"Keeping your balance is not easy. If you've ever tried standing on one foot, you realize that your body tends to sway and wobble. When I'm leading worship in my church, I sometimes ask the congregation to join me in an experiment. I invite all the children present to rise and stand on one leg, remaining motionless for several seconds. Few of them succeed.

"Then comes the second part of the lesson. I ask the youngsters to stand on one foot again, but this time to hold the hand of someone nearby. It's much easier to remain upright when you feel that you're connected to a companion. We steady one another. Again, the earth and her creatures are like that. It's the diversity of life that gives the world its stability. When we have so many interconnections among the earth's varied species, the whole system is more likely to keep its equilibrium.

"As we walk through the world, we can't always physically hold on to each other with our hands. But we can learn to hold each other in our hearts. The Native Americans do this through prayer. When they turned toward the Great Spirit, they addressed their supplications to 'all my relations.' Those relations would include lakes and creeks, crags and bogs, and all the creeping, crawling multitudes they contain. By mentally acknowledging their place in Mother Earth's family, the native peoples of North America would surround themselves with their brothers and sisters, the four-legged and winged peoples, who would help them to walk upright, with feet on the ground and eyes on the horizon.

"Here is a traditional Lakota prayer addressed to 'all my relations,' or Aho Mitakuye Oyasin in the Sioux language:

"All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today.

"I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer. . . .

"To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.

"To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.

"To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.

"To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.

"To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.

"To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages, I thank you.

"To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.

"You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery. Thank you for this Life.

"When we walk in balance, with gratitude in our hearts and knowledge of our interdependence, the daily requirements of living — like making syrup — become a blessing rather than a burden. Labor becomes a prayer and work is no longer empty toil but has a satisfying purpose. Because the gift of community sweetens every task."