Better Than You Found It

I grew up camping and hiking with my family along the Appalachian Trail. Along the trail in various places, you’ll find log lean-to shelters for hikers to sleep in. It saves the hikers having to find tent spots every night, and it saves the environment from the impact of thousands of people every year clearing places to pitch a tent alongside the trail.

Trail shelters require upkeep. Some upkeep tasks are pretty intensive, and require a work crew to carry in tools and materials. Others are pretty easy; you just have to take the time to do them. Mom and Dad didn’t just raise us to clean up after ourselves; they raised us to leave the shelter better than we found it. Muddy footprints would be removed; sleeping areas would be swept clean, and such, of course, but we went further than that. Perhaps an extra roll of TP left in the outhouse. Maybe there was no firewood when we got there, and we had to go cut our own, but when we left, we’d leave a pile of wood, neatly stacked and ready for the next guest. Perhaps one of the ropes for hanging packs was fraying, and we’d replace it.

Approach your training partner in the same way. Your job is not simply to do no harm. Your job is to leave your partner better than you found him or her. Take the time after practice to massage out that cramped muscle. Treat that bruise. Share a little knowledge about this or that. Speak a blessing over your partner.

What we do is inherently risky; there will be days when we all limp home nursing a collection of bruises. That’s fine. But don’t let your partners limp home unhappy and unblessed. Treat what can be treated; heal what can be healed. Bind up wounds, mend broken hearts, do the best that you can do to send your partners home relaxed, full, and at peace.

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