Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It is so hard to imagine, on such a nice day such as this, that there could be anything painful or uncomfortable going on with this world... but there is. And if you happen to be one of those who is in a painful or uncomfortable place, it's hard to believe that anyone on this planet could be at peace... but they are. I know it's not a profound thought by any means, but it is one of which I was made very aware last week.

Upon entering my son's elementary school (which is private and Catholic, and attached to the church), I approached the father of one of my son's classmates. Both boys happen to be in the same Tiger Cub den, so the father and I see and talk with each other at the regular Boy Scout events. On this particular day, I asked him the general greeting of "how are you doing?" I won't soon forget his response. "Not too good. My father died on Monday and I'm making the last arrangements for his wake tonight..."

For me, it was a day that was going along great; barely a care in the world... until that moment...

From my climbing/hiking experience, it is probably safe to say that I've spent more of my time staring at the peaks from afar than from summiting them. This past autumn, for example, I was privileged to spend a few days (bi)cycling across Death Valley and then summiting Mount Whitney. On the days we stayed in Lone Pine (at the foothills of Whitney) and at the Whitney Portal (8,000 ft. elevation), I would gaze up at the ridgeline that led to Mt. Whitney. In all those glances, it didn't even occur to me that while I was looking up at the ridge, there were individuals who were crossing it at that very moment and summiting Mt. Whitney. In the same light, I didn't spend much time thinking about what everyone else was doing in the foothills and valley below while I sat for a few moments on the highest peak in the lower 48. Perhaps it's just a part of human nature: it's simply hard to consider others' journey when their journey seems so far away.

In my case, this interaction with my colleague at school reminded me of how important it is for us to remember from time to time that while we are enjoying a mountaintop experience, someone else (probably close to us) is surviving a moment in the valley below. And the opposite can be said as well. It's nice to know, however, that our valleys will eventually turn into foothills and upward toward the peaks. It's also humbling to know that our mountain peaks will eventually crest and then descend into the valleys. Either way it's helpful, thoughtful and soulful to say a little prayer for those walking the valley today.

To my friend at school, I'll say a prayer for you in your valley journey. And I hope you do the same for me when my mountaintop takes a turn for the foothills.

hoedl's haven
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