In this series, I’m writing about life lessons that I learned while hiking part of the Appalachian Trail with my son and two friends. This “Life Lesson” is about preparation.
We did very little to prepare for this hike. My son and I bought new hiking boots (actually he bought hiking shoes), and we walked around in them for a few days to break them in. We also borrowed some equipment: backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, camp stoves, etc. We bought some food. Also, our wives bought us some hiking pants from REI (where another friend works), which turned out to be awesome for our hike!
My friend bought a couple of trail guide books that we used to prepare as well. We read through the introductory material about the Appalachian Trail, hiking, and camping in general, and we read through the parts of the book that detailed the trail that we planned to hike. This was the extent of our preparation.
Looking back, I would have walked several miles a day for a few days leading up to our trip. I especially would have looked for a section with steep ascents and descents to prepare my leg muscles for the upcoming ordeal. I think this would have been the most important preparation for hiking and camping.
What did this preparation – or lack of preparation – teach me about life? Well, first of all, I often prepare for life in the wrong way. As much as education is important, education does not really prepare someone for life. In the same way, neither obtaining possessions nor reading about life prepares someone to actually live life.
What’s the best preparation for living life? Actually living. I realize that this sounds simple, but its something that I need to keep in mind. If I want to learn to do something, I can read and study about it, but I won’t truly learn it until I do it. For example, last year I knew that God was leading me toward working more closely with the poor. I read a couple of books about serving the poor. But, I didn’t really learn about the joys and struggles of working with the poor until I actually started doing it.
Also, and in a secondary sense, I learned the importance of having relationships with people who had already done it – who had already lived through what I was living through. In my hiking / camping example, several friends loaned us equipment, showed us how to use the equipment, and gave us tips for the trip. Another friend who works at REI helped us with supplies, finding water, etc. Notice, these people were helpful because they had already done it! They had already been hiking and camping over several days like we were planning to do.
Experience is a very important part of preparation for life – both our own experience and the experience of those around us. If we want to prepare for life, we need to learn from those who are actually living life, and we need to learn as we live life ourselves. In other words, there’s nothing like “on-the-job-training”.
What do you think is the best preparation for life?