Forging New Frontiers

We can learn from pioneers’ examples as they made their way into unknown territory. In July, Utah honors pioneers not only for their difficult trek here, but for their hard work and devotion to establish a new way of life, which opened up many possibilities for all who live here. We appreciate what they built, shaped and created in this beautiful state.

As we are innovators and developers of our own lives, we are like the pioneers of the past. Circumstances often force us to break new ground, hopefully leading the way to a better life. Sometimes we’re unprepared to meet our challenges, but as we initiate faith and courage we discover new frontiers. In this sense, we are modern-day pioneers forming and constructing, with anticipation, something good from a hard or bad situation.

When I reflect on how the pioneers made their trek west, I see wisdom and foresight in their method. I’ve listed five of their practices that could benefit our own journey.

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

1) Gather in groups. The pioneers organized themselves in companies and leaders were assigned to each group. They rallied around each other, helping one another. They needed and depended on each other for survival. They mourned and rejoiced together. It’s hard to imagine a pioneer making the trek on their own. Likewise, I can’t imagine making my journey without the advice, love and support of others. Just as the pioneers circled their wagons for protection at night, we should encircle ourselves by embracing those around us who are willing and wanting to help.

2) Consider advice from a scout or forerunner. Usually, a couple of men rode on horses ahead of the group to explore the best possible route and to help prepare for obstacles that might be in their way. I think of doctors, nurses, therapists and other caregivers who have knowledge or experiences similar to mine as mentors, guides and/or pathfinders. Their advice is valuable when navigating on foreign ground.

3) Allow for respite time. The pioneers walked or rode many miles every day except on Sunday for months. Logically, if they would have traveled on Sunday they may have reached their destination sooner, but they revered the Sabbath Day. I see the wisdom in taking time to rest from our everyday routine, yet it can be hard sometimes to stop and take a break because our eyes are set on the goal and we don’t feel like we have the time to stop. Whether we realize it’s needed or not, we feel refreshed and renewed after respite.

4) Develop courage, faith and hope. I think pioneers had to have these three traits, but did they always have them? Reason tells me no. They were regular human beings, just like you and I, with hardships. I feel fortunate that my difficulties are not like theirs and I appreciate their example of perseverance. I’m encouraged by their dedication as they worked daily developing courage, faith and hope. Hopefully some days were easier than others, when these traits came more naturally.Their endurance developed them into the strong pioneers they were. Likewise we become stronger as we develop courage, faith and hope on the days when it doesn’t come naturally.

5) Your best is good enough. The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. They must have felt despair and frustration from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Giving their best was good enough, so it must be the same for us. It may take longer and be harder than we expected, but if we are persistent in doing and/or giving our best, it will be good enough.

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, we don’t know how or when ours will either, but if we follow their example, we can also forge new frontiers.

What have you learned from the pioneers’ examples?

Hopeful Novices

Feeling submissive to the doctors and nurses around me, I cooperated with everything they asked of me. I was aware my collarbone was broken, not because I felt the pain, but because my right arm hung unnaturally and wouldn’t move. So I cradled it with my left arm to support it. I was helped out of our totally wreaked car to an ambulance which rushed me to Mackay Dee Hospital. I was wheeled into an emergency room where broken glass from the windshield and windows was removed from my face, ears and body. When my shirt was cut open, I saw my black and blue chest and felt the labor of each breath.  Anxiously, I asked every person attending to me if they had received word about my husband yet.  I was hastily taken away in the ambulance before Mark was even pulled from the wreckage.  The murmurings of his death by the crowd of people who came to our aid terrified me. More than anything, I needed reassurance that my belief that he would live was correct.

While lying on the hard, cold x-ray table, Dr. Heiden, the on-call neurologist, interrupted the technician. He informed me that Mark had arrived at the hospital, unconscious and needing immediate surgery to place a shunt to relieve the pressure on the brain. “He’s alive,” I said with a deep sigh of relief.

Dr. Heiden replied, “Yes, but I’m not sure he’ll even make it through surgery.”

I heard the words, but didn’t focus on them. I was rejoicing in the fact that at that moment he was alive. My world had just turned upside down and the best I could do was take one moment at a time.

“Can you sign with your left hand?” Dr. Heiden asked.

“No.” I replied.

“Well then an ‘X’ on the signature line will give consent to do the surgery.”

It was a foreign feeling to have Mark’s life depending on me, but I made my “X” with my left hand and the doctor rushed out the door.

That was the beginning of my intense caregiving journey twenty-three years ago last April. I had no warning or time to prepare for this new way of life. I couldn’t comprehend what my responsibilities would be, but thankfully, I was a hopeful novice willing to learn what was needed to create a brighter future for my family.

Pioneer trek

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

In Utah we have Pioneer Day on July 24th. It’s the day the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. This past week I’ve been thinking of similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Others sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston or New York City, making their journey on foot or in wagons more than 2,370 miles. They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supply diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion and illnesses they would suffer. They were beginners, in a new territory, learning a new way of life. They were hopeful novices, who envisioned themselves building new homes and making a happier future without persecution.

Gratefully, I haven’t seen wolf-pawed graves of the dead or the putrefying carcasses of mules and oxen on my journey. However, worry and heartache has come from the pain and suffering I’ve seen in hospitals and rehab centers. Only faith for improvement keeps one enduring  through such difficult times.

Splintered wrecks of discarded carts or wagons have been absent on my journey, but  I have worried about individuals whose family and friends have abandoned them in their illness. It saddens me and makes me wonder what happened to drive their loved ones away. Was it the ailment itself, or the attitude of the afflicted person, either way, it’s troublesome.

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers traveled in groups or companies. They rallied around each other helping one another in their journey. They needed and depended on each other for survival. There are many stories written of selfless helpful acts that saved another’s life. They mourned  and rejoiced together. Likewise, I appreciate the help and support I get in my journey from friends, family, church and support groups. In return,  I strive to give back the same to those around me.

The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. Despair and frustration must have come from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Today  we can make the drive from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City comfortably in an air-conditioned or heated car in nineteen and a half hours. However, I know the disappointment that comes from unachieved goals and have felt the discouragement from slow progress along with the worry that comes from an uncertain destination.

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, I don’t know how or when mine will either, but like my ancestors  I will carry on with faith and hope in a brighter future.