Not a misspelling. One of the greatest teachers I have ever met and am grateful to call a friend is a Jewish girl from NY? Judie Fein. She and her husband Paul Ross are travel writers, adventurers, healers, connectors, and bring a whole lot of chutzpah to everything they do. Over the years Judie has impressed me many times. I share a few of those experiences I was blessed to be part of.

Judie has a way to get people to trust her immediately and completely. She only speaks from her heart and always speaks straight. As we have all experienced, the truth can be shocking, but when delivered from the heart, it gets through to the heart of the other whether we are aware of it or not.

Judie wrote a book called, Indian Time. She spent a lot of time on the reservation, meeting with the elders and young people and everyone in between. She was a bit shocked at some of the practices and outdated ways of doing things that had a negative effect on many of the tribes’ members. She wrote about all this honestly and lovingly. To avoid getting into trouble, she asked each person who appeared in her book if they agree to have their name printed. If they said no, she would not use their name. Everyone either agreed to use their name or leave it out. It was an effort of great kindness and concern. Unfortunately, some of the elders did not like how they were portrayed in the book so they verbally attacked her, banned her from visiting any Pueblo’s and turned her most loyal Native American supporters against her, mostly by using pressure and threats. It was a mess and Judie was beside herself. She got into a deep hole and was prepared to stay there. 

Judie shared all this with me, explaining the effort she took to avoid misrepresentation and present an honest account of how things were done in the Pueblos. She expressed how she was hurt and confused by the strong reaction. After some time had gone by and her mood did not improve, I called to say I was coming over and we were going for a walk, in the snow, and she could not refuse my offer. 

I read Indian Time and could understand the tribe’s leader’s reaction, and how this could affect Judie. But she was my friend and it was time to get out of the hole she had put herself in. The world needs brave honest loving people like Judie so I felt lovingly responsible to help her get out of hiding. I did not have a specific plan but did prepare for our walk.

As we walked, Judie shared more details of the attacks against her and a deep resignation of what was happening to her. For Judie, there seemed no way forward. I stopped in the ankle-deep snow, faced her and read a quote I had written down in preparation for our walk. The quote was appropriate to the situation and did give a small ray of hope. Judie was only slightly moved. I read her another quote with a more enlightened message. Judie began to notice. I read one more quote that helped her to begin to see some light in this dark situation.

We continued our way and finally, she asked who wrote those quotes. I impishly said the quotes were from her book, Indian Time. They were her words. She relaxed for the first time in weeks. We walked back to her house mostly in silence while she began to process the way forward for her life and work. It was a great joy to serve her at that moment as she has done and continues to do with so many others all over the world. 

Indian Time was read by John, a Maori elder living in Auckland, New Zealand. He was so impressed with the loving honesty he wanted her to write such a book about his tribe where he was the chief. She and Paul were invited to come to New Zealand for a visit and then to join John and his extended family (seventeen people) for a transcontinental trip. One stopover was in Frankfurt where I was able to meet with Judie and the clan at the Frankfurt airport while they waited for their next flight 6 hours later.

It was a crazy wonderful scene. Daughters, sons, children aunts wives and all the rest looking at me with tired but wide eyes. Judie did the introduction. John walked over to me, grabbed my shoulders and pulled his face to mine. For a moment I thought he was going to kiss me, then he rubbed his nose on mine. It was explained this is their custom when meeting someone, and indicates a sign of respect. When John finished, the rest of the adults in the group took turns rubbing noses with me. In a short time, I was becoming an expert at nose rubbing. We discovered John and I shared the same birthday. It was a bit like being in a dream. The group began singing traditional songs urging me to join in. I did the best I could. They needed some time to rest before the next leg of their journey, so I thanked them all for such a warm and inspired time.

This is one of the hundreds of stories Judie and Paul have lived in this life. Each one as amazing. I was most fortunate to be a part of a few of these wonderful, loving moments with a woman who is truly Fein. (In English, her name sounds like the word fine)

We have learned to censor ourselves, to be cautious and even fearful when speaking with others about subjects that might produce a negative reaction. Yes, it takes courage to speak honestly with others, but I have found the rewards to be worth the risk. Not speaking directly with others, or speaking without the heart involved, is both painful and a danger to our well-being. These are skills anyone can learn. It will make our lives more fun, our relationships more fulfilling, and even improve our mental and physical health. I believe if enough people spoke in such a way, we would have peace on this planet.

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