“’Cause it builds character, that’s why.”
While students don’t always ask the question outright, it clearly lingers in the air around some of the activities we did the first week and some of the things we have woven into the second week of Summer Sessions. Run a timed mile? Why not. Climb a mountain? Sure! Sing a solo? Gulp. Prepare and deliver a public address about one of these words: courage, concern, curiosity, leadership, integrity? What?
The unasked question was around when I was young too. I can remember the stump my father had me remove. It was at least 24 inches across with a root base two or three times that. (There is a slight chance this tree stump has grown in my memory). My father told me we could get it out of the ground but I was pretty sure we couldn’t. I mean, seriously? It was huge. We’d had the back yard re-graded and the stumps removed from there but my father somehow convinced me that the bulldozer couldn’t make it around this side of the house. (I can see now that this might not have been completely the case). The stump though – it was ginormous. I used shovels, axes, pickaxes, mauls, and every muscle in my body to try to dig it out. It just never seemed to have wanted to budge. There was one moment however where in my frustration I jumped on a shovel wedged under a root, and then threw myself on top of the stump; that one moment when something gave and I sensed a wobble. That gave me hope. So, I kept at it. I recall it eventually bobbling around on its last root, working against us as I dulled that axe and that maul against dirt and rocks and sometimes wood. Even now, probably twenty-five years later I can picture the pit that stump came out of and the joy I felt when we moved it. I guess that side of the house did look better without it (not that anyone ever saw that side – it was hidden in the woods). More importantly, I know I felt better having dug that monster out.
I know there were times I wanted to quit and truly believed the stump could not be removed. My father had confidence in me and kept me at the task. I probably even asked the “Why?” question regarding me, the stump, and its removal. It was arduous, but I also realized that like the list above, it built character. I have fond memories of digging out stumps.