The Challenge – The Great Wall

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Bottom of the Great Wall

Today’s thought provoking question is: For What Challenge am I Grateful? And the Million Dollar ball dropped onto … Starting a climb to the top of the Great Wall in China and making it to the top.

My traveling partner Faye, a much younger and much fitter friend (think wildland firefighter fit) and I started up the steps, casually at first along with hundred of other tourists. Every so often there would be a landing as the stairs changed direction … think a very steep road of continuous switch-backs, though without any easy grade change. It was always straight up hill.

You’re asking so what’s so difficult about climbing some stairs? These stairs aren’t standard measurements, like climbing the Eiffel Tower, but are ever changing heights and depths; 6 inches, 9 inches, 15 inches, 4 inches and depths were like 10 inches, 26 inches, 8 inches … each one smooth, slick, and worn deep from millions of feet over thousands of years.  You can’t get into a climbing rhythm with changes like that. Add into the mix the count down clock given us by our tour guide; you have 1 hour here before we leave for the tea plantation.

From the top of the Great Wall

My thought was to climb a bit then stop for a photo op and return. That was not Faye’s thought, no, not at all. I’ve not come all the way to China to climb up this wall and stop part way.  Up we continued, at first I tried to keep pace with Faye’s running feet, but she soon out paced me. She would run up to the next landing, look down toward me and urge me on. Me? I fell into a trudge, a stair at a time, huffing and puffing as I tried to keep up with her.  Every now and again, I’d say, I’ve had it, this is it, I’m not going any farther. And Faye, friend that she is, would yell back at me, you can do this and if you don’t I’ll tell everyone at work that you whimped out.  I wouldn’t let that happen, so I continued plodding up the stairs, pushing on my knees at times to keep them from shaking out from under me as I stretched for those extra tall steps.

Finally I could see the watch tower 100 steps above me and Faye’s face leaning over the path ledge urging me on, encouraging me to make that final grade, that final push.  As I gasped for air leaning against the base of the tower, Faye said, we can go inside and to the top of the tower … what? more stairs? She said, “I waited for you so we could go up together”.

Faye & Me at the Top of the Tower at the Top of the Great Wall

How grateful I am for Faye’s laughter and encouragement that helped me reach that pinnacle in the sky. If it weren’t for her shouting and calling and walking next to me I would not have made it to the top of the tower. Isn’t that how we reach success most often in our lives? We don’t really do things ‘ourselves’. We have cheerleaders, we have mentors, we have parents and friends, we have teachers and coaches guiding us, encouraging us to reach higher than we think we can. Encouraging us to see ourselves from the top of the tower and so we might feel the sweetness of success.

Like standing next to my friend looking down at the throngs of people at the base of the stairs at the bottom of the mountain, and saw them rather rapidly thin out as the climb steepened and sheer stamina alone couldn’t pull them up … like the 8 of us standing at the top of that tower, 4 pair of friends each standing in awe at what we had accomplished together.

That awe lasted just a few minutes then we ran sliding and slipping downward to meet our bus … we were the last ones on of course, but the only ones to reach the summit. (Yes, they had to wait longer than an hour, but not by much.)

Turn on Light – Give Joy

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Looks kind of like my first radio.

Okay, I admit it, I’m not an audiophile.  I haven’t ‘crushed’ on a song probably since Jr. High School, where I would listen to the radio for hours with my cassette tape recorder at the ready to capture ‘that song’.  However, there is music that is the sound track of my life, or periods of my life. Like a smell caught on a breeze that opens memories, music does that too. I will tell you that I am emphatic about this statement …. I despise “classic rock”. Mostly music from my High School years … tell me, just how many times can a person hear The Who’s Tommy, the Lovin’ Spoonfuls I Believe in Magic, or the Beatles Yellow Submarine, and others ad nauseum? It gives me the creeps.

That said I do listen to different radio & satellite stations while I’m driving and I have tried to keep up with music trends; so I can at least be semi-aware and have some common ground with my family & friends who are music lovers.   I don’t do that much anymore. I’ve found I’ve become more aware of the lyrics, even if there is a catchy melody, and for the most part I don’t hear much that gives me joy. What I hear is ugliness against others, about others. I find it degrading to people, women in particular. It degrades love and I feel a lot of it sends negativity into the world and is the antithesis of light, joy, and happiness.

You can tell that pondering today’s blog thought took me afield from for what song am I most grateful. With all of my griping about old music here is a handful of music that always makes me smile and turns light on in my heart and gives me joy.

Louie Armstrong: What a Wonderful World

Lee Ann Womack: I Hope You Dance

Handel’s Messiah: Hallelujah Chorus

W.W. Phelps: The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning

 

*All music links are via published YouTube links.

Mrs. Rambeau 15 Mean Girls 0

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Have you ever used a brain-storm connections chart? Circles and lines, boxes and dots, large arrows and small, here a color, there a color to describe conditions or choices. In the end the lines of greatest impact are visibly represented, areas of import highlighted.  That is what swirled within my mind as I reviewed today’s gratitude thought: for whom in my life am I grateful? 

Of course my parents and progenitors were significantly highlighted. Friends forever, friends for a while, acquaintances for now and those who left impressions for good or bad in our passing. The lessons I’ve learned from them have often changed the direction of my life, brought joy or pain, brought illumination of heart and soul, or sometimes a cloud of darkness and fear.

Today’s brainstorming chart filtered down to Mrs. Rambeau, my first grade teacher. She not only taught me to read and write, but she taught me a greater lesson about love, about my responsibility for caring for one another, and for my actions.

Timpanogos Elementary School. My first grade classroom was first door from the left. (The school was torn down in 2007 & replaced.)

She taught that lesson on a rug in the corner of our classroom.  Some of us were bullying a girl. We had made fun of her and made her cry. We hurt her heart so badly she didn’t want to come back into the classroom. I don’t recall what or why this group of girls coalesced against her, but we did.  Not willing to let a teaching moment pass, Mrs. Rambeau sent the boys back outside and called us “onto the carpet”.

I remember sitting in a semi-circle facing her. I remember her eyes were sad, but her voice was firm and I remember this as the first time I felt shame for my choice and behavior. She didn’t yell, she didn’t demean, she spoke softly of kindness, of caring, of seeing ourselves in this young girl’s place. She taught me empathy in those few minutes. She also taught me that saying I’m sorry is only the first step in repairing the damage caused by my actions. I have to show that I have changed by doing something to reach out and be a positive change in their life or circumstance.

Today I am grateful that I had Mrs. Rambeau in my life. She was a gift. I sincerely try to be kind, more caring, more willing to walk in someone else’s shoes than I am a ‘mean girl’; some days I am more successful than others. To that end my friends, if you’ve felt any pain or fear from my actions or words, I sincerely apologize and ask your forgiveness. I’m sorry, is there some way I might make it up to you?

Michelangelo’s David – Pure Joy

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I was not prepared for the overpowering, breath-taking beauty of Michelangelo’s David as we entered the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence Italy.

The magnificence and perfection of the young David in the strength of his faith and youth brought me to tears. Not just wet eyes, but tears running freely down my face bursting forth from the overwhelming joy I felt witnessing such beauty.

How grateful I am to have stood in awe and wonder of Michelangelo who brought forth perfection from marble that joy continues to live in my heart and fills my soul. Michelangelo’s David is the piece of art for which I am most grateful. 

 

Change & Scary Hard Things

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Today my thankfulness focused on this knowledge, that nothing remains the same; we are living today as well as dying. Our ego buries that last fact far away from our consciousness but it’s truth. Having that knowledge has encouraged me to live my life and not wait for my life to happen.  The knowledge that I am in control of each thought and action, each act and reaction to the data and information I daily encounter has helped me choose to live in this moment, I try to live ‘in the now’, I try to live in change, live through change, grow from change, and sometimes I actually look forward to the next change.

The knowledge that today I have a day to live … that I am able to choose, that I can do something important or something smaller, I can grow from whatever happens in this day. I am grateful for that knowledge that I can change and I need not dread tomorrow or things which I have no control over.

Such knowledge has increased my faith in the future: “for faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21).

I have knowledge that I can rely upon those things that I don’t know, but I do know it is true that through faith in Jesus Christ I can do anything ( like all those hard things and scary things I might never have tried. Those things which changed me the most and for the better). That’s the greatest knowledge I have and for which I am overwhelmingly grateful.