Roll up your sleeves

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” 
– Teddy Roosevelt

The mountain was steep. Pictures do not do this country justice. I was tired. My legs hurt. I was contemplating giving up and going home. The photographer in this picture would tell the trail “goodbye” at the end of this day. We were spent. Second wind was on its 7th leg during this picture.

People are tough. Dealing with people is even worse. If you look at the constant bickering on social media, the news and pretty much everywhere; folks are the worse. Especially those that disagree with us and even more so those that are adamantly opposed to our core beliefs. Right?

Back of this, my wife and I were having dinner with some friends at their home. While we were eating the topic came up of “dealing with people”, as with any topic, opinions were voiced. My friend is a pastor, hes one of my pastors, and one of the finest folks I know. I was voicing my concern over certain folks and their behavior and he said something that shook me and caused me to reflect. He said “Its easy for folks to sit on the sidelines and judge or hate. Its hard to roll up your sleeves and jump in with folks and show them Christ love.” I left that evening and that statement, that truth, was on my mind that evening and the following few days. The conviction I felt was one that there is no guessing or evaluating what it means; you know exactly how you are to respond. And it is not easy. Remotely.

See, I have always been what some may deem as “mouthy” or “unable to keep my opinion to myself” or “confrontational”. I guess sub-consciously I thought this was how I made my name? How I showed that I was someone to be reckoned with? Don’t know. All I do know, is that I have done way more damage than good with it. I have ostracized folks, belittled those I don’t agree with and ultimately driven a wedge between myself and others. And here’s the thing; its not just with folks who disagree with hunting. Its not just with folks who disagree with me on conservation issues and topics such as forestry and sustainable silvicultural practices. Its with folks who also hunt, also fish, also care. My abrasiveness and the need to be “right” has cost so much, that I have no way to measure it. I can assume what that cost came to, and I honestly think I am underestimating it. The truth is, there are a lot of road blocks and stumbling blocks that I have experienced, and the overwhelming majority is self-induced.

It is easy to sit and disagree. I am a Carolina fan. I LOVE bashing Duke University in any way shape or form. It is fun, and the argument could be made that it is also “divine”. Seriously though, bashing a sports team is a stretch from what I am attempting to address, but the concept and example are easy to see. How much fun is it to hate on SEC Football teams? Its a somewhat uniting and develops a sense of belonging with folks who think and act like you. Its natural, and I get it. I am overly guilty of it. “Its easy for folks to sit on the sideline and judge and hate”, changes things if we added “fun and” right before “easy”…

Over the past few months I have been wrestling with working with or dealing with folks that I am against, or they are against me.. I would find myself finding ways to justify not liking them and not pursuing engaging with them at all. But then I kept hearing the statement Johnathan made at dinner that night. It’s hard to roll up your sleeves. It’s hard to get in there.  But, I had fine examples of how to do this. How to make it work. How to get in, regardless of how difficult something may be, or that people will be opposed to me and my ideas. There were and still are many folks who have poured into me and taken the time to show me what that lookalike. One of the finest men I have ever known, does it quite a bit. The gentlemens name is David. He represents hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiast with many folks who would love nothing more than hunting to cease to exist, as well as many other facets of our life. After one meeting I attended with David, I left very frustrated as we were yet again disregarded and looked over when it came time for us to talk in these little break out groups. David listened to me and when I said “I don’t know David. Why do we keep doing this? No one listens, and if you make a suggestion they do not agree with, they accuse you of all sorts off stuff.” he responded with “That table we just left has a lot of seats. We will not agree on everything.. But they have a seat and so do we. Its on us if something goes wrong. We have just as much right to that seat as they do. If we don’t advocate for wildlife and those of us who pursue them, who will?” I chalked that up as a “that’s his opinion, that’s what he wants to do, not mine” David continues to stay the course. He also continued to pour in and model what I needed to see and how I needed to be. Eventually I saw the errors in my ignorance and starting stepping in the footsteps he and others laid out. I often wonder how much further we would be on some of our stuff if I hadn’t been so headstrong? Not in the sense of my opinion being something to sway many things, but how I portrayed myself and how that reflected to others?

I then began to look at examples in the Bible of how to put rolling up our sleeves into action. I don’t know if you are a believer, but I am here to tell you; If you want to look at examples of getting amongst it and working with others, that’s a fine place to start. It’s actually the best place to start. Been easy if the Man from Galilee just sat with others and judged. Been easy to condemn and disenfranchise and elevate Himself in the circles of folks who knew the Scripture like he did. But He didn’t. He rolled up His sleeves, in the ultimate way. And how do I honor Him by sitting on the sidelines ridiculing and keeping barriers? I don’t.  

Glad I didn’t give up. Glad we stayed the course. Our first archery elk hunt on public land. 

So, I am working on and will continue to work on keeping my sleeves rolled up. That means I’ll keep going to the table. Ill do my best to be the change I wish to see. I’ll do my absolute best to sit and hear your views and thoughts. I’ll do my part to have discourse and discussion in order to figure out the best way to take care of our resource.. Are we going to agree on everything? Negative. Do I expect you to do as I do on the issues? No. Does that mean we cannot have discourse and discussion? No. How else are we going to address or fix anything if we just stay in our own echo chambers?

It is my belief that if I want anything to change, or my views to be represented, or my voice to be heard; it is on me to make that happen. The only way to do that, is rolling up my sleeves and sitting at the table. It is going to be hard, it is going to be tough, it is going to feel like more defeats than victories. It is probably not going to get any recognition. It is probably going to be disregarded by many of the talking heads. It will probably alienate you politically. But, my hope is it will make it better for those that follow. To the vast majority of folks who have shown me this, I appreciate it.

I know this will probably be viewed as some form of concession or some crazy Xennial rant. And that’s ok. Maybe it is odd and weird and different. And it will be viewed as a “koomxbya, feel good, everybody get along” spill.Thats cool, you can think that all day. A vast majority of the US population still thinks that a political party has their best interest in mind….. so I’m in good company.

Get in the Arena, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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