This past semester, I had the pleasure of teaching a Liberal Studies seminar to nursing and business students at my alma mater, King College. The class focused on Stewardship and Ethical Responsibility and we read some fabulous texts, watched a film, read/enacted several plays, and spent one emotional class period viewing and discussing Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture." There are so many ways that we could have explored this topic, but you know what they say about so much to do and so little time....
Each week we met (a total of 5 times, or once every 3 weeks) this term, the students would submit a reflection or response paper regarding the material they read and studied leading up to that particular class period. One of my business students was a vision-impaired gentleman who was able to access audio versions of most of the work we covered, but not all of it. For his final reflection paper, he asked my permission to write on his journey through college, since he had not been able to obtain the book. I enthusiastically agreed and he gave me his paper on the last night of class.
His paper talked specifically about an experience he had about 8 years ago when he traveled to North Carolina to help the VA test visual aid equipment. One of the experiments he encountered required him to use a certain piece of equipment and to try and walk the local streets unassisted. He was accompanied by two sighted guides who would ensure his safety as he traveled along. At one point, they were talking and did not notice as he approached the side of a nearby building. As my student wrote, "The next thing I found on my journey was a brick wall. The guides were talking and not paying attention and I literally walked face-first into a wall. Did this stop me? No, I looked at them and said, 'Just another obstacle I have to overcome!'" I was very touched by this paper and the connections my student had made to facing physical and psychological challenges in his quest to attain a Bachelor's degree. I also could not help but to make comparisons to "jumping walls" in my own life.....literally, on the back of my horse.
When we talk as equestrians, particularly eventers, we discuss many of the jumps we face on cross-country or show jumping courses as "obstacles." These are part of what we put in front of ourselves and our horses to test our skill, courage, athleticism, and accuracy. But, these obstacles also test our mental preparedness, bravery, and heart. Not too different from what my student faces as he enters each of his classes every new semester. There are many obstacles we face in life and I always feel as though I approach these questions as a rider: looking ahead, leg on, riding to the base of the jump, and kicking forward upon landing.
As he ended his paper, my student wrote, "I know that the devil is always putting brick walls in our paths. The question is, what do you do when you reach the brick wall? Do we stop and let the devil win, or do we figure out how to go over the wall? My goal in life is to be a wall jumper." After reading this paper, I smiled and thought to myself that -- like this amazing student -- I, too, endeavor to always "be a wall jumper."