One morning, around the breakfast table, I was reminded of a comment my daughter M made about her preference to do a page of long division than to take a hike. This is a pretty strong statement, considering the mention of division may turn her from Miss Jekyell to Miss Hyde.
For a moment, I thought about the two, long division and hiking. Both create a certain amount of anxiety. Both require a certain amount of discipline. Both give a sense of accomplishment upon completion. Long division develops skills that lead to a productive life and hiking develops character.
Before my family and I decide on a hike there are certain questions to be answered. When, where, and how long (is the trail) are common queries. A certain amount of anxiety creeps in as we prepare our backpacks. We know that when the trail guide describes a hike as moderate, we may find it strenuous. The trail may seem endless, our packs will weigh a ton, and our legs or feet may hurt on the way back.
Like any worthwhile endeavor, whether it’s maintaining a schedule, learning a new skill, or exercising regularly, it requires discipline. Just as in the adage, no pain, no gain, we know our limitations, yet desire to achieve more. Through encouragement, right attitudes, and concentration, we help each other focus on the goal. The goal is to see what’s out there. After all, someone thought it worthy enough to clear a trail.
When it’s all over; we’re exhausted and realize our accomplishment. It’s the thrill of victory, the feeling of success. We know we’ve gotten stronger and it’s rewarding to share the experience with others who have been there too.
So why do we drag M and E on these terrible hikes that cause such trepidation, yet bring such satisfaction? Just as in requiring long division to enable the student to reach the next step in the ladder of mathematics, hiking builds strength of character. By challenging their reluctance, they discover the courage to endure, the confidence to excel, and learn respect for nature. Through perseverance, it’s determined they can do anything they set their minds to.
When I think of hiking, I think of our National Parks. One day, I hope M & E will go hiking because the spirit moves them, not because their parents make them. To summarize the emotion I feel when hiking in our country’s treasures, I will paraphrase Ken Burns, in his reference to our National Parks, “…we feel insignificant. And yet paradoxically we are made to feel larger.”