I love nature. As a child my nature was the ski slopes of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado. Later, it became the rock outcroppings of Wyoming and the mountains of the Rockies and Sierra Nevada. And now, in my middle years, it is the leafy, shady trails of southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. Whether on skis, bike, or boots I have spent countless hours immersed in nature.
And it never scared me, not once. Not the time we were caught, exposed, on the side of Mt Elbert in a lightening storm; or on Long’s Peak holding on to an ice axe as Dan dangled at the end of our climbing rope and my dislocated shoulder was the thing keeping us from falling; and not when I sailed off the trail into the woods on my mountain bike and had to replace most of the front end of the bike. It never scared me. Because nature has no malice.
Malice is only present where people are present. Malice is the desire to inflict harm on someone. Nature does not have desires nor intent. Weather happens because of fluctuations in atmospheric energy and moisture. In dangerous situations, the trees, rocks and animals don’t take sides.
Malicious people scare me. And my fear manifests itself as anger and a desire to fight back. I abhor bullies and have found myself in the principal’s office on more than one occasion because of it. My loathing of bullies extends to Nicaragua, where an American landowner has finally allowed us to purchase some land on which to build homes for the plantation workers that pick his coffee beans.
This time though, I won’t end up in a principal’s office. This time I have a chance to celebrate a group that made this a reality. National Avenue Christian Church has a long history of finding ways to make the world a better place for others less fortunate. This remarkable group has also opened its arms to me and my family, supporting us through these trying months as Kim fights to rid her body of cancer. Your love envelops people no matter where they are, whether part of the congregation or in a tin shack on the slopes of a mountain in a poverty-stricken part of Latin America.
What I am slowly, stubbornly, learning is that bullies don’t have to be fought with fists; that the response to a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be anger. What I am learning is that malice can be tempered with love. Nature may not care whether dear friends die in an avalanche or that a mountain biker is injured crashing into a tree. But people do.
I have a chance to see the village of Hilapo Dos next month when four of us will travel to Nicaragua to try an help with some of the construction going on in the village on the new property that you purchased. I am excited to see Hilapo Dos, the mountain it sits on and the jungle that surrounds it. I won’t be scared. And I won’t be angry at the injustice (at least not as angry) but I will be awed by your generosity and your need to make the world better.