By Steve Schwartz …This summer while following the front bumper of my Jeep to explore what I thought was a new-to-me mountain forest track, I suddenly I realized that I had been in this place before. Instantly I remembered when. And a deluge of somewhere-stored, vivid childhood memories caused this now quiet forest to come alive with the decades-ago activities of the four people who make up the family I grew up in.
It was Memorial Day weekend. I think I was 9 and my brother Joe was 7. The school year had just come to an end and we both were advocating for some summer adventure, specifically camping. I mention this to absolve my innocent parents of responsibility in the events described below, as a 9 and a 7-year-old highjacked our parents’ four-day holiday weekend.
Dad had recently acquired a used 1953 Chevy pickup to drive to work. It came with a homemade wood frame, canvas covered topper over the pickup bed. The perfect off-road camping vehicle. Our family already possessed some of the necessary outdoors equipment—four sleeping bags, a two-burner gas camp stove, and a cabinet Dad had cleverly constructed with compartments for a cast iron griddle, cooking pans, and utensils. A quick shopping trip provided our last requirement–a tent for shelter.
Mom planned the menu and packed the food. We loaded everything in the back of the truck. The four of us squeezed into the seat, me with a leg on each side of the gear shift. And we were off for uninterrupted mountain fun. Not.
When we arrived at a likely camp site, we saw that a considerable amount of the winter’s abundant snowfall was preserved in sporadic 2 to 5-foot-high melting drifts all over the mountain. Choosing a less muddy patch of ground, it required all four of us, not always in the best of humor, to pitch the tent. That night between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. we found that it was not a tent, but a walk-in human freezer. For the next two nights we slept, not “like a log,” but like four logs piled in the back of the pickup. On the inside of the pile, you couldn’t wiggle. On the outside, you were wedged against 20-degree cold steel.
As an adult, about 30 years later, I attended a marriage and family seminar. One of the presenters, Gary Smalley, described interviews done with strong, healthy families. Most of these families had something in common that made them strong–doing a shared activity. The number one shared activity they listed was camping. One reason camping made them strong was having to overcome adversity.*
On our frozen weekend, my parents quickly learned all they needed to know about adversity making us a close family. We seldom camped all together again. However, my brother and I were slow learners. And do we have some camping tales for you!
Experiencing hardships and then overcoming them together is an essential life lesson, not only for every birth family, but for every re-birth family, for my church and yours. I wish you God’s blessings as you become stronger living this adventure.
—Steve Schwarz most appreciates seeing God at work when out-of-doors and in the lives of people. He currently enjoys doing both, being part-time retired and part-time pastor in Delta, Colorado.