I waited until today to post this because I told the following story to my staff this morning:
The Story of the Woman Who Gossiped
from The Lakota Way by Joseph M. Marshall III
In the village was a woman who liked to gossip. She never told anything that wasn’t true, but she did make sure that everyone in the village knew every little secret that fell on her ears. And, of course, she always expressed her opinions about what was wrong or what should have been done.
One day the woman who gossiped overheard a young couple’s argument, and soon after the husband went hunting and didn’t return for nearly a month. The gossip was quick to let everyone know what was happening in the lives of that young couple. Then she suggested that the young husband had left because his wife would no longer welcome him under her sleeping robes. So they would never have children.
The young wife heard the whispers and was deeply shamed and embarrassed. Her shame was so strong that she ran away and her brother trailed her for many days before he found her and brought her home.
Thereafter the people of the village spurned the gossip, turning their backs whenever she approached. Eventually no one spoke to her at all. After that her husband left her and returned to his own family’s village, and the gossip was the loneliest person in the village.
Not knowing what to do, she finally took her troubles to the oldest woman in the village, one who was known for her wisdom and kindness.
“Grandmother,” asked the gossip, “what must I do so that people will talk to me again?”
The old woman handed the gossip a handful of feathers. “Take these feathers and place one at the door of every person you have gossiped about. Then come back to me.”
The gossip did as she was told and returned to the old woman without a single feather.
“Now,” said the old wise woman, “go back and gather the feathers you have placed at every doorway and bring them to me.”
The gossip began to weep. “I cannot, Grandmother, for you see, the wind has taken them all and they are scattered. I cannot bring them back.”
“Yes,” said the old woman, “they are like the hurtful words you have spoken for so long. You can never bring them back; even so you chased after them all your life. There is only one thing you can do: never say such harmful words again. But first take a gift to everyone you have hurt and shamed with your words as a sign that you will change your ways.”
The gossip took the old woman’s advice. She had gossiped for so long that she gave away everything she owned, except for one dress. Thereafter she was known as One Dress, but when it was clear that she had changed her ways, the people forgave her. One Dress lived a long life and was knows as the woman with the quiet ways.
After telling the story, I gave each of the staff, including admin and myself, a feather to gift to the person we have gossiped about. If they forgave us, truly, they would accept the feather as a peace offering and we could begin again.
Think about the feathers you have scattered this summer, or allowed to be scattered without prevention. What can you do to make it right? What gift can you give to make up for the scattered feathers?