10 Sep 17

2020 Vision Quest Poster with Quinn and Randy on a winter slope, with the words "Climb Your Mountain" superimposed

By Randy Pierce

While presenting at the Bow Elementary School on September 11, I will deliver our very first copy of this fantastic new poster to the NH school systems. We continue to be incredibly proud of the educational outreach provided by 2020 Vision Quest and now believe it’s become just a little better as we leave behind a physical reminder of our positive message.

For many, our signature image is this fantastic winter hiking photo taken by Justin Sylvester in January 2012. Recently Greg Neault helped coordinate the entire 2020 Vision Quest team in line with his digital creativity to develop this inspirational poster. I believed it would make a tremendously positive impact upon students and staff alike at the many schools we visit and reached out to collaborate with the Bank of New Hampshire. They were enthusiastic to support the positive community benefit and now the finished product has arrived! We are proud of the message shared in the poster and think it will present a potent reminder of many of the messages we share in our educational presentations to schools throughout New Hampshire and beyond.

How can you get a poster? The easiest way is to schedule us to visit your classroom or school. We are proud to be called back repeatedly to visit schools who wish to ensure each year’s students have the opportunity to hear our messages. Whether we’ve been to visit you before or this is our first visit, it’s a simple process. Refer us to the teacher, administrator, or even PTA member responsible for coordinating presentations by sending them the link to our “For Educators.” page. From there, we provide the information and contact information to schedule us for a visit.

We can and will schedule as far in advance as you require, and in fact, as we become steadily more popular, there is considerable advantage to scheduling early. But we’ll always make every attempt to honor every request for a presentation. More than 60,000 students have experienced the benefit and now through our poster collaboration team we think there’s just one more good reason to schedule with us now!

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4 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

Dog having its teeth brushedWhat is this Wags to Whiskers World Record All About?

Save the Date!

Wags to Whiskers Festival
Saturday, September 30
11 am – 3pm

Budweiser Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054

We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!Dog having its teeth brushed

We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.

RSVP now! or get more information on the festival.

Dog having its teeth brushed“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.

First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum  line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.

When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.

Dog having its teeth brushedSo please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!

Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

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27 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Greg Neault, Jenn Uhlmann, and Baby Stella

Greg Neault, Jenn Uhlmann, and Baby Stella

“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.”
–Tibetan Proverb 

I understand more than most the value of some help up the mountain, whether it’s my four-legged guides or the many excellent friends who have chosen to undertake this role in order that we would reach our summits together. Since Autumn cannot reasonably join us due to the elevation range, the team will once again be essential as my primary means for navigating the many trails and adventures along the way. It is, however, far more about the powerful bonding we experience together in these shared experiences that influences the selection of our team.

Much as I did with our Kilimanjaro team, I wanted to introduce you all to the 14-person team who is making the journey to Peru for a series of epic adventures together. We hoped the entire Killy team would be reunited, but part of the reason for treasuring each experience is you can never truly go back. Time changes us all and life often inhibits our ability to reunite. We’ll miss Cathy, Frank, and Maureen from that trip but there are some new friends joining us this time around!

Ryan Prentiss

Ryan Prentiss

Greg Neault is back and headlines the list in part because he has taken the lead in coordinating with United Mice, our guides, to ensure the Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain hike would be the epic experiences we are seeking together.

All of our team owes Greg considerable gratitude for the work he did in planning the foundation–though still it is the kind adventurous spirit which lies at the heart of our friendship for which I’m most enthused to once again adventure around the world with him.

Jennifer Uhlman didn’t make the top 10 last time as she was a late addition to the Killy team. My, has life changed as she and Greg took that point to heart and added their own addition to this world in their daughter Stella!

Talented and adventurous from the start, the friendships have continued to grow even if she refuses to carry me up mountains as she does so well for Stella.

Ryan Prentiss joins us as a closer friend of Greg’s who I first met during a Tough Mudder together at Mt. Snow, VT. Definitely part of the youth movement, he’s presently the only member of the team to not have guided me, though we’ll have opportunity aplenty ahead. One of the treasures of Machu Picchu will likely be getting to better know this member of the team.

Rob Webber

Rob Webber

Rob Webber stands in contrast to Ryan, as I’ve known him since Ryan was 2 years old! It was Rob who got me to the key point on the summit journey of Kilimanjaro and our friendship is long and storied but, as this trip continues to prove, so very far from stagnant!

Jose Acevedo follows Rob in being part of a seemingly endless amount of life adventures and experiences. A person would be fortunate to find one such friend in their life. Like so many of my friends, they both challenge me to be better in all ways while encouraging and appreciating the journey so far and none moreso than Jose and Rob.

Jose and Kristen Acevedo

Jose and Kristen Acevedo

Kristen Acevedo is our roller derby addition and a force of nature, except perhaps at darts! If it takes a trip to Peru to get more time with this lady, then that’s reason enough to travel. Beyond the first week of epic adventure, she helped motivate the bonus week of relaxation in the sacred valley for which I will be eternally grateful! For putting up with her husband and my penchant for crazy adventures I’ll have to just raise her pedestal a little higher.

Michelle Brier is another gift of friendship brought to me by the Mighty Quinn and Autumn. On the long slog off of Kilimanjaro, she was instrumental in helping me with my health challenges but it is the kindness, compassion, and insight which I value above those medical skills. Too far away in NY, it’s another surprise we have to travel across the equator to appreciate quality time together again!

Cat Orza was already the incredibly fit and capable hiker in our midst and now has become the ludicrously fit veteran of many adventures and experiences of her own. She too was originally a connection made by Guiding Eyes and now our friendship held only distant by geography is eager to surpass geography and strategize our next Flat Bread conquest together.

Michelle Brier

Michelle Brier

Robbie Walton is not so stealthily amongst my best friends. I have been appreciative and a little surprised as a series of increasing adventures have become part of our recent repertoire. She guided me for her first ever 5k run and followed by guiding me on the last leg of a relay for her which was my last Boston Marathon qualifier. Stepping up to our recent hikes in preparation for Peru has certainly elevated the achievement in our ongoing quest for Peak Potential.

Brent Walton is the only man to ask me to marry him… to his now-wife Robbie. He’s also the friend who moved into my home to help me when I was put in the wheelchair and struggling to manage everyday tasks. Quiet until the perfect witticism bursts forth to surprise the group, he’s already earned his hiker’s guide patch and ready to take it to the international level.

Loren O’Neil was first introduced to me at the Tough Mudder in LA when she was part of our five-person team for the Oberto Hero of Summer project. Endlessly cheerful and tenacious, I love the spirit of taking on every challenge which she embodies and I’m so appreciative of our steadily growing friendship.

Cat Orza

Cat Orza

George Claborn is the musical insertion in our group and despite not being the amusingly, or rather misunderstood, advertised 6’2″ guide candidate, he is intelligent, kind and fun. I followed him to John Hopkins University after just one meeting, serendipity, and celebrated his birthday with a relay team Marathon but this will no doubt be our largest celebration since Don Felder!

Tracy Pierce is my lovely bride and I saved my best for last. All of my current adventures happen because she matches my desire to experience the world fully. In his writings, Thoreau suggested that we “live deeply and suck out the marrow of life.” Tracy as a partner encourages and, even better, joins me in a myriad of adventures. The reality is that my lack of sight adds complications which she helps me navigate to make for the easiest experience for all of us. In loving the concept of “team” anyway, it is hardly a surprise I particularly love the teamwork of my partner in life!

I join the team as our 14th member, of course. Unlike Kilimanjaro, this expedition isn’t so intensely focused upon the single summit experience. We will summit Rainbow Mountain but there are a host of experiences along this journey, which make it far more about the entirety of the journey. Those are words I believe, though they can be lost in something epic like Kilimanjaro. For me it is always about the people on the adventure and I reflect upon the words with which I closed out my Kilimanjaro team post as once again very appropriate. I’ll apply them here with only modest adjustment:

Loren O'Neil

Loren O’Neil

While we all undoubtedly have our own reasons for undertaking the journey, we have a common purpose which unites us: we are all determined to do our utmost to ensure that all of us have every chance to reach the summit successfully. A common purpose will bring us together and undoubtedly a few challenges along the way may require we communicate and adjust approaches to best benefit the expedition.

Overall though, we are all very committed to making the most of the experience. Every expectation is that the shared aspects of how each of us grows into the team and from the expedition will be part of our success. My hundreds of hikes have taught me to appreciate how much any individual can enrich the experience and how much the experience will bring any group together. While we will share our stories in words, images, and video, only we 14will fully experience this expedition together and understand completely how it transforms all of us. I do wish I could have many others along with us but I’m reminded of William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, and so in the same sentence I would not wish for one person more–for we few, we precious few, are enough.

George Claborn

George Claborn

Robbie and Brent Walton

Robbie and Brent Walton

Randy and Tracy Pierce

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19 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

These are difficult words to write and I have some considerable concerns for the possibility of undesired and unintended responses. I manage risks with the adventures we take as well as with my stewardship of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We encourage people to reach for and achieve their peak potential personally, professionally, and philanthropically and we attempt to lead by example. I am generally proud of the people with whom I surround myself and certainly the team of volunteers with whom I work to make 2020 Vision Quest a successful and positive organization.

I have confronted many instances of disagreement on all levels of my life and experienced many forms of success and failure in approaching these differences. I am rarely short on opinions, and in discussions with my friends candidly and comfortably explore all the volatile topics of dissent with a notion I always want to expand my understanding, maintain my compassion and seek resolutions to the core of issues for the longer term ideally with a healthy approach to any short term crisis.

I believe our country is indeed facing some significant crisis. The aspect of that I hope to address is our approach to disputes. How we resolve our differences seems incredibly broken. All too often we take the most extreme of views, demand a choosing of sides, and narrow our focus to the present urgency and are thus blinded to the reasons which led to those differences. Some of those reasons would likely provide an understanding of where true energy should be placed if we hope to bring about real resolutions. We are so caught up in the “what” we forget to really look for the “why” of things.

I understand the few lines here are a paltry attempt to invoke change. Real change requires people embracing some of the simple ideals involved in better communication. It involves a choice to want real resolution and not simply to be victors in this most dangerous game of spiraling hostility and disagreement.

I share my thoughts in the hope it may resonate for some and my commitment to be open to truly listen as much or more than I share. I commit to seek the “why” behind every “what” that frustrates me. I will remember that kindness and compassion are my compass even as the conviction and strength of my sense of right vs wrong ensures strength of word and action to my approach. I understand there may likely be some who will not accept this intent and I will still strive to give them the chance, even as I will not tolerate their debilitating tactics within my ability to influence. I’d rather understand, educate, and resolve situations–and if I cannot, I will release people from my regular interaction.

I do want to challenge beyond a limited echo chamber of similar beliefs and I think this is reasonable. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and so I’ll practice these approaches in ever expanding circles and encourage all of you to do the same. Ultimately if we do not learn to resolve our differences in healthy ways, then that leaves us only with the escalating tensions of not resolving or the equally awful unhealthy resolution. I know my choice of those three and I’ll work towards healthy resolutions every time and understand the emphasis will be on “work.”

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17 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.

While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.

On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.

Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.

If you need a little inspiration, let’s remind you of her first world tour.

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5 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

The arrival of August heralded the start of my training for the California International Marathon (CIM) for December 3. This is  where the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hosts the National Marathon Championship I was very proud to win in 2014 (B1 Division). As I ramped up my own training, it gave me pause to consider the overall fitness and endurance I’ve been fortunate to maintain through my various other health challenges. I believe my general health and approach to preserving this health has been a benefit to my mental and emotional well-being along the way.

When I was providing a phone interview for Outside Magazine for a potential upcoming article, I read a little of the recent work on their Facebook page and found some support to my suggestion in a recent article written by Brad Stulberg titled “The 5 Most Basic Rules of Health and Fitness.”

The study cites research and knowledge from a physician at the Mayo clinic and I strongly encourage reading the full article. Two salient points I wanted to emphasize involve:

  1. The notion of doing something active every day
  2. Being engaged in something you find meaningful

Both of these are significant factors in living longer and healthier. Whatever fitness we have is the base from which we should appropriately engage in these two approaches whenever reasonable. I have not always been training for marathons or climbing mountains but I’ve usually been choosing to find something active and almost always engaged in something meaningful for me. In various ways, these are rooted into messages I share in my presentations as well. Life, like a marathon, is an endurance sport and with the right training plan we can cruise along and enjoy the experience better than if we face it without training or a plan. In both cases the real value and meaning is in enjoying the training and the entirety of the race, not just the moment of the finish line–no matter how epic it may seem.

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29 Jul 17

A steep, rocky, uphill trail

When you’re blind, a lot of things can feel like a steep uphill climb.

By Randy Pierce

“Patience? How long will that take?!?” – Tracy Pierce

I firmly believe going blind was much harder than being blind. While losing sight had many challenges of varying intensity, being blind for some time has lessened the burden considerably. Still, there is one persistent challenge with a solution I attempt constantly and yet so often struggle to manage: almost everything I attempt simply takes more time to manage without sight. This can lead to frustrations and failure unless I plan for the potential extra time and learn to practice patience in everything I attempt.

Planning more time is a benefit although we all still have the same number of hours in each day. So as I prioritize the things I hope to accomplish, there are more difficult choices of things to exclude simply because I know I should allow additional time.

This time manifests immediately in the finding of items I need. This is mitigated by better organization, although that organization requires some initial setup time. Identification of items whether by tactile or technology is typically more time consuming. Travel usually requires a little more planning and preparation, whether to ensure Autumn is also prepared or that any coordination involved has been managed with possible delays included. Often this involves putting myself at the scheduling of others which means building in margins. Bus schedules have an earliest possible arrival and I need to be there by that time even though they may not arrive until the latest window. Several times it is well past that later window before I can determine reasonably they must have driven past me without stopping. Hopefully I’ve left myself enough time for back-up plans!

I admit these time drains are frustrating, moreso when I’m caught waiting outside in particularly unpleasant weather. The reality is that these concerns are part of the world in which I exist and to be frustrated by them too much would be to allow constant negativity into my world. This is why the notion of practicing patience is so valuable.

Part of that is learning to understand what is truly urgent and what is only important at varying levels to me. The more urgent, the more time margins I allow and patience I plan into events. The lower the importance, the more I can tighten those windows and accept the consequences if things go awry. These truths hold whether you are blind or fully sighted–it’s just that blindness affords me many opportunities to test my patience, as not only will most things take me longer, but also I’ll likely have to gently educate people around me for how and why things may take longer. Sometimes we can agree upon shortcuts to alleviate the process and sometimes there are good reasons why those shortcuts are not acceptable. In the latter case, it is often the explanation of why which may require the most patience and consume the most time. It is also the best reason for patience, however.

The best moments for education and team building occur when done from a platform of patient knowledge sharing. Reminding myself of that notion is a significant part of the motivation to success in finding my patience. I just hope you may forgive me if you encounter me in a time of failure and perhaps give me a gentle reminder to get back on the path!

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22 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Eighth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction

The power of perspective is probably quite clear in that I’m thinking it’s less than four months until our 8th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala while many of you may think how far away that seems. We have already sold more tickets than our venue could have held for our first six years, which is fantastic! But now we have a bigger venue, and I’m still striving to sell out as we achieved for nearly every year and missed by only one table last year.

I understand many delay into the summer to make their final plans and I hope to have a reservation for everyone. But I rest easier when the goal is achieved and I can proudly share the sell-out status with our sponsors and team!

Will you help me out with a ticket purchase to a great event and a cause I feel we demonstrate is worthy every day?

Speaking of sponsors, we already have Bank of NH in the Platinum Event Sponsorship and Larp Portal as our first Gold Sponsor, with invitations out to others to become a part of the foundation of our event and our work. The success of our event is most notably in our community and our sponsors help us elevate that to an even higher level. If you or someone you know might consider a sponsorship for our signature event, I’d personally welcome the opportunity to make it work for all of us. Our team creates an incredibly professional event which uses programs, video signage, and heartfelt appreciation to highlight our partnerships with sponsors. We also use our website and social media all year long to express the benefits shared by teamwork with such great partnerships.

A highlight of the evening includes an incredible array of silent auction items as well as a small selection of specialty live auction items. We already have nearly 40 items committed to us, including a few entirely new experiences for our guests. I’m inspired and encouraged by the progress. While we are still asking those who donate items personally or through generous connections to reach out to us, we are going to announce these items on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook and Twitter accounts each week from now until the event. If you do not already follow us, perhaps you may choose to do so to see some of the great items including one of my favorite new items being announced this first week!

So while I am enticing you to join us by getting your ticket to the event, becoming a sponsor or perhaps making a donation, the real message is that we have a fantastic event which is well on its way to another success. We have been working hard since December to bring about improvements to what reviews already confirm is the ideal venue. If you are traveling from far away, take advantage of our hotel guest rate and stay the night and fully experience all the evening has to offer.

I love our mission and I’m so appreciative and proud of the many volunteers who make all aspects of our event and our charity work possible, yet what constantly amazes me and motivates me is the outpouring of support from a diverse and expansive community of people who find enough value in our effort to continually encourage us to  keep going. I’ve climbed a few mountains, literal and figurative, and I know the work is not done–but with your help, I believe we’ll continue to reach for and achieve our “Peak Potential.”

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16 Jul 17

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. Theodore Roosevelt

Autumn, a black and tan labrador shows off her expressive face and orange eyebrows for the camera.

My beautiful Autumn is a tremendous companion and we have become a wonderful team through our years of working together. One part of this teamwork involves learning to understand each other. As Autumn is rife with attitude I get many different looks from her incredibly expressive eyes. While my own sightless eyes aren’t able to fully appreciate her looks I’ve learned through the sharing of others,  to appreciate her diverse expressions and their meaning. In the interest of advocacy and education I often engage in dialog with Autumn, which is healthy connection for us and also serves to potentially share with strangers around us some insight to the inner workings of the dog guide team. As the summertime fun of July is upon us here are a few of the fun moments.

 

One of the most common looks I receive from my girl follows her performing her guiding duties well. After a particular bit of good work she will receive the tail wag inducing “Good Girl Autumn!” She is prideful for certain and she is also optimistically reward attentive. In these moments she’ll turn and look towards me with the hopeful expression intent on carrying her canine version of the Jedi mind powers (“that was worth a treat to your hard working and talenged dog guide Autumn”). I feel the turn of her head through the harness handle and will often comment “Oh you think that deserves a treat do you?” With a pouch full of Wellpet treats on my hip she transforms the plea to laser focus as she awaits her reward while onlookers confirm my suspicion and often begin side conversations in appreciation of her work and all the interactions involved in our team approach to independent travel in the world.

 

Speaking of Laser focus, we work plenty of normal routes where she must be attentive to the curbs, pavement cracks and potholes of normal life as well as pedestrians, sidewalk detritus and so much more. These are things in which she is well versed and does with good attention scaling up the intensity of her focus as the obstacles increase to require more focus from her guiding eyes. In fact, my most likely challenge comes when she is least challenged because it is then when distractions are most likely because she is, quite simply, bored. Yet when I ask her to guide me on the ridiculous footing found on the mountain trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountain Wilderness, an incredible transformation takes place. Suddenly there is no margin for error and every angle of her body, every side step, every bit of the route selection is deliberate and chosen with an intensity which speaks glowingly of her intelligence, her devotion and her passion for her work at the highest level. It is so intense I think a mere photo will not do it justice and so I include a video taken by Catherine Orza which really highlights the work and her eyes watching me and the trail to find the means to help us both navigate it successfully. When it gets too narrow for our smooth traversing together she pauses and watches for me to do my part in the teamwork and almost praises me for my success even as she patiently awaits my finding this role before she can lead forward to her next task.

 

 

So this is an excellent time for me to thank Guiding Eyes for the Blind who trained Autumn and Quinn before her. They provide these incredible Dog Guides for so many who can benefit from the freedom and independence they grant to the lives of those managing sight loss at various levels. In my case there is no sight in my eyes but she has beautiful, expressive and oh so talented guiding eyes which she happily shares with me on our journeys together at work and at play. Thank you Autumn girl!!

Randy and Autumn pose for a hug near Niagara falls

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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