Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Encouragement and the whipping of oxen

I often wonder what it was like during the Pioneer time, when people migrated in wagons across America, through wild territory, just to civilize it. How did they maintain their energy to journey across the plains with only the vague intent to turn some rocky ground into a garden, and build a homestead; or mine (or pan) for riches. Early America must have been an encouraging place to live.
When the road gets bumpy, I like to admire the Pioneers’ willingness to live in a tent on the wind beaten prairie and wash their nasty britches in a cold stream, just to get to the middle of nowhere, and build a hut out of tin cans. They were guaranteed hardship and they still thought it was worth the effort. If they can do it so can I.
When my road gets rough I cannot help but wonder what would encourage those pioneer people get up and whip their oxen, forward, when they were beat down. Was there a bigger sense of togetherness in the pursuit of happiness?
Now a day, a person might say, “You want to live in a crappy tent, wash your britches in a stream while you cross 5,000 miles of wasteland to do what? You want to build a cabin and a barn and live off the land? We have a house and a barn right here. Sure. Let me throw in some Ocean Front Property in Arizona too. Go get a job.”
In pioneer times would it go more like this?
“I hear there is a lot of opportunity out West. That is a long trip. We will all go, and the cow. We will lean on each other along the way. And when we get there, we will have more hands to build that house you always dreamed of.”
I really do not know. I was not there. I only dress in pioneer clothes, and pretend. Certainly, there must have been a lot of encouragement, for people to go to such effort. The must have felt confident that if they got in trouble, a kind stranger would help them.
Did you know people left their homes open when they went to town, and stocked with provisions in case somebody was in need while they were not there to take them in.  They did this because they knew they might be in need someday. It was enough.
I have had hardships on my own pioneer journey. I have actual experience in lost and eating out of somebody else’s cabin. I was, and am still as grateful as any wayward pioneer must have been when he stumbled upon a warm cabin with provisions. I might have died without it.
However, it was not the most proud moment of my life. I did not want to, or expect to stay that long. And, once I was able to get my wagon on the road again, it was empty an encouraging crew. The wagon was damaged and squeaks in judgment with every bump, “you screwed up, you screwed up.” The guy and the cow died and I have been surviving on Jack Rabbit.
This blog is meant to be a positive place, so I will wrap up my dismay over this soon. I cannot go back and get my crew, some are dead; others scattered to the wind. Besides, the past is the past and my course is set.
But, encouragement seems so scarce to me. I know I had it when I began the journey. I know I have inside me still, because I put dirty boots on and whip oxen, forever forward.
I can see how, when it is absent in our relationships, we feel alone, which leads to feeling judged. I hope this trend to pass judgment to others instead of encouragement does not eventually cripple the very things that made us American in the first place. Where is that sense of that togetherness in the pursuit of happiness that the Pioneers must have felt? 
I know when my wagon starts the “you screwed up, you screwed up” squeak; it tears away at my resolve and cuts down my hope. Without encouragement, it is hard to put on the dirty boots and whip those oxen forward. When I hear words of encouragement it drowns out the constant squeak of judgment--and I can't wait to get up in the morning just to whip those oxen!
We do not always get across rivers and over bumps alone. After we fail, suffer or loose our way, it is almost impossible to keep going without encouragement. Give it, if you can. It should be enough that you might need some, someday. And leave more of your judgment to the man upstairs, he’s the only one who knows the whole story anyways. Goodnight, all.
April 27, 2011

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