Lessons my handcart taught me: baggage, experience, perspective

Published: Sunday, July 10 2011 6:00 a.m. MDT

LINDON, Utah — There is a lot that can be learned from a handcart in 48 hours.

Although the Martin’s Cove trek that 200 members of the Lindon 7th Ward held in late June lasted four days, we only had our handcarts for about 48 hours. That’s long enough to log about 10 miles — and scores of experiences.

We all learned a lot. And in talking with others on the trek, I found that we all learned different things. Perhaps if all 200 of us shared what we learned, there would be many more than 200 different lessons. I’m convinced that the Lord knows each of us personally and loves and cares for us individually. He knows our needs and used this handcart experience to teach each of us the lessons we needed to learn. Here are a few of the things my handcart taught me:

Baggage

I thought of the handcart and its baggage as a metaphor for life. Handcarts carried essential water, food and gear. Properly outfitted carts would have everything needed and nothing more. Extra weight makes the journey more difficult.

When it rained, trekkers put on their ponchos. I forgot ours. When we got wet, our fellow pioneers offered us their spares. Out of pride, we declined. It wasn’t raining very hard, and it was our fault for forgetting. When the rain got worse, we accepted their offers. It’s good to have persistent friends.

We carried more water than we needed. Each trek ended with about three or four extra gallons of water. That’s about 30 pounds of extra baggage that slowed us down and wore us out. I wondered, in my life, what essential baggage am I missing? In what ways am I not prepared? What extra baggage am I carrying that is hindering my progress?

For a few hundred yards, only the women and girls pulled the carts up a steep hill. Because a previous activity involved wading through water, I put some things in the cart to stay dry. As my wife, daughter and other women were pulling my cart up the hill, I realized that I had left baggage in the cart that I could have carried myself. They had to work harder because I didn’t take care of my own responsibilities. Again I wondered, what actions or inactions in my life are creating hardships for others? What baggage of mine is making it harder for others to progress?

Experience and perspective

These two lessons are too tightly linked to explain separately. For a short period, individuals were taken from their handcart families and told that they died. They could no longer help those left behind to keep the carts moving. Most were relieved. The sorrow was among those still living. Sometimes both parents were taken, leaving others to care for the children. Sometimes, a parent of a child that had died earlier was taken. The reuniting of parent and child, even in this brief learning experience, was a joyous event.

These and other experiences, though brief, were difficult. Mucking through a smelly swamp only took a few minutes. Trudging up a sandy hill only lasted a few hundred yards. We knew family and friends taken in mock death or pretend illnesses would soon be "made whole." At one point, I pondered how these brief experiences were nice, but were nowhere near what the pioneers suffered. I had wondered earlier how a loving Heavenly Father could allow such hardships to befall his children when they were trying so hard to do what was right.

The two thoughts merged, and I realized that from our Heavenly Father’s perspective, considering the eternal scheme of things, our entire life is nothing more than brief experiences to help us learn and grow. Taking his children home is an act of love, not neglect. Allowing us to struggle without rescuing us from hardships gives us the opportunities we need to grow and develop. These hardships that seem to last forever will end.

My handcart taught me that God is in charge. He loves all of us. He knows each of us. He is with us every step of the way.

Reed Farnsworth is a life member of the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and a descendant of several early pioneers.

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