June 15, 1997
Location: Casper, Wyoming - Location: 42:52:00N 106:18:45W
Summary: Kathy Stickel's thoughts.
Journal entry: Kathy Stickel writes:
President Thomas S. Monson came and spoke to us today - was he ever on time! A little friendly inspiration is just what we needed right now. It helps for us to be reminded that people know that we're out here and they care about us.
We are not usually so emotionally needy, but the regular handcart crew has been beat to pieces physically and emotionally by this week of marathon after marathon mileage.
We know that we are forsworn to get these carts to the Salt Lake Valley July 22nd come what may, and that we will do. We know that we will get there, and that we'll get there on time. But what it will take from us to get there has yet to be determined.
The walking is hard, and it hurts us, but we love it. Nothing could get any of us to lay down the yoke and go home. I'm not sure what it is about this trek that has gotten such a hold on us, I only know that I wouldn't leave - that I couldn't if I wanted to. It's the same feeling I got when I knew that I would serve as a missionary - I had some good reasons for doing so, but the over-riding factor was that feeling of being "called to the work."
Most of the members of the handcart crew describe a similar compulsion. When asked why we are here doing his, we give the standard answers: we are here to honor our ancestors who crossed the plains; we are here to demonstrate our thanks and support for the sacrifices of people who've paved the way for us, we want to better understand the history of the country; see America close-up, and on and on.
All of those are legitimate feelings that we have, but the primary reason why we are here is simply that we knew that we had to be. I saw a news article about the trip and knew that I had to come. Sarah Robinson was a missionary when she saw a brochure about it and knew that she had to come. Doug Laws, the only member of the regular handcart company who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, saw an ad in AAA magazine and here he is.
We know that there are tens of thousands of people more deserving of being here than we are. But for whatever reason, we were chosen to do this and our lives were orchestrated in such a way as to get us here.
Every day we talk with the daywalkers who come for whatever time they can - be that a day, a weekend or a week. We know that they have just as much love for this effort as we do. We know that to be here is a gift.
A few weekws ago some of us in the regular company noticed that we had become so comfortable with each other that we had been neglecting the people around us who had come to walk a short time on the trail. We decided that there needed to be some changes made, so, rather than feeling that this is OUR trip and the daywalkers are part-time partakers in our experience, we changed our point of view and tried to feel that this wagon train is a moving hotel and that we are the bellhops, here to make sure that every guest has the best possible experience, stays safe, and finds what he or she came for.
Thinking of the trail experience in this way has helped us so much. As we have stretched ourselves to meet the needs of others, we have found our own needs being met in unforseen ways.
Sarah and I (we chaperone handcart #4) were struck yesterday with a strong impression that something is going to go wrong with food delivery, and that we needed to bring supplies. Our money is running low, so we didn't know how to respond. Today a group of people ran up to Sarah, announced themselves to be distant relations, and gave her $40. Which got us bulk amounts of dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, salt, onions, carrots and cereal.
Two days ago the accumulated mileage had so crippled us that we could barely walk. We limped to our cart to fill our water bottles for the next day and found a note from a family that had walked with - inviting us to their hotel to use the whirlpool. As we read the note, a woman I met in council bluffs came to say hello and goodbye - she was on her way home - and conveniently dropped us grateful pedestrians at the hotel.
We haven't extended ourselves to any heroic degree on behalf of the people around us. We just try to talk to them and help them to feel at home and enjoy the day. But thinking about them takes our minds off the pain in our legs.
In the past few weeks since we decided to make a real effort to get to know the daywalkers and support them, we have been so blessed beyond what we could have imagined. We have seen the reality of the gospel principle that we cannot put the Lord in our debt. Whatever small efforts we make toward being better or kinder are rewarded doubly and we find ourselves on the lighter side of the balance again.