I chose it over Boy Scouts because we spent a great deal of time on the Susquehanna River, learning how to operate boats, navigate by the stars, tie the neatest knots and become honorable young men.
My Scout leader was a young man by the name of Todd McCoy. He was in his late twenties when we were in our mid-teens. What a powerful, powerful influence that guy was in my life at that age! He was an honest guy...strong, of the greatest integrity, demonstrably moral and best of all, he truly liked all of us boys in our group. He had our best interest at heart.
The best part was that he always had a story to tell as before the close of each Scout meeting. The one I remember most he told over a long weekend at what we called The Land Ship...a boat shaped cabin at Camp Kline up on Pine Creek.
I am going to cut to the chase and dispense with my autobiography now and just tell you the story to the best of my recollection...
This is a story about a young Indian brave...
"Long ago, in the days of the ancestors, there was a young warrior whose name was Running Through Forest. Though his name may sound odd to us, it held great honor and importance in his tribe.
You see, many seasons before, Running Through Forest received his name from his people. Long since anyone could remember, there was not one foot race through the forest that he did not win.
Running Through Forest was not a famous warrior and did not own any war feathers, yet all the people treated him as one of their own family. He loved his people dearly and through all the many seasons of his life he used his swift feet to hunt for game, protect the children of the tribe and to bring happiness to his people.
The people of this tribe loved to give gifts to each other and because Running Through Forest had so many friends, he owned many, many things.
One day the Medicine Man of the people approached him, needing to speak with him...
“Running Through Forest,” he said with a somber look on his face, “I have overheard some young warriors talking about you. What they are saying is troubling to me. They say that you are not a warrior and the only reason you own so much is because all the people give you things.”
This saddened Running Through Forest and he became very concerned...
“I know these young warriors who are talking about me,” he answered. “They are very brave and very hard working. I am troubled to think they would they say such things about me.”
“When these warriors were younger,” the shaman began to explain, “their fathers were killed defending our village and so the fathers were not here to teach their sons the ways of honor.”
“Tell me,” Running Through Forest said to the shaman, “What can I do to make this right?”
The shaman had already given this matter a great deal of thought. He was quick with his answer...
“Running Through Forest,” he said respectfully. “These things that you own. Tell me, how important are they to you?”
Running Through Forest did not have to think long...
“Nothing is more important to me than the love I have for my people,” he answered. “And everything that I own reminds me of the love they have for me.”
The shaman smiled, happy to hear Running Through Forest’s answer. He knew exactly what he must do.
The next day the shaman went to the Chief and explained the problem that was growing between Running Through Forest and the other warriors. He asked him to call a meeting of the people.
The chief knew the best way to gather his people together and he immediately announced that the pipe would be passed among the warriors in the great lodge the next evening. He wanted the women and children to attend as well.
The people loved these gathering, especially the children. They loved the drumming and the dancing and the telling of stories by the elders. News of the gathering traveled fast throughout the people.
On the evening of the gathering, the Chief stood before his people to speak...
“Our shaman has something important to say to all of us,” he said. “Once he has spoken, the pipe will be passed between the warriors.”
The shaman stood before the tribe and told them of his overhearing the young braves talking about Running Through Forest. He pointed to each of them and called them forward in front of the people.
The young warriors were ashamed. They had not thought anyone had overheard them talking in the forest. The shaman asked all the people to be quiet because Running Through Forest had something important he wanted to say to the young warriors who doubted his honor.
The people became silent, even the children sat down and were very still.
“When I was young,” Running Through Forest started, “our people suffered many seasons where the Great Spirit sent us very little water. Because of this drought, the wolves were aggressive. They used to attack our village.”
All the people were quiet because there were many who remembered those bad times. They shook their heads in agreement.
“During those bad times,” Running Through Forest continued, “my father and I were protecting a group of children gathering water when we were attacked by wolves. My father was killed that day. I led the children safely back to the village. Because not one child was harmed by the wolves and all were returned to their parents safely, I was given the place among the people to always protect the children.
So when the other warriors like yourselves ride out to battle or hunt, I do not ride with you. My place is to stay here in the village and protect it from attack while you are gone.”
Running Through Forest paused with what he had to say. The young warriors let out a collective sigh. None of them had ever been told about the place Running Through Forest had among his people. All the elders held their breath for they knew what was going to happen next.
As Running Through Forest continued, all eyes of the elders were on him...
“You young warriors think that everything I own is important to me,” he said.
They shook their heads, agreeing with Running Through Forest.
“I will give away everything that I own,” he continued. “You can divide it up between yourselves. However, the one thing I cannot give you is the love that was given me with each of these gifts.”
Suddenly a young boy rose to his feet. He ran to Running Through Forest and took hold of his hand. Everyone became quiet and listened to the little boy as he told of the gift he gave to Running Through Forest for helping him learn to paint the symbols of his ancestors.
“Please do not give it away,” he begged. “My heart and my admiration for you is in the gift I gave you.”
One by one more people stood and told the stories of why they had given Running Through Forest their gift. When everyone was done, the shaman turned to Running Through Forest...
“Did you receive any gifts from these young warrior’s fathers?” he asked “And do you remember which gifts they gave you?”
“Of course I do,” Running Through Forest answered. “I grew up with all of their fathers and even though they are no longer with us, I remember them through the gifts they gave me.”
“It seems the people do not want you to give away everything that you own to these young warriors,” the shaman answered. “Yet everything now belongs to them.”
The shaman turned to the young warriors and spoke...
“All the things that once belonged to Running Through Forest now belong to you,” he said, looking them each in the eyes. “Tell me...what will you do with them?”
Now the eyes of the elders were focused on the young warriors. They decided to walk into the forest to talk about what to do. Not one word was spoken among the people while the young warriors were gone.
When they returned from the forest, the oldest of them stretched his arms out toward Running Through Forest and began to talk...
“We do not want these things that belong to you,” he said. “Instead, we ask that you tell us stories of our fathers. We want to know what kind of brave warriors they were. You hold their memories in your heart and the gifts they gave you hold powerful lessons for us. We want you to teach us the ways of honor as our fathers would have done.”
Now this is when Todd would stop telling his story and teach us the lesson...
“When the elders of the tribe heard what the warriors had to say,” he said, “he realized that the medicine man had been testing the warriors all along. It was his plan to make them honorable young men, just as their father’s had been.
But Running Through Forest had one more lesson to teach them. The lesson of humility and kindness. He decided to give back to each warrior the things that once belonged to their fathers.
Winter soon came and for many nights afterwards, Running Through Forest and the warriors would gather in the great lodge and pass the pipe among themselves. He would tell them the stories behind every gift.
They all knew they had just learned a great lesson. They also knew that even though Running Through Forest did not wear very many feathers, he was truly a great warrior for his people...he was a humble warrior.”
This is just one of the many ways Todd tried to make honorable young men of us. God bless him! He taught us all a lesson that has lasted a lifetime, at least for me…
What we want to see in others we must first be able to find in ourselves!