For some reason this old memory came to me while I was laying on my hammock an hour ago trying to recover from the past several hours of teaching.
It was so clear to me I felt impressed to write it down. When I finished I knew why I needed to write it.
In writing it, I remembered that I even when I feel utterly and completely defeated I’m never alone.
The kids today were absolute terrors. They were constantly chatting in Spanish to eachother and completely ignoring me and the craft I was trying to do with them.
Each time I got their attention it was too much. All at once they each would have a million things to say to me and tried to get my attention by screaming over and over again, “Teacher, teacher, TEACHER!”
They were always jumping out of their seats and running at me trying to tell me something. Touching me, grabbing me, and stepping on my toes.
The heat, the yelling, and the unending lines of kids coming to class got to me and with a snap I finally broke. It was like they sucked all the life out of me, chewed me up, and spit it out.
I was finally defeated.
Recalling this memory reminded me though, even when I’m at my lowest I’m never alone.
Four years ago I went on what my church calls Trek. It’s a 3-4 day hike across the plains youth groups do every four years or so.
We do it to remember the pioneers that traveled from the East to the West to settle Utah. Many of the early pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thus, the Trek is an extremely spiritual experience full of activities intended to strengthen and test the faith and conviction of the youth.
We pull handcarts. Every day for up to ten miles a day. We pull handcarts.
They’re not light.
Each one has water and snacks for the day in addition to one 5-gallon bucket per person and bedding. The bucket had everything we would need on the trip.
The wooden handcarts weighed several hundred pounds each.
Where I’m from you could only go on the trek if you were in-between the ages of 14 and 18. Fortunately for me, the first time I went on Trek I was fourteen. Which meant if I wanted I could go twice.
My good friends Whitney and Rachel were in the same situation and we got to go together. Our group was a couple hundred strong so we were all split into families about 12-15 in number with a married couple to lead them as the “Ma & Pa.”
Whitney was in my family.
We were the oldest of our unfortunately small group. A couple days in one of the younger girls got sick and had to go home. Which meant we only had three girls in our whole family.
This wouldn’t have been a problem except one of the activities involved only the women—the women’s pull.
The women’s pull is intended to honor the many faithful women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who crossed the plains.
It’s also intended to demonstrate the many struggles they went through. For the womens pull is usually the largest and longest hill on the trail.
When I had done the woman pull at fourteen I had been with a larger group of girls, Whitney’s older sister included. I had loved the women’s pull and relished the opportunity to work with five or six other girls to accomplish something extraordinarily difficult.
At the end of my first women’s pull several girls had had asthma attacks, passed out, or gotten sick.
I bounded to the top and exclaimed, “Lets do it again!”
The second time was different in every way. For one, we only had 3 capable girls including myself. The trail up the hill was also much longer. About half a mile if I remember correctly.
I remember waiting at the bottom of the hill as we took off our shoes and socks, reapplied duct tape and moleskin to our blisters, and put them back on. Then I was ready.
Whitney took up the right side of the handle extending from the handcart and I took the left. The younger girl in our group along with our “Ma” pushed from the back.
And we started walking.
After maybe 10 minutes of trudging we came up on a very steep corner where the trail was covered in gravel. Our Ma had stopped pushing at that point I think and Whitney and I were almost vertical to the ground trying to haul the several hundred pound cart up the steep hill and turn it at the same time.
I remember sliding backwards and digging my heels into the rocks to stop. Once you lose your momenteum it’s hard to get moving again, especially on an incline, but we did it.
It was about then my legs started to burn. It was like someone lit my muscles on fire. Every step made it worse and worse.
It started to get harder to breathe and I gulped in air as fast as I could. We couldn’t stop to catch our breath and I don’t even think we considered it.
We just kept walking.
Then I started to cry. I don’t know why the tear started, but when they came they came in a flood.
It got even harder to breathe and my legs burned even hotter. I felt like my chest was going to explode and started to hyperventilate.
I remember Whitney talking to me and telling me to just keep breathing and it would all be ok.
We saw the top of the hill and there waited every person in our group not participating in the pull.
I saw my seminary teacher and his wife and was ashamed to be crying to hard. I looped the handle with my elbow and put one gloved hand acrosss my mouth to cover my crying.
We came closer and I started to sob. I don’t know why, but the combination of seeing people I loved and cared about and the burning in my legs and not having enough air just made things impossible.
I ducked my head and kept walking. Sobbing the whole way.
I saw my brother and couldn’t see anything after that because the tear filled my eyes so quickly. The dust choked me and I started to get dizzy.
Someone, one of the woman leaders in our group, came up behind me and helped me push. She put one hand next to mine on the handle and the other behind me on the cart.
I remember feeling her arms around me and knowing someone would catch me.
Then I collapsed.
If she hadn’t been there I probably would have been run over by the large wheel on our cart.
She pulled me off to the side of the trail and called for the doctor who came with us.
I just kept sobbing. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t breathe. People were all around us and hurriedly propped up my feet and gave me water.
But the water just made it harder to breathe. I remember how scared I was when the doctor said I was going into shock and how angry I was that my body had just stopped like that.
In our Church we believe God has restored His power on the earth—the Priesthood. The Priesthood is given to all worthy males who are worthy baptized memebers of our church.
There are varying levels of the priesthood, but the highest one enables the bearer to give blessings of healing. Blessing just like the ones Christ gave the people in the New Testement.
I had and still have a firm conviction that power is real and those blessings work. In that moment I knew in my heart and mind if I had a blessing I would be ok.
In between sobs I told the people around me I wanted a blessing from a man who had previously been my bishop. He was like a father to me and I trusted him and the power I knew he had.
He rushed over. The moment his hands were on my head I calmed down. I stopped sobbing and started to take slow deep breaths.
I don’t remember what he said, but I remember that blessing as one of those moments when God’s power was as obvious to me as the ground I was laying on.
I needed nothing more than the assurance that He had not abandoned me.