I believe that the outdoors is life’s greatest classroom

Steven - Stamford, Connecticut
Entered on September 3, 2008

This I Believe

I believe that the outdoors is life’s greatest classroom. If you have seen the movie “Enemy at the Gates” you should remember the opening scene where our hero, then at a younger age, is with his grandfather braving the cold in the wilderness. The young boy is holding a rifle aimed at a wolf that is ready to devour the horse the two men rode in on. The boy has one shot, he misses.

I came to this realization soon after high school; I was finally old enough to appreciate the values I picked up from doing my various outdoor activities because I was now in that time in my life when I had to apply such traits a s self reliance and responsibility to my life.

I was exposed to the outdoors at a young age through my Father’s influence as well as various activities such as Boy scouts and sports.

I found that being outdoors that I could put the world’s problems behind me and open myself up in order to learn these important lessons or just learn more about myself.

There have been many times when I’d either go fishing or shooting with my dad or even golfing with my grandfather where, for a short time, we were able to leave the material world and its problems for someone else to deal with. This allowed me to learn more important lessons in my life such as commitment, patience, self reliance, respect and responsibility. Parents’ may preach these virtues to their kids but until they are tested they are not appreciated. The one testing ground that I know of is the great outdoors.

While I was a Boy Scout I did not only learn wilderness survival skills but it built character by making you deal with situations. We learned trust by having different people bringing the different ingredients we needed in order to cook on our trips. If someone did not bring something you had to make due. It was the same lesson if you forgot a piece of your own equipment at home you had to somehow manage the weekend without it. The best thing our leaders did was not to try and fix the situation but make us learn from it. And trust me on those cold winter days camping in the snow a sleeping bag without a liner is not very warm. These lessons helped to develop a strong sense of self reliance which I rely heavily on these days in college living on my own without my parents.

Besides Boy Scouts I also participate in trap shooting and other shooting sports. Here I learned a different type of responsibility. By handling a tool that has the potential to take someone’s life you need to learn respect for human life as well as take responsibility for your actions with the firearm. I believe this teaches one to be careful with any power you may possess. With a gun you have the power to either injure or kill someone, but when handled correctly it is a tool like any other. This same concept could be applied to a managerial position, if abused it could be deadly for someone’s career or life, possibly your own, but if handled properly you could be a useful asset just like the gun.

Through doing these activities I believe the wilderness can lead a person to inner peace and wisdom. I remember going through grade school learning how the Native Americans would send a young man venturing off into the woods and cannot return until they had an epiphany or “a vision quest” as they called it. During their time out there they learn more about themselves by looking into their souls in order to find their spiritual direction in life. They learn to have the strength to survive on their own and after going through this right of passage they come back to their tribe a man. This sounds a lot like the boy I mentioned before in “Enemy at the Gates.”

Although the boy misses his one shot at the wolf he learns many valuable lessons in that one moment. The boy learns from his grandfather who is passing down his valuable wisdom down to the boy seconds before he takes his shot. By taking the shot at the wolf the boy learns to have confidence in his actions no matter what the outcome may be or what type of situation you are in. He also learns to deal with failure and its consequences. The boy grows up not only to be a sharpshooter in the Russian Army but a hero for an entire nation in a time of crisis, largely in part to the character building that occurred in the wilderness that fateful day.

Unfortunately today with technologies such as video games, computers and TV people tend to stay inside more and more. It seems like today’s youth is missing out on these life lessons but instead find comfort in these false realities and can’t build the character necessary to be productive citizens in society. Now don’t get me wrong I play videogames and all that other stuff as well but with out the teachings of the outdoors I would not be who I am today. Because the outdoors forces us to challenge our beliefs and ways of thinking we are forced to learn some of life’s simple lessons such and that makes me believe that the outdoors is the greatest classroom.