20 July 2015

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

There is a story in the Book of Mormon about an iron rod. A man, Lehi, has a dream that he needs to get from the darkness to the tree of life. He spots an iron rod that leads him along the narrow path that he must follow in order to reach his destination. Along the way there is fog and a cliff and a river and a building that people are hanging out of, making fun of those using the rod. Lehi holds onto the rod and gets to his destination. In the parable, he reaches eternal life and the love of god. If you want to check out the scriptural account, go here.

I had the opportunity to go with some girls in my church congregation to camp for a week. One of the evenings, we participated in an iron rod walk. It was a few hundred yards long, over rough ground, up and down dirt hills, over boulders and under trees. Throughout there was a literal iron rod that the girls could hold on to. They were blindfolded before they started.

As a leader (whoever thought that was a good idea was delusional) I got the assignment to watch a section of the rod and make sure the girls didn't have too much trouble. But I wasn't allowed to help unless they signaled, and I wasn't supposed to move any of the many logs and rocks that were on the path.

Most of the time I still consider myself young. I often act much younger than my almost 40 years, and I'm good with that. But standing there, watching these girls struggle along this rod, trying to get over logs and not twist their ankles on rocks, I was suddenly  thrust into a very different perspective on the exercise.

For the girls, they held onto the rod and got to the end. They might have struggled, but there was help when they needed it.

For me, I learned how hard it is to watch people you care about struggle with something you could simply take away.

I'm not a parent, so this revelation probably comes to most people much earlier than it did me. Standing there watching, not being able to tell them to just step a little farther or to hold on tight in a certain section almost killed me. I felt like those kids in school who raise their hand so high that their butts come out of the chair. I wanted to help that bad.

But I couldn't. If I had, the girls would have been cheated of their experience.

It must be hard as a parent to watch as your children start to spread their wings and fly off into the world. It must be even more difficult to bite your tongue as they share their woes and sorrows-things you could solve for them, but know that you shouldn't.

Another part of the exercise that I found interesting was how each girl approached the course.  Some almost floated over the obstacles, while others very deliberately put each foot down before moving the other one.

At the end we asked the girls to share their thoughts. One girl said that she had a hard time not clearing the obstacles as she got around them, because she knew there were people behind her that might trip.

It's amazing how a little exercise can get you thinking out of your own perspective. 

No comments: