Last Friday, a team of RTers had the opportunity to spend a brisk, beautiful fall day at Great Circle's Meramec Valley Learning Ranch in Steelville, MO. If you're not familiar with Great Circle, it's a remarkable organization whose mission is "to reshape vulnerable lives through a community of partners, teachers and leaders, giving children and families the confidence to create bright futures." The ranch is a very special place, and a very special way to learn and apply life lessons in the great outdoors.
Our host that day was Brett, and so much of what he taught us transcends what we had come to expect. When you see and hear first-hand the great work being done by Great Circle for children and families in difficult circumstances, it puts the relative importance of headlines and Facebook posts in their proper perspective.
So, when we left the classroom part of our visit for a tour of the ranch we were genuinely inspired, and humbled.
Brett then showed us all of the incredible facilities they have to enable physical accomplishment and teamwork, including a swimming lake, tee-pees, high-flying rope and climbing walls - even zip lines. We took all of it in from the safety of Brett's truck, knowing that he and we didn't have the time to engage in any of those activities.
Then we were taken to the proverbial woodshed in the form of an old barn they've recently converted for indoor activities during the winter months. Hanging off the outside of the barn was a newly installed custom slide.
He invited (or maybe incited) us to take the plunge "if you want to." Peering straight down from the second floor barn loft at the specter of a slide that appeared to drop completely vertically-with no handles or other apparatus to grab onto-seemed too much for us. We initially demurred with a slightly quavering "maybe some other time."
And then it occurred to us that we'd spent this incredible day learning how simple, straight-forward challenges like these can help people a lot less fortunate than we are to learn to trust and gain self-respect, but here we were unwilling to take the plunge they're asked to take. With that, we each leapt off with hearts in our throats and were all the better for it by the time our bottoms hit the slide below.
While we set out that day to learn the ways we could help them, in the end, it taught us as much about ourselves. Somehow, I think Brett probably knew that would happen.
It's amazing what a ride on a barn slide can teach you.