Friday, April 10, 2015

Credit Unions: Who Are You Leaving Behind....

The Smokies !!
The first thing which concerned me about the group was that everyone looked exceptionally fit and healthy. That observation alone should have been sufficient warning of a potential problem in the making. But, in life, at critical junctures; all too often, the very obvious is – unfortunately – much less than.

Our beshorted, knobby-kneed, intrepid little band had gathered in the lobby of a Gatlinburg hotel with ambitions of venturing up into the Smokies. We all had arrived an hour east of Knoxville to attend a conference.   The meeting brochure had announced “a hike of moderate difficulty into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park”, as a featured recreational event.   No golf, no tennis, no theme park tour; just a hike!  Finding that idea to be both darkly humorous and wildly outrageous, I signed up immediately.  The logic seemed infallible and compelling at the time.

My other major concern about the group was their very apparent youthfulness. They were much like a pack of playful puppies, jumping and bobbing up and down with excitement – downright frisky! Felt like petting a few on the top of the head to calm them down, but judiciously held back. Did wonder if it had ever occurred to them that older folks pack differently for hikes than younger folks. They were most concerned about the right shoes and gear, granola bars and chic sunglasses. I had focused on packing my Blue Cross/Blue Shield card, glycerine tablets, and living will – the truly important stuff that might be needed.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not that old yet, but, I am now over forty. Well, actually I’m forty-eleven or forty-twenty or..., but then again, who’s counting?

East "T"....
Off we went! If you’ve never seen East Tennessee in October, add it to your list. The Fall quilt of leaves, spread over the rumpled bed of mountains, is a dazzle! You can actually visualize first hand the inadequacy of adjectives such as orange, red, yellow, and green. And, fully appreciate the truth in vermilion, chartreuse, crimson, fuchsia, scarlet, and burnt sienna. 

Up we went on the trail. It was interesting. Our group quickly divided between those who view hiking (and life) as a destination and those of us who view life (and hiking) as a journey. The difference being much the same as the difference between sex and making love. From my limited experience in affairs of the heart, being in a hurry rarely seems to help; and, usually, it doesn’t hurt to slow down and look around a bit. ‘Course that too may have something to do with being in the second or third decade of your 40's!

Whoa right there....
John Hooper – from Baton Rouge and Betsy’s longtime roommate – and I brought up the rear.  After a couple of miles, we puffed to a stop next to a rounded-rock stream. We both readily agreed that if this were a hike “of moderate difficulty” that the next step up must be the Bataan Death March. We chatted a good bit about John’s recent bypass surgery and how the veins in your leg are used for the grafts. Evidently, the surgeons start by removing veins from your ankle and keep moving up the leg as additional grafts are needed.  Veins for the fifth graft had come from well above the knee in John’s leg. He seemed much relieved that they had not had to go further.

After a bit, John waxed philosophical about the hike, the surgery, and his nine (soon to be ten!) grandchildren. He glanced on ahead at the ever steepening path and concluded that seeing those grandchildren again was far more important than finishing this tortuous trial. He decided to head back. I found no fault in his decision. It made me think about the risk, too. I considered my five children, four of whom were at that time teenagers. I decided to press on!

Well, as the saying goes, to make a short story short, it was an extremely strenuous walk! I did, however, four miles later, eventually reach the mountain top. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty effort. But, what was, by far, most remarkable about the hike, occurred on the walk back down.  I followed for quite some time two women who were descending briskly. Both were highly experienced hikers – you can always tell by the inverted bowling pin shape of the calf muscles!

Quite amazingly, one woman was toting an extra large backpack and a pretty good size young ‘un with blonde moppet hair. The youngster had obviously “given out” from the exertion and had whined her way into a hitchhike, back down at Mom’s expense. This was no small child mind you; her legs were long and lanky, dangling well down towards the ground. Such sights always make me question the unfailing love of mothers for their children. Personally, I would have lovingly discussed darkness, abandonment, and black bears with the brat. I might even have tried to work directly on her self esteem with a limber green switch. But, then again I’m not a mother; well, at least not of that particular kind.

As I drew closer and prepared to pass, something didn’t seem to be quite right. It was one of those moments where your eyes have noted an anomaly, but your mind has not yet deciphered the message. Call it instinct or intuition; it’s that space in time between awareness and understanding; between perception and reality; between selfishness and humility.

What “wasn’t quite right” was that the “brat”, the whining moppet, was not a child, but a full grown woman. It was now clear that her legs were entirely useless and that her trip up and down the mountain was the result of careful thought, inspiration, and a commitment of the soul by her friends.  They beamed as they stepped aside to let me by; she laughingly challenged: “What’s your hurry? Guess you’re trying to race are you!?”  She owned me at that point.

As I walked on down, I did wonder what I had
done – that day, that week, that month, that year, this life – which was more important than what those three women were doing that afternoon on a mountainside in Tennessee. Wondered if I had ever cared about anything or anyone that much; whether anyone had cared that much about me? Wondered where the caring starts? Wondered why it so often stops?  
The rest of the walk back down was troubling, a journey of the soul...

Quixotic... Flailing at Windmills?
There are certainly many difficult mountains for credit unions to climb these days. Many difficult choices to make. Is what you’re doing really important any longer? Does it matter to you? 

Where are you going?  Who are you taking with you? Who are you leaving behind....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln