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Greatness in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Tuesday, November 24th 2015

It is a special thing when we come upon moments of true greatness. I can only define greatness as something spectacular that significantly impacts the soul. It could be the moment your spouse said ‘I do’ or that you met your children for the first time. These moments are what we live for. This summer I experienced greatness while serving as the Tribal Director for the oldest group of campers at Camp Rockmont.

It was the beginning of the summer. The first campers had arrived for ‘Base Camp,’ a week of adventure away from the main campus. Base Camp took place near Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in North America east of the Mississippi River. The campers spent their time hiking, blacksmithing, fly-fishing, rock climbing and mountain biking. One of my responsibilities that week was to lead hikes up a series of steep ridges to a spectacular view of the Black Mountain Range.

One afternoon, I was free and had the opportunity to join campers on a mountain bike trip. The cool thing about hanging out with kids is that they are uninhibited from ‘advanced’ social norms. They are joyous and unjaded by life. To my point, during the van ride to the top of the mountain, we sang Taylor Swift’s song ‘Shake it Off’ at the tops of our lungs. How cool is that?

After getting to the top, we exited, mounted our bikes, and headed down the trail. One of my campers, Spears followed behind me on that first run. The trail was full of rocks, drops, skids, and uh-ohs. With hearts pounding, eyes wide, adrenaline flowing, we all made it to the finish. As we stood high fiving in the parking lot, the rain came.

It was pouring so hard we could barely hear each other shouting, “Do we go again?!” There was no need to pose the question. The faces of Spears and the other campers emanated a resounding “Duh!” So back to the top we went, Spears in the lead, and down again we rolled in the torrential deluge. I came to the end just in enough time to see Spears finish as his bike slid and crashed in the grass. Without knowing anyone was around, Spears jumped up on a stone wall, soaked in mud and blood coming from his knees, and threw his shirt off. Facing the valley below, he screamed with everything he had. It was his proud barbaric yawp.

The rest of the group finished and we all boomed in celebration, in defiance of the rain, in a kind of joy perhaps none of us had ever experienced. In that moment, smiling from ear to ear, we celebrated being alive, dirty, wet, and chaffed! Before me stood boys who were going to remember this moment for the rest of their lives. In that hour, those young men learned something ancient and mysterious about themselves they could not learn on any smartphone or in any classroom. They experienced a moment of greatness that vastly transcended the need for ‘likes’ on social media. This moment was between them and God. It was my summer’s defining moment of greatness.

Whit Miller

Sycamore Tribal Director 2015

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