Publisher’s Note: Leaning In

Antique Wagon Wheel, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

“Things are tough all over,” a phrase coined by a popular movie from the early 1980’s — but every bit as accurate today as it was then. Surrounded by a national economic crisis, social instability, and political unrest, I think it is crucial to acknowledge that this is not the first time that any of these things have happened in our great nation.

If we look back at the pioneers that settled in the Heber Valley, we would recognize how difficult life was for them. An expression commonly used by these pioneers when circumstances became difficult was “put your shoulder to the wheel.” This expression originated in 17th century Europe. It references the fairly common event of a wagon wheel becoming stuck in the mud. The pull of the livestock becoming insufficient would require the operator to get into the mire behind the carriage and push. One might say that as the situation became complicated, a certain degree of physically ‘leaning in’ was required to overcome the difficulties.

Trials evoke three innate personality tendencies that echo across all creation: some choose to fight, some opt to flee, and some decide to freeze. I like this reality because we, as individuals, still have the opportunity to override our base programming and choose our outcome.

In the case of the lodged wagon wheel — paralysis in the face of the challenge will not get the cart out of the bog, get you home for dinner or anywhere else for that matter. You are, quite simply, stuck without any further options. Abandoning the wagon may not be the best long term solution either. This choice would undoubtedly have additional social, political, and economic consequences in the days to follow as the rest of the village addresses the issue on your behalf. Sometimes challenges — as undesirable as the reality may be — require us to roll up our shirt sleeves individually, wade waist-deep into a mud puddle, and lean in with all of our physical might. If one was able to put the options and outcomes all out on a spreadsheet, it is understandable that, more often than not, ‘the fight’ is the only way out of the muck.

Becoming proactive and leaning into your current obstacles is the first challenge I will issue to the community this fall. The second is to do it with a positive attitude. Doing a thing is not always enough. When you can address your challenges with an optimistic outlook, you become a leader and a shining light for others that are struggling. Your example will help others choose the fight and, hopefully, to do so with a positive attitude.

I am perpetually humbled by the feedback I receive and this community’s support of Heber Valley Life magazine. Thank you. I hope that our family of readers, subscribers, sponsors, contributors, and advertisers feel inspired and uplifted, exploring our fall 2020 edition.