The Things That Matter

Last Wednesday night, a woman was killed in the Boundary Waters area between Minnesota and Ontario.

It’s a huge wilderness area, where you can stay for a week and see no other people except the ones who ventured in with you.  It’s a place where you can spend a few days completely off the grid, where you eat what you bring with you and what you can catch, where bears and moose probably outnumber people at any given time. You can travel for a week and not see a road or a power line. If you have an emergency out there, you have to go to help, because help can’t come to you. If you have an emergency, your training and your courage are pretty much all you have to work with.

That’s why Scouts love to go up there. It’s a great challenge to go into the wilderness for a week or two and see who you are when you come out the other side. Good for the Scouts, and for the adults who go with them. That’s why a woman from north Texas was in that area last week–she was with a troop of Scouts trying to learn who they could become in the course of a week or ten days.

But last week, we got a reminder of just how wild it is. A storm blew across the region last Wednesday night with near hurricane-force winds, a storm that uprooted trees, stripped rooftops off houses, and left a third of northern Minnesota without power.

It’s one thing to weather a storm like that in your house. It’s something else entirely to endure it in a tent in the wilderness. And when the storm blew over, the woman and a scout she had tried to shelter were dead.

I met her once. I could not say I knew her. I don’t think I ever met the Scout. But she was dedicated to her Scouts, dedicated to being the best woman she could so she could help them grow into the best men they can be. She died trying to build them into that.

There are much worse ways to go.

Meanwhile, our attention was fixed on the Donald Trump Show. We were busy praising him, or ridiculing him, or defending him against ridicule. We were busy analyzing his wife’s speech in minute detail, picking out passages that might have been plagiarized. We were comparing people we like with people we don’t like, in many cases without a shred of humility or compassion or respect or even recognition that they are, like us, human. They, like us, could die in a storm in the wilderness.

I won’t pretend the presidential election doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal. It probably matters more than the life of one woman and one teenage boy, except to their families.

But if I had to choose whether to spend my life helping young men develop into leaders of character or helping tear down political candidates I don’t like, if I had to choose between teaching young people how to be good and condemning old people for not agreeing with me, if I had to choose between trekking into uncivilized wilderness or watching our political process become more and more uncivilized with every election–I know which route I would choose. Even at the risk of my life.

Come to think of it, I do have to choose. Come to think of it, so do you.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.