Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Hard-y Family

It was after a rather rigorous racquetball game and early in the morning so I wasn’t in my right mind to start with when Richard Anderson and I were exchanging a few church regrets. I was disappointed that after teaching seminary for seven years I never got to teach the Book of Mormon and that mom and I had never been on the Trek which sounded kind of cool. I should know better than to open my mouth especially when the brain isn’t engaged, but I thought it was safe. The Trek was only 10 days off and they had picked their “Ma’s and Pa’s” literally months ago and the stake had been preparing them for months with meetings, films, books, and an exercise program to get everyone in shape. It was a life opportunity that had passed us by.

But that night I got a call from Richard and he said he might be able to help me with one of my regrets – they needed a last minute Ma and Pa. I asked – “Was that a token ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ to pass out cookies and tell lame jokes?” No they needed a legit Ma and Pa to walk the Trek and take care of 8-9 teenagers. I remember those creatures from years past – they stay up late, talk loudly, run your car out of gas, and keep you on your toes with worry from physical or spiritual injuries. But I also remembered how insanely fun it was to have a house full of teenagers with high energy and hi jinx’s, so mom and I again stepped into insanity and said yes we would go.

It was an intense 10 days of prep work – getting equipment, making cooler collars and bloomers (mom’s favorite), studying pioneer stories, and walking walking and more walking. We even did some in depth research – we asked Tiana, Don and Austin their memories of Trekking. Don remembered the food, Austin the water fight in the Sweetwater, and Tiana begged us to let our family members flirt with the kids from other families. With that critical knowledge with were ready for the 3 day experience.

We named our family the Hard-y family because besides the social fun of being outdoors there are hard things we need to choose to do in this life. When we come to those times in our life when the right thing is a tough and hard thing to do we need to be able to work though the tough challenges. That may mean getting out of our comfort zone, making sure to tackle the difficult assignment at work, being able to forgive someone, getting back on the board after a painful 3 meter disaster, making that next cold call, knocking on a foreign and unknown door, battling back depressive thoughts, or working through pain. We know we all have hard things to do in life and this is a concentrated 3 day experience to share with some kids in an outdoorsy spiritual context some of those hard things our pioneer ancestors faced. Besides Hard-y is easier to pronounce than Barrand.

The night before we left Scott Turek (who was in charge of the whole company of 295 participants – 200 kids and 95 supporting adults) pulled me aside, smirked and told me that I was the oldest person on this Trek and that I was representing all the old people that make the pioneer treks so I better hang in there no matter how hard it got. I really didn’t know how to take that..

We started at 5 am and that has never been a great time of mental acuity or sharp looks and it showed as 300 people stumbled around in the dark, met their “family”, lost their friends and tried to make sense of the piles of tents, sleeping bags (all in the exact same black trash bags), buckets, lanterns, snacks, and personal items. That is such a hard time to size up the social dynamic in the crush and pandemonium of packing buses. No time for cheering or disappointment, just get on the bus and sit by who ever and get comfortable for the 6 hour ride to Martin’s Cove.

The weather was beautiful, around 90 degrees with a light breeze, lunch was good and the trail smooth. We ended up with a great family. It was easy to pick us out in a crowd – we had the tallest kid in all the youth and if anyone was lost they just looked for 6’4” Austin and he was our gathering place. Now if Austin was ever lost or in the wrong place we all ended up there with him, which was only somewhat comforting.

After hiking along the Sweetwater, doing the women’s pull, and hiking for a long way we arrived at camp. Oh no this wasn’t our campsite….we’re only halfway to our campsite, we have another two hour hike ahead of us and that is where that work principle kicks in. We could have stayed here but we do need to push ourselves a little more.

At sunset we arrived, set up the tents (ours has seen better days), chowing down a very rustic dinner, clean up, square dance and devotional then to bed on a very comfortable air mattress.

The highlight of the trip was the crossing of the Sweetwater. It is considered sacred ground and we maintained silence as we approached. A talented sister was playing “Come, come ye saints” on a violin and I got caught up in the emotion of the acts of sacrifice and service preformed here. The problems at Martins Cove was partly due to bad choices of the leaders, but here at the crossing of the Sweetwater it was the pure epitome of the gospel – giving of ones life for the safety of others. The spirits of those four young men who for hours ferried the entire handcart company across the ice chocked river whispered to my spirits of the importance of giving of ones self as a gift for others. It was a powerful and moving experience.

I think some of the group got the picture that everyone is of value. They didn’t just carry across the river the “good looking kids” or the “cool kids” or the “funny kids” or the “athletes”, they took everyone across. Every life was valued as a brother or sister. There were no razor sharp distinctions of “coolness” that include some and excluded others because of looks or social ineptness. The Sweetwater crossing helped me realize in a little way how God views all of us in our need to be helped across the river of life. Looks and social graces are not the pass keys to the Celestial kingdom, but making those hard decisions and loving the Lord more than man unlocks that door.

Raw numbers: 3 days – 27 miles hiking – no rain – 8 kids – Mom earned the title of biggest blister and I was two short of the most blisters (with only 4) – OK food – great air mattress – and the spiritual enrichment was priceless.

Kids -

Austin – 17, wants to be a marine biologist, very tall (6’4”) very energetic and very hard working.

Jason – 14, likes drumming, learning the social graces, the trip was a challenge for Jason, but he rose to the occasion and conquered his physical pains.

Doug – 14, great hard worker who is a bright spot in the family. Talks in his sleep.

Derrick – 14, overcoming much (loss of a close brother) with a great heart and an entertaining conversation style particularly around girls. Great kid to have around.

Lindsay – 16, hard-working big sister. She was a great asset to the family with her smile and willingness to pitch in and help.

Tory – 15, in the tough spots she would push to the front and pull with the best of them. Loves soccer and volleyball

Didi – 15, overcame a lot to come on the Trek

Megan – 15, her good decisions are spot on and she has a lot more righteous grit in her then she gives herself credit for


Tracy Barrand said...

You did such a great job describing this. Wonderful. It was a priceless experience with you.

Tiana & Preston said...

Dad, you made me cry:)looks like a good old time. It took me back to when i was there, good memories( yes most of the boys) but i know i felt the spirit as well. i also realized a pinch of what they had to go through, we were very spoiled. My favorite part is when you told us a little about each kid. i know you guys put your heart and soul into this and it shows. I love you guys. I can't believe you went 27 miles!!! i know ours was a lot shorter and i got to sleep in the hand cart on the way back. I'm pathetic.

Mikidees said...

I am so proud of you and mom for being so hard-y. I wish i could have been there for the sweetwater crossing it sounds like a once in a liftime awsoe spiritual experience.