96: Mountaintop Mindset

96: Mountaintop Mindset

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Mountaintop Mindset

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

~Maria Robinson

Change, to me, has always been like a cold swimming pool. At first it seems chilling, but once you get used to it, it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Sometimes it’s surprisingly refreshing.

As a seventh grader in Indiana, I thought I had life figured out. I was a cheerleader and a straight-A student, yet I struggled to find my place in the middle school social scene. I did my best to dress the right way, act the right way, and hang out with the right kind of people.

For a while it worked. I was comfortable, and life seemed satisfying. I didn’t feel the need to attend church every Sunday, and participating in youth choir seemed pointless. I only had one real friend at church. Her name was Sara, and she was my sole motivation for trudging through those dreaded double doors for Wednesday evening choir practice.

Every week of the school year, choir was the same: suffer through song after song, repeat the choreography halfheartedly, and escape as soon as possible. The other people in choir were nothing like me. There was a quiet girl who only wore black, an obnoxious boy who wore girls’ pants, a few sixth graders who seemed too terrified to talk, and a small group of kids in my grade whom I thought I knew too well to befriend suddenly after all this time. Not exactly the ideal crowd.

Halfway through the year, I begged my mom to let me quit choir. After some consideration, she said if I finished out the school year, she would let me decide whether or not I wanted to continue with the program. At my second to last choir practice, our music director made a special announcement. She told us about the unprecedented opportunity we would have as middle school students to take part in the high school choir’s West Virginia trip that summer.

The idea was somewhat intriguing. I had never been to West Virginia, yet I didn’t have much of a desire to go until Sara told me she was going. She assured me there would be lots of free time, and we would even get to do some hiking in the mountains, so I agreed to go. There was something inside me, I wasn’t sure what, that made me want to go for reasons even I didn’t understand.

When I left for West Virginia on that humid June morning, I was uncomfortable. The long van ride was hot and sticky. I didn’t know anyone in my assigned van. I hardly knew anyone at church, let alone in choir, so I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. At one point, I remember crying and thinking, “This was a huge mistake.”

That night we arrived at our host church. After everything was unpacked and arranged, we began playing games as a large group. There were about twenty-five of us in grades six through twelve, but everyone was so friendly that the age gap didn’t matter. I noticed how the high school students were close friends. They were always hugging each other and laughing. For the first time, I wanted to be a part of the community they shared, so I began reaching out to the middle school students in my choir I had long overlooked.

I found out that the quiet girl’s name was Suzie and she was an excellent hairstylist. She even helped me curl my hair before our performance. When I talked to the obnoxious boy, I found out that his name was Alex. He had an incredible sense of humor. Even the sixth graders turned out to be wonderful people.

As for the other kids in my grade, they have since become some of my closest friends. Although I originally thought I knew who they were, after I took time to talk to them, I was surprised to see how much we had in common, and, more importantly, how much we could learn from each other.

At the end of the first evening, our choir director instructed us to form a prayer circle.

“When we pray, we hold hands interlocking our fingers,” she said. “This represents that we are filling each other’s weaknesses with our strengths.”

We all had differences, but when we prayed, we were united, and our differences made us stronger. It was a strength I had never known.

As the trip progressed, our choir grew even closer. On our last day in West Virginia, we embarked on that promised hiking trip in the mountains. We drove to a site called Bald Knob, and spent most of our morning struggling along the wooded path to reach the clearing at the mountain’s peak.

The view from the top of Bald Knob was breathtaking. Blue hills rose like waves across the horizon, bending in perfect harmony with the green trees rooted on their backs. Rivers wove through valleys, winding into reservoirs, and tiny houses squatted on sparse patches of flatland in between. It was like looking through God’s eyes and seeing everything as it truly was — small in comparison to Him and His incredible love.

On the ground level, I could only see what was right before my eyes — a limited portion of all that existed. However, hoisted above the trees and towns, I got a clear vision of the whole picture. I finally saw my peers for who they were rather than what I had labeled them.

I thought of all the people around me, people I hadn’t known this time last week and perhaps would never have known had I not come on this trip. I loved them now even though they were different from me. Their differences made them wonderful.

When I came home, I began to see the people around me from a new perspective. I decided to stay in youth choir until the end of my senior year of high school, and I became a leader in my youth group. Before I left for college, my youth pastor told me I should consider a calling in the ministry.

At some point, we all need “mountaintop” experiences. For me, it just happened to take place on an actual mountain. However, what matters most is not the experience itself, but rather maintaining that mountaintop mindset throughout the peaks and valleys of everyday life.

~Kara Marie Hackett

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