How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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A tale of two trees 

On a visit to Yosemite National Park last weekend, I went on a ranger walk with USPS Ranger Shelton Johnson. The topic was "Yosemite through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier," and for a 90-minute walk through the valley, Ranger Johnson, in period costume, played the part of Sgt. Elizy Bowman of the 9th Cavalry, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. These African American troops who fought for the U.S. in the Philippines and Mexico also served as park rangers in Yosemite in 1899, 1903, and 1904.

Ranger Johnson gave a thoughtful portrayal of his character's personal history. Sgt. Bowman grew up as a sharecropper's son in South Carolina, and joined the Army as a way of improving his situation. Johnson described what it must have been like for these "colored soldiers" to enforce the regulations protecting the park's resources against the mostly white settlers in the area, at a time when the very idea of a park to preserve nature was new and untested. And he shared with us a beautiful metaphor.

Growing throughout Yosemite Valley are a wide variety of trees, including ponderosa pines and black oaks. Ranger Johnson pointed them out to us, and showed how the pine bends under the snow, so that when the snow melts, the pine stands up straight once again. The oak, however, doesn't bend; it tries to hold its upright position as the snow piles higher. Eventually, the oak's branches break under the weight. When the snow melts, the oak is no longer the same proud tree. "Be supple like a pine tree," Ranger Johnson told us, "Don't be rigid and unbending like the oak." That's how to survive.

This is sage advice, I think, for any of us who wish to carry our causes forward in the world. Perhaps we are the ones in the right; maybe we do know the real truth; it could be that everyone around us is wrong or just mistaken. But if we try to stand our ground against an overwhelming force, it may break us. Sometimes we need to bend a bit to get through the winter of criticism or opposition, so that we will still be here in the spring to begin our task anew.

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