5 days ago
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Hero-Up For Children Cancer was an amazing race! To say that we are proud of Darcee and her siblings would be a huge understatement. She had a cool idea to bring together persons interested in cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research all at the same time. I had my doubts initially that anyone could make money putting on such a race. I stand corrected--I now have the vision that Darcee had when she first conceived this race.
Darcee has often wondered whether there was a place for a woman like her in the church (and in our Mormon culture)--afterall she doesn't sew, she is not interested in crafts and she possesses only passable singing ability. What does a woman like her do in the church? How does she fit in? With such an obviously lack of normal LDS woman-like virtues, could she ever actually be called to serve as a Relief Society President?
So, what does she do? She runs. Not exactly the prototypical talent for an LDS woman. Despite the dearth of notable, more mainstream and acceptable LDS type talents, she is a super hero in all of the things that really matter. She is determined and courageous. She is an excellent mother and wife. She is the sort of daughter that every parent dreams of raising. In short, there so much more to her than sewing, crafts and music.
The race that Jen and her put on is hard to sum up. I have written more detailed thoughts in my journal that better describe my feelings on this race, but suffice it to say, that the next time this most remarkable daughter tells me she has a great idea, I assure you, I will not doubt. I have always viewed her as Wonder Woman, and now she has left no doubt--she is worthy of that moniker in every way.
Although the concept of the race was Darcee's, she couldn't have done it without a lot of much appreciated help. particularly from her siblings, close friends and ward members. And Jenn? Well, she is the real deal for sure--an absolute reincarnate of Marvel Girl! I can't wait to see what's in store for these two real life Super Heroes.
(As a post script, I must correct my beautiful niece, Alex who blogged that I dressed up like the Wolverine. Yes, she owes me a "super" big apology. This is because I exude the essence of the Wolverine to such a degree that simply allowing my inner-Wolverine to emerge can hardly be described as merely "dressing up.")
Applying "sunscreen" that I borrowed from a YW--it was actually some type of make up with a sunscreen element to it...regardless, it worked; and I'm pretty sure it made me smell really sexy.
Since being called to the Stake Presidency, I have tried to divide my time equally between YM and YW. We have an outstanding group of YW in our Stake who are courageous and seek to challenge themselves physically. A recent climb of Mt. Stuart with a few of them, yielded a most remarkable spiritual experience. Below is the email that I sent to Sister Calaway (the Selah Stake YW's President) following our climb to memorialize what occurred.
I wanted to again thank you for your pre-climb prayer in the parking lot before we left. We talked about that prayer on the mountain way before things got scary. We talked about how much Sister Calaway loved each of the YW and the power that comes with a righteous prayer. What I didn’t share with them was President Grow’s (and my) concern over your use of the term “extraordinary.” Please never again pray for “extraordinary” experiences when I am leading a group of youth! When you spoke those words I was really concerned. "Extraordinary" things happen when someone gets sick or injured and we have to rely on each to get off the mountain. Please know that I was extra careful because of your prayer.
I want to share with you my personal observations about our climb so you know what really happened: Just below the false summit there was a lot of rock fall—some of it quite dangerous. We went slow and constantly communicated to avoid dislodging something that would injure another member of our team. The YW were a little unsettled after we gained the false summit and I could tell they were unsure about continuing. We were only 400’ from the summit, but the vertical scrambling/climbing was ahead of us. I urged them on. I struggled to find a good line to the summit. We gained the ridge where I was comfortable and we could move quickly, but the YW were really concerned about the big (2,000’) vertical drop off to the north. They were moving very cautiously, so we descended off the ridge in an attempt to find a safer route. Instead, we found ourselves repeatedly having to scale a number of challenging 10-15' mini cliffs. By this point in time, the YW had zero confidence in my route finding abilities, and clearly doubted that I could find a safe route to the summit. I could hear them questioning me, “How are we going to get back?” I assured them that we would find a safer, easier route back. (I might have lied just a little bit.)
I was watching the building clouds to the east (which were moving directly towards us) and was very concerned about the slow pace we had settled into. Many of the clouds were dark clouds, with menacing anvils on the top (this type of cloud sometimes produce thunderstorms). The summit route would be a very exposed place to be in a thunderstorm. My anxiety was building and I kept thinking about your prayer where you pleaded with Heavenly Father for these YW to have “extraordinary” experiences. “What was Sister Calaway thinking?!” I wondered. No one wants to be the leader where YW are going to have extraordinary experiences. I was guessing that we had about an hour to get to the summit and return before these dark clouds hit us. Our pace was likely going to take us a little longer. We had one last challenging vertical climb (about 15’) to gain the summit. I was really pushing the YW at this point. Our motto to that point had been: “Be Amazing, Climb Strong!” I had to remind them, “If you want to be amazing, you have to do amazing!” I feel bad about how hard I pushed them, but I was feeling some anxiety about the clouds in the offing. When we arrived at the summit, a thick cloud moved in. I could no longer see the menacing clouds in the distance, but was now concerned that we would have difficulty spotting the cairns in the low visibility and that it would take us even longer to return. Of course, I was keeping all of this to myself. I was outwardly expressing as much confidence as I could muster for the benefit of the YW. I asked Brother Borchert to offer a prayer on the summit. It was, similar to your prayer, one of the most powerful, heartfelt prayers I have ever participated in. He paused multiple times during this prayer searching for the right words to speak. The Spirit was as powerful as I have ever felt. When he ended, the thick cloud that had descended upon us was literally breaking up and moving to the South. We were amazed to see blue skies peeking through this cloud, which was seemingly “fleeing” from us. I use the word “fleeing” because it felt like the elements had changed immediately and that this cloud was being moved or chased from our presence. As we ended the prayer, I noticed that a couple of the YW were crying. I simply asked them, “Can you feel that?!” We all looked up and commented on the dissipating cloud. The Lord had heard our prayer. With renewed confidence we immediately set off searching for an easier route to descend to the false summit.
My hope was that the heavens would remain open long enough to let us get to the false summit, and perhaps to the 8,500’ level where we might be a little more protected. I had a difficult time with route finding coming off the summit as well, and again could sense that the YW were doubting my ability to lead. In fairness to me, however, it’s not like these are established trails; you basically pick the best line you can and fight your way to and from a summit. Route finding is part of the challenge of mountaineering. I always expect to be a little lost and am comfortable trying to find a route. The YW clearly did not share my enthusiasm for route finding. We experienced some challenging down climbs coming off the summit, but again the YW did extremely well. They exhibited great courage and faith.
Throughout the remainder of the day, the building dark clouds literally “fled” from before us. Menacing clouds continually moved towards us and at the last minute dissipated or moved to the south, away from our path. I kept thinking about the Psalm of Nephi, who had been carried away to a high mountain and cried that the Lord would make his paths clear. 2 Nep. 4: 32-33. I don’t know how else to explain the phenomenon that we continued to witness all day—where clouds were literally moved away from us. While sometimes it was raining in the valley below us, our climbing conditions were really pleasant.
There were a couple of other tender mercies at different points along the way. First, finding relatively clean water on the false summit in a small depression of a rock that we could filter when we were essentially out of water. This was huge because our descent took us much longer than expected and we were definitely in need of water. Second, Madison Brown just happened (at the insistence of a righteous father) to bring along 25-30’ of webbing—the exact length we needed to safely descend a precipice blocking our path. Without this, we would have been required to up climb (and backtrack) 500’ at a time that we were literally exhausted.
Most importantly, this climb reaffirmed the great confidence I have in our YW. They are amazing, because they do amazing! They exhibited great faith and obedience in following their leaders even when they were way beyond their comfort level; they endured pain, sleep deprivation and exhaustion with hardly a complaint. They were buoyant and cheerful throughout the climb, making it truly a pleasure to climb with them. I am particularly impressed with Madison Brown. She was in a lot of pain. She had painful blisters early Saturday morning and could have quit. Despite this, she soldiered on without complaint. Her determination perhaps bordered sheer stubbornness. I was so proud of her. She struggled the last few hours of the climb, but kept moving. The manifestation of the Spirit was something I will never forget, but more important than that was the Spirit of adventure, courage and determination exhibited by these very beautiful and tough YW. You would have been so proud of them. It was such an honor to accompany them.
I hope that this experience does not jeopardize my opportunities to lead our YW again. My patriarchal blessing promised me great opportunities to lead youth. This experience has reaffirmed that promise. The reality is that mountains are dangerous places. We try to be as careful as we can. I pushed hard for the summit because I believed in our YW. I felt pretty strongly about not turning back. I wanted them to be physically challenged and go beyond their comfort level. Good things happen when we push ourselves physically. In retrospect, I’m not sure I would do a straight-through 24 hour climb with our YW again. I would do it with adults who knew what they were in for, but I think the YW had no idea what to expect, and were a little shocked by the sheer physicality of this climb. They worked very, very hard for 24 hours straight with no sleep and were mentally and emotionally stressed beyond what they had perhaps previously experienced. In the end it was an “extraordinary” experience for all of us.
I can’t say enough how grateful I am to Eric Borchert, Ester Montgomery and Tom Gearheart. I love these great youth leaders! A big thanks to President Grow, and our "rescue team." Although, we were never in need of rescue, our hearts were lifted when we saw their campfire at Engel's Creek and realized they had come to help us ascend the difficult trail up Long’s Pass. Also the food you and Sister Grow provided at the trailhead was greatly appreciated!
Finally, Brother Borchert’s prayer on the summit will forever be etched in my memory as a moment in time that I felt my Heavenly Father’s love for me and the youth of our stake. I have no doubts that He hears and answers prayers—sometimes even in immediate and miraculous ways. At noon, on September 21st, on the summit of Mt. Stuart, the heavens literally parted and I glimpsed a small portion of the love and power of God. Despite the wonder and power of that day, we will likely never invite YOU to offer prayer at the beginning of a big physical youth activity. “Extraordinary” is simply too stressful for leaders. Again, thanks for all you and your presidency do for the YW of our stake.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
On a recent climb of Mt.Stuart as I was taking a break and eating some of my brother Rick's World Famous Turkey Jerky, it dawned on me, this is my last bag of the jerky he had sent me. What then? Who will replace this? Over the years, Rick has occasionally sent things in the mail, such as this turkey jerky. He is always into something crazy. His crazy always involved a story--a story that was so remarkable and unbelievable that it had to be true. As the climb progressed, I couldn't bring myself to finish off the last of this jerky. It seemed too final.
It's been about a month since his death and I think about him all the time. I have been blessed with many things in life, but perhaps nothing as important as the amazing brothers that I have. It's hard to describe the Ricker. You can tell things that he did and said, but unless you knew him, people might not believe these stories. Everything he did somehow became larger than life; something worthy of a story--a Ricker story.
Recently, more than his stories, I've been thinking about Rick as an older brother and a mentor. He taught me how to dance--well actually, he made fun of me and told me that I'd never get a girl with moves like that, and so I taught myself by mimicking his style. He lovingly smoothed the path for me in school. Teachers would accusingly ask, "So you're Rick Smart's little brother?" I would remind them, "Yes, but Jan Smart is also my sister!" It was an interesting example of damnation and redemption in sibling associations all at once. He gave me important advice on how to be a man, "Don't give up your lunch money, or you'll be identified as a pussy." (This was at Lincoln Jr. High School, where hanging onto your lunch money could mean your life.) This last bit of advice turned out to be pretty important. I got pounded for three days straight, but it finally ended, when the hoodlums at my school realized that I wasn't going to give it up without a fight.
Rick also, and more importantly, gave me wonderful advice about the importance of serving a mission. He was a fantastic example of how to treat my parents, my wife and my children. Sheila and I so admired Rick and Cheryl, that we designated them as guardians for our children in our will. I think this speaks volumes about how much we admired Rick. He was always so welcoming to us and our children. The dinners at his home were legendary. I realize that Cheryl will keep the dinners and get-togethers going, but who is going to tell the crazy stories? There are indeed people in our lives who are irreplaceable. Rick was such a person in my life. We soldier on without these people, but our lives are diminished when they die. My life will go on without my older brother Rick, but I will miss him terribly. Whenever we spoke on the phone he would always remind me, "We just love you guys!" I knew he meant it. I will miss that.
Rick raised amazing children. I see so much of him in them. I am so glad that each of them spoke at his funeral. While it's impossible to adequately honor someone like Rick in an hour long funeral service, they were able to highlight the things that I truly loved about Rick. I am hopeful that Rangi can develop Rick's ability to spin a yarn and become our family storyteller. While he will never replace his dad, Rick's stories need to be told and retold. They help us feel connected as a family.
Today would have been Rick's 64 birthday. It's seems like an appropriate day to finish off the last couple pieces of Ricker's turkey jerky. While I miss him tons, I am so grateful to have had such an amazing brother in my life. There will undoubtedly be tears shed in our family today, but we will also feel great joy when we think about Rick and the fact that our association with him will endure this life.
(The first picture above is how I will always remember Rick. When I see him next, this is how I expect to see him. The second picture is the only picture I could find of me and my 4 brothers. This was taken at a wrestling tournament in Las Vegas that Rocky and Rangi were competing in.)