Friday, September 5, 2008

Competition or Compassion?

It had been a good day in the Redrock Country of southeastern Utah. Jana, Kira, Grange and I had risen early to get Kira on the bus for her first ever cross country meet. After depositing her with the team, we drove to the Moab Golf Club for the meet. It was also my first experience with the sport, so I was excited to see the young athletes sail through their courses.

Twin Rocks
The Twin Rocks

Although she had a strong start and shows promise as a runner, it is yet to be determined whether Kira inherited the Steve “turtle” gene, or something more speedy. The reason for this uncertainty is that about half way through the race she stopped to assist an ailing team member. What we may have learned from that experience is that Kira is instinctively compassionate, if not genetically competitive.

On the way home, Jana deposited me on the side of the road with my bicycle, and I enjoyed a warm, but satisfying ride back home to Bluff, which gave me time to consider Kira’s decision. Later that evening, I found myself lying on the hammock outside the house above the trading post, gazing at the stars scattered across the heavens and still wrestling with Kira’s choice. With the Twin Rocks looming overhead, and satellites swimming across the Milky Way faster than Michael Phelps in the Beijing Water Cube, I suddenly felt an immense calm wash over me.

As the stars twinkled, the low-flying aircraft blinked and bats winged across the sky devouring gobs of insects, I heard an eternal voice ask; “How did you get here?” It is a question I have heard countless times from trading post patrons. “I arrived head first”, I tell them The confused looks often follow, at which point I explain that I was born in Bluff, or more appropriately conceived here and born at the hospital in Monticello; approximately 50 miles to the north.

In fact, the question is extremely difficult on all levels. Contemplating my place in the universe, I peered up into the inky sky and envisioned several friends who now stride the Halls of Heaven, and wondered about their journeys. I have often felt that we live or die by seconds and inches; a few seconds further along our path and we avoid a fatal automobile crash, a few inches closer to the precipice and we tumble into the void. The outcome is never certain.

Cow Canyon
Cow Canyon - the canyon entering Bluff, Utah to Twin Rocks Trading Post

The other day a lawyer from California stopped by the trading post with his wife, who was also a lawyer, and their two children. As we talked, he mentioned that he had begun his career with a large, international firm, and had ultimately decided he needed to scale back and start enjoying life; something his big firm practice did not allow. His wife and kids were proof positive he had made the right choice.

As we talked, I was reminded of the extremely well known Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken :

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Each day we are confronted with choices that ultimately dictate our future and have the potential to send us soaring off in new and unexpected directions. How we got here may be the least important question, the real issue is what we do once we arrive.

Much to the confusion of her mother and me, Kira chose to assist her fellow traveler, rather than run the entire race. Instead of competition, she chose compassion, and that may have made all the difference. Somewhere ages and ages hence, we may know the implications of that decision. For now we will just have to trust her judgment.

With warm regards,

Steve, Barry & the team

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