Monday, August 7, 2006

An Ode to Exemplary Kindness

Reminder: All names have been changed. I'm not putting them in any sort of bracket or quotation marks, they are disruptive to my posts. If you happen to put two and two together and figure out who any of these people are, great. You'll love them even more after I'm done writing.

I've had many good days in my life. Wonderful and glorious days! Today was the first day in a very long time that I truly did not...

...I did not want to see it end.

Last night I danced till I was nearly dead. I crashed at Beth's house and hit the pillow at 2:30 in the morning. Beth's alarm clock, and my cell phone alarm, both rang at 5 o-clock sharp. Yes, in the morning. In thirty minutes we were dressed, she ate a nutri-grain bar, and we were in my car headed to the church to meet my friend Jason so we could drive an hour North, meet up with more people, and drive another 2 or so hours to gather with many more LDS young single adults in the area and innertube down a river for 2 hours.

Five thirty-five and Jason was still not there. I figured he miscaluculated the time it takes him to get to the church building, which happens often to both of us. I picked up my cell phone to give him a buzz and he got me first. The ring scared the crap out of me.

"Hello Jason! Where are you?"

"I fell asleep after turning off my alarm... I just got out of bed."

"Are you coming or what?"

"It will take me too long to get ready and drive there. You guys will be late."

"Forget being late, do you want to come?"

"Yeah, I really wanted to go."

"We're coming to get you. I'll call back when I'm closer. Get ready fast."

"You don't have to. You'll be late."

"We won't be late. Get ready."

"Ok. Thanks."

Jason was out his door one minute after Beth and I arrived (we timed him). He asked if Beth and I had eaten breakfast. Beth proclaimed her nutri-grain bar as her meal. I admitted to not eating yet. Jason handed me the extra granola bar he had with him. One hour later we met up with three of our friends at the stake center. They were waiting for two more passengers. My friend Kate called and Beth, Jason, and I zoomed to pick her up and head to the tubing adventure (after, of course, Jason and I meticulously shoved all the crap taking up half the back seat into my already full trunk).

Kate had just met Jason today. Beth had just met Kate today. Jason and Beth had met before. I met Kate a year and a half ago, Beth three months ago, and Jason two months ago. The conversation was pretty constant the entire car ride to our destination. Upon exit from the car, we lathered ourselves with sunblock. Jason and I won the "hi-my-skin-is-translucent" award... and proceeded to put even more sunblock on. The four of us traded our tickets for colored bracelets, innertubes, life jackets, and a ride on a white bus to the river.

The time floating down the river was miraculous. We were out there a long time. We got soaked. We laughed. We joked around. Jason and I quickly knew that with sunscreen or not, we were going to look like lobsters. Oh well, it was worth it.

We got separated for a while. Kate and Beth's tubes caught a strong current headed in one direction, and mine and Jason's tubes caught a strong current going the opposite way. The currents flowed around a huge rock formation where a lot of people were out of the water and gonking around. Jason and I figured the two of them were fine and we'd catch them on the other side so we relaxed and let ourselves float wherever we were taken. We encountered some rapids and my tube flew out from under me. I rode the rest of the rapids 2 feet behind my innertube. Ouch, not fun, but hilarious when I finally hit relatively still water. Jason bravely came to my rescue and there I was all smiley. When we didn't meet up with our tubing buddies as we thought we would, we headed to the rocks to see if we could spot them with a higher view point.

Jason must have found a good spot to hop up on the rocks 'cause he was up fast and then disapeared in the search. The rocks were very steep, and slippery. There was no way to get a foothold underwater to propel myself up. Stubborn me, I pulled myself up with just my arms. Jason appeared on top of another big rock and waved to tell me he found our buddies. While waving back I discovered a lot of blood covering my forearm. Oops, sliced up my elbow pretty good when pulling myself out of the water. Didn't hurt, just got all bloody. Now I'm part of the Earth, left a lot of DNA in that river.

Jason came back for his innertube. He wanted me to jump off the rock with him and belly flop onto our tubes. Did I? Heck no! I'm a natural party pooper, it comes easy to me. I turned around put my behind in the middle of the tube, sat down in the water, and we joined up with Kate and Beth just around the bend. The four of us stayed together until we were done floating down the river. It was grand. Warm water, good friends, and a free peanut butter and jelly sandwhich afterwards thanks to whomever was in charge of the institute/young single adult activity.

The writing about this wonderful day has ended. The cyber ink stops here... and begins again here to share with you the day I wish could have continued forever.

Beth is an amazing girl. She is one of my friends that I adore. Adoration doesn't come easily from me. It is a special form of love geared toward those I know are true conquerers and who stand tall even when the world says they stand out a little. Beth stands tall. She is a dedicated college student, extremely familiar with the gospel, and man, you should hear her sing. She sings like an angel, clear and seamless, though she stutters when she speaks. I believe it's a good thing... with Beth I listen better than with some who are perfectly articulate.

From the beginning, Beth and her innertube weren't traveling down the river quite as quickly as the rest of us. Her efforts to paddle just made things worse. Kate, Jason, and I were downstream significantly, effortlessly being carried by the current. I looked at Jason and asked what we should do. He said, "Let's go get her".

We got ourselves upstream to Beth and the four of us grabbed each others' innertubes, hands, feet (whatever was closest) and took off. We made a good effort to travel connected but it wasn't working that great. We let go and Beth floated ahead for a few feet. Jason commented, "If we can't float together, let's just make sure Beth stays in front. We can push her if that's what it takes."

That's exactly what it took. Pushing, pulling, frequently resting, and getting our butts stuck on rocks we may have avoided had we thought only of ourselves. We played musical innertubes when we crossed over large slippery rock formations by foot so that Beth could focus on walking without worrying about juggling something else. After going over rougher waters, we'd all sit up in our tubes and make sure Beth made it through without capsizing. When Beth fell behind after a strong current, Jason would hurry upstream, she'd grab the handle of his innertube, and he'd help her get to where we were bobbing along. It was a grand reunion each time.

Women tend to come complete with a heavy dose of motherly tendancies. We are natural helpers and protectors. I knew Kate and I were going to go back and travel with Beth at the beginning when her innertube decided it was gonna be a pill. No question about that. Though we differ on our opinions about single's cruises, we're two peas in a pod when it comes to how we treat other people. It's the men in my life that I'm always curious about. Hence why I asked Jason at the beginning what we should do. Regardless of his opinion, I was going back for Beth. I was expecting either a.) he'd choose to continue down the river alone and meet up at the end, or b.) he'd wait in a shallow spot until Kate, Beth, and I caught up. I got c.) Totally wow.

From the 5:35 phone call this morning on, Jason demonstrated the most exemplary "oh-my-gosh-does-this-guy-really-exist?" kindness today. I was truly blown away. There are two little things that change empathy to compassion... desire and action. The desire to lift anothers' burdens and then embarking to do so. An empathetic guy would notice Beth a little behind and recognize that it probably sucks being the last one all separated from the original group of tubers. He'd figure she'd eventually catch up, all is well.

A compassionate guy... did more today.

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