"Mom, we are not getting anywhere!"
Those were the words of the seven-year-old boy who was sitting behind me on the airplane the other day. We were about an hour into the flight. When the plane took off, he was so excited because the engines were roaring and our speed was evident by the fact that things were flashing by his window. The squeals of, "We're flying!" were shared with all of us with great glee.
The excitement quickly turned to fidgeting. He fussed and kicked the back of my seat, opened and shut the tray repeatedly up and down for an hour. Suddenly, there was momentary silence. That's when I heard him exclaim, "Mom, we are not getting anywhere!"
I noticed that we had slowed down and dropped in elevation. However, as I looked out the window to share his view, I had to smile. No longer did you hear the roar of the engines. It was true — things on the ground appeared not to be moving. It did, in fact, feel like we weren't going anywhere. We seemed to be suspended in space and time. That feeling was especially noticeable when compared to driving a car close to the ground, where you constantly feel the sensation of speed and movement. In a car, you are in the moment, in control, and you receive physical clues of speed and progress.
I suddenly realized, "Aren't we all like this little boy sitting behind me?" It is true that when I am "closer to the ground" and involved in the tasks and details, I feel like I am really getting somewhere — whether I am or not. The adrenaline provides a sensation of speed and accomplishment. Yet, often, the real progress made may be like the comparison between a car and a plane. A plane gives you a meta-view of your destination, and although at times it may feel slower, your ability to stay on point and "in the air" means you will travel greater distances in less time than when in that car.
What is the real illusion — speed and frenzy when close to the ground, or the sensation of suspended anticipation while traveling great distances? I had to chuckle because the little boy was right — when we are keeping our eye on the higher goal, it often feels like we aren't getting anywhere. Come to think of it, some of us even start kicking the seat of the person in front of us in frustration. That little boy was brilliant — it is not always easy to fly at 35,000 feet, especially when most of us don't even get to look out the front window! Like it was for that little boy, the launch can be a thrill, but having the endurance to land the plane at a new destination is daunting.
There was another funny turn of events about three minutes after the boy declared his discovery. The captain came on the intercom and told us the oxygen in the pilot's cabin had been dropping and was now down to zero. He stated, for obvious reasons, we were going to have to make an emergency landing. Privately, I hoped he could hold his breath that long. Yet, somehow, this turn of events also served as an analogy for me. ACA leaders who are working hard to make a positive change in the world can grow weary from time to time. You, as counselors and leaders, can and do grow fatigued while working to make a positive change in the lives of your campers. All of us, at one point or another, feel underappreciated or sense someone is "kicking the back of our seat." My suggestion to all of us when we find we are lacking "oxygen" is to sit down momentarily — refuel, regroup, and reenergize — in order to take off again and complete our journey. It is important to remember the vision achieved is worth the journey completed.
Have a wonderful summer at camp and know that you can make a positive difference in the lives of your campers.
Published in the 2011 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.