Aiyanna - A Story of Love Based on John 15:17

This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17

Indian Head Dress

Laying on the ground, she wiped the blood from her cheek. The rock had hit just below her eye. “Why don't you wear regular clothes Indian girl? As another girl kicked her, she shouted, “Hey can lose the headdress, nobody wears those anymore!”

Did you clean your tepee before you came to school? “How can you stand being around her,...the way she speaks, I can barely understand her. Where is your horse Aiyanna?” The girls at her private school were utterly merciless and mean after school let out. They mocked her every day, relentlessly.

After a few more insults, they left. She sat up and waited until the bleeding stopped, then walked home through the wheat fields to care for her terminally ill mother.

Framed photo of a young woman Indian, sitting and smiling

Her mother was far past hospice care. It would be any day now. Her care giver met her at the door. “She wants to see you.” She went into the room, and with her voice barely audible, her mother said, “Aiyanna, come here. Take this picture,it's how I want you to remember me.”

Her mom was clutching onto something else. She walked to the other side of the bed, “Stop crying Aiyanna, remember, don't grieve like those who have no hope. We might be Sioux, but we're Christians first. I'll be with Him, and He will watch over you. Here, I've worn this for 40-years, it's yours now, I love you.” Her mom's had opened, and her eyes closed.

Sunset over a wheat field

I was 15 and a freshman in high school in South Dakota. It was only my third week, but all I was hearing about was some transfer from another school, a Sioux Indian girl. Everyone was gossiping about her weird clothes and I hadn't even seen her yet. After lunch, two guys from my History class stopped me in the hallway and asked, “Have you seen the Indian yet Ethan? “No, I haven't, but do you morons realize that she probably has a name?!!” I had spend a few days with these guys, but they were about as sharp as a marble.

Framed picture of young Indian girl

I was walking home from school that night and saw her just ahead of me. It had to be here. Her Native American clothes stood out like an orange neon sign. It looked like she was carrying all of her books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home books on a Friday? She must really be a nerd...a bookworm of the highest degree.” Even if that was true, she looked lonely and sad.

I had quite a weekend planned, a party tonight and a football game with my teammates tomorrow afternoon. I shrugged my shoulders and kept waking. As I looked up, I saw four guys running towards her. They ran right at her, knocking all of her books out of her arms and tripping her as she landed in the dirt. Her necklace breaking off. Ripping one of the straps off her backpack, one of them said, “Go back to your tribe!” She responded with zero hesitation, a one-liner for the ages – “YOU'RE IN SIOUX FALLS, AND YEAH, I'M A SIOUX INDIAN...IMAGINE THAT!!”

As they left, I didn't know whether to laugh uncontrollably or not at all. Instantly I knew there was something different about her, but I could tell she was deeply hurt. My heart went out to her. So I jogged over to her, and as she crawled around looking for her necklace, I saw a tear in her eye. She looked up in utter sadness, her voice cracking, “Can you help me find my necklace?” She started crying. I found the turquoise necklace and handed it to her. “Those guys are jerks, they really need to get a life!” She looked at me and said, “Thanks”. There was a big smile on her face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. Not to mention, she was pretty. What's your name? It's Aiyanna...Aiyanna Angpetu.

I helped her pick up the books and asked where she lived. As it turned out, she lived near me, about a mile away, so I asked her why I had never seen her before. She said she had gone to private school before now. We talked all the way home as I carried her books. She turned out to be really nice. I asked her if she wanted to go to the movies on Saturday with me and my friends. She reluctantly said, “okay”.

We hung out all weekend, and the more I got to know her, the more I felt guilty about judging her. My friends liked her as well. Monday morning came, and there was Aiyanna with the huge stack of books again. I stopped her and said, “Jeez, you're gonna build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” She just laughed and handed me half the books, “Here, you need some muscles too.” I was at that very moment that I knew we were going to be good friends.

Over the next four years, Aiyanna and I became best friends. We were seniors when we began to think about college. She decided on Duke, and I was going to Stanford. I knew that we would always be friends, the miles would never be a problem. She was going to be a doctor, and I was majoring in Business on a football scholarship.

We agreed to set aside time on Friday nights to talk on the phone, (the same day we met). We talked for hours. Mostly about her Sioux heritage, how her mom raised her, and her faith. My football at Stanford seemed to take a back seat over my junior and senior year. I still played and loved it, but I was feeling as though something else had more of my attention.

The years passed, me graduating from Stanford, and her from Duke. her graduation was in a couple months and there was a question I had always wanted to ask her, but never had the nerve. So I bought a ticket and flew out to North Carolina.

It was no surprise, Aiyanna was valedictorian of her graduating class at Duke. I tease her all the time about being a nerd, but in the end, it paid off in spades. She was asked by the faculty at Duke to prepare a speech for graduation.

Aiyanna in dress and makeup

On graduation day, I saw her. She looked great! She was one of those girls that really found herself during college. She had made a lot of friends, and was hard to talk to because she was always talking with someone else. I could see that she was nervous about her speech, so I intentionally bumped into her and said, “hey, yowl be great!” She looked at me with one of those looks (the extremely grateful kind) smiled and said, “Thank you Ethan!”

As she started her speech, she cleared her throat and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach, but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I want to tell you a story.”

I looked at one of her friends with disbelief as she told the story of the first day we met. She began by saying how I found her turquoise necklace, how she lost her mom early on, but also how she had planned to kill herself over that weekend. She had been teased about her Indian heritage for most of her life. She spoke of how she had cleaned out her locker that Friday so that someone else wouldn't have to do it later. At that moment, I finally understood why she was carrying all of her books that night. She even spoke of how she had bought a bottle of sleeping pills the day before.

She looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, someone saved me, and His name is Jesus. If I could only tell you folks one thing, it would be this, “Jesus loves you, He will never leave you, and He wants you to believe in Him. My best friend sitting over there also saved me in a way. His name is Ethan and he was my friend from the start. he gave me hope and prevented me from doing the unspeakable. That man is now my husband.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this now popular girl, told us all about her weakest moment, her voice quivering with every sentence. “I was one day away from killing myself.” then, she pulled it out of her pocket and held it up, “My mom gave this to me the night she died, and it has meant everything to me.” I saw her friends looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Turquoise necklace with as cross

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person's life. Sometimes, people just need a friend. Love one another, just as Jesus loves you.


The original video of this story can be views on YouTube on the * Johnny Anonymous * channel. The images used in this story came from the video Johnny Anonymous posted titled: Aiyanna - A Story of Love Based on John 15:17

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