When the Southeast Regional Conference ended last week, Gary and I headed up the scenic chairlift on Mount Harrison. We were headed toward what we had been promised was “the greatest view in the Smokies that you can get without hiking.”
If you look at the photo to the right, you can see that it is no short climb to top of Mount Harrison. Moreover, that photo was taken after we had already enjoyed a ten-minute cable car ride up the mountain and nearly half of our peak-bound chairlift trip.
Although Mount Harrison is 2,200 feet above Gatlinburg, our journey to the top was pretty easy. As we went up though, I thought about the first trailblazer to climb to the top of Mount Harrison.
That first trailblazer – whoever they were – had to make it to the top of the mountain through uncharted forest, river, wildlife, and other hazards. Getting to the top before the addition of cable cars, chairlifts, and maps of the mountain was no easy feat.
And that’s the thing about blazing a trail; it isn’t easy. You might have some idea of what lies at the end of your journey, but there’s little guarantee that you’ll end up exactly where you expect. And while you might have some idea of your final destination, you don’t know what hazards you may run into while you work your way there.
But, when you finally reach the end of your journey, you can come back down the mountain and tell others that they too can get to the top of the mountain. Then they will climb the mountain and return with their own ideas of how to improve the journey to the top. That cycle continues until the day when getting to the top of the mountain is easy, and there are cable cars, chair lifts, and mountain maps.
Trailblazing isn’t easy, but its thanks to the trailblazers of this world that we are able to know that we can reach the peaks of mountains and that together was can improve the journey to the top for those who follow.
That’s why it’s such an honor to be able to participate in United Way conferences. Conferences facilitate the exchange of ideas and experience, which ultimately makes everyone’s journey up whatever mountain they’re facing just a little bit easier.
We are thankful that we had the opportunity not just to share our Issue Focus expertise at SERC 2018, but also that we had the chance to hear and learn from so many United Ways that are changing their communities in creative, new ways. We’re grateful to have spent last week hearing and sharing stories of paths forged and mountains conquered.
Of course, we are especially grateful for Anita Barker of United Way of North Carolina. SERC 2018 would not have been possible without all of her hard work in organizing such a great conference. Anita, thank you for creating a space for United Ways to trailblaze together.