2015-05-21-09.53A formula for learning lessons in life:

Lots of time alone + Physical exertion + Nature + Potential dangers + Interactions with unknown people of all color, creeds and way of life = High likelihood of learning Lessons

A lesson is very different than an experience. It is easy to have a fun experience, like going to a fancy restaurant or taking a cruise. Maximum enjoyment with little personal cost. Lessons are quite different. They require something of you, they cost you something.

In many ways, lessons are like callouses, worn into your hands. Paddling 8-12 hours a day creates sores on the hands that after a week or so become thick callouses. Stroke after stroke after stroke and eventually my hands adapted, they changed. I am different now because of my journey.  I slowed down and dropped my usual pretense. I stopped introducing myself as Dr. Lechner.  My name is Chris and I am a standup paddleboarder.

2015-05-16-20.29Along my journey down the French Broad River, I learned that all living things — especially people — need one thing to thrive and grow. They need to feel respected and honored. They can endure hunger, pain, disappointment and loss but they cannot handle being ignored and treated dishonorably.

The excitement and adventure you seek lies buried deep in the eyes of each person that comes across your path. Honor them. They don’t have to earn it. They are beautiful just like the osprey and the sunset, simply because they are part of Creation.

Lake-Superior-swimmingI am glad this lesson was “calloused” into me.

My paddleboard expedition down the French Broad River also taught me how to overcome the fear and fatigue in the face of adversity. On my final day of the paddle, Sunday, May 31st, I had to paddle 25 miles to reach the pickup point in Knoxville, a good bit more than the 15-20 miles a day pace.

Already, my hands were sore and inflamed, when a huge storm came in from the north that was actually blowing me back to Asheville. I hunkered down and felt concern escalating into worry and concern. And right in the midst of my worst fear, a deer runs and leaps across the river just downstream, totally distracting me from my concerns.

Such an example is how fear can be conquered when one stops thinking into the future so much. The deer brought me back, centered me, reminded me that I must paddle one stroke at a time and no amount of overthinking will make the wind and rain go away. When panic comes creeping in, remember to take care of yourself. Hydrate, eat a snack, breathe and …pray!

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