I’m on a tour bus at 7am. There are 36 youths ranging in ages from 12 years to 18 years, along with 14 adults crammed into every seat and the air conditioning is already on full blast to combat the crush of perspiration and excitement. The adults are already tense and the kids have been going full tilt since 6am and already my nerves are beginning to fray. We are just 30 minutes into a six hour bus ride and I’ve asked myself twice in that short and yet oh so eternal time span, “Will I survive a jump from this bus at this rate of speed and on the hard asphalt?”
We arrive at our destination and I’m still feeling as if I have been shanghaied, dressed in circa 1850’s pioneer garb and dragged out to Central Wyoming to work on a chain gang for crimes against fashion, when an elderly man approaches me, Super Mom and the five young souls who will be part of our pioneer family re-enactment of the Martin Handcart Company.
“Follow me and we will grab one of these handcarts and you can start throwing your stuff on it,” he’s saying to me but after his words are filtered by my brain what he’s really saying to me is, ‘You can run right now but you’re surrounded by dirt, tumbleweeds, sagebrush, snakes and prairie dogs for hundreds of miles. You’re gonna pull this hand-made, two wheeled contraption until your mouth (and every body cavity) are filled with dust, your hands are blistered and your legs feel like two very large and awkward sacks of potatoes and you’re going to regret that you got on that bus that brought you here!’
I readily admit that before I started this experience that I was reluctant and I probably was more concerned about other things the moment I donned my pioneer gear. To be exact – I had the wrong (bad) attitude. I have participated in many youth activities as an adult leader and it is hard to remain objective when all you are bombarded with every day in life is cynicism, negativity and an overall feeling that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Wayne T., a dear friend and brother once told me, “If you take ‘me’ out of the equation and just perform your duties, everything else will fall into place.” So the moment I removed my inhibitions, my pessimism and my skeptisism from the equation and concentrated on making the experience a learning, thought-provoking and spiritual experience for the young people in my care, suddenly everything became clearer and my perspective on how I can influence my young charges was amplified.
Three days I was out there without a shower. Some people may have noticed – I didn’t care. Three days I trudged back and forth with these wonderful people in the heat, dust and that wretched dry wind. Some people may have noticed – I didn’t care. I only cared about the experience and it made a tremendous impact on me and I daresay, it had a huge affect on our entire group.
There are things that happened during those three days that I consider too sacred to share but this much I will share with you – I have never felt so absolutely and positively humbled in my life. I have a renewed sense of confidence in our youth. Those young people had so much conviction, they had so much faith and they never uttered an audible complaint. I witnessed their charisma, their passion, their compassion and so many other worthy attributes that I only wish I could have displayed in my own youth.
Something about that experience really changed me and it’s hard to comprehend no less explain in my own words so I’ll use the words of someone who was much more in tune with the things of the spirit of God:
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
In spiritual terms we refer to this as a ‘conversion’ which can only take place when and if we have a ‘mighty change of heart.’ When our hearts are converted from the things that come naturally to man to the things that are more spiritual in nature, then we begin to assume spiritual qualities in our daily life.
I am grateful for the things that I felt and experienced last weekend and I’m blessed to have shared those experiences with Super Mom and my sons. I hope to assume more spiritual qualities in my life by doing the little things that will make me better in every aspect of life. I am blessed and grateful for wonderful people who surround me, support me and give me honest advice. And I’m especially grateful for the young people of today whose exemplary behavior remind me daily that I’m still a work in progress.