Mountain Top Living for Valley Dwellers

Alternative title: how I wrote a blog post on my phone on the way to the airport at 2:30 in the morning to fly to Chicago

In 2009 or 2010 I attended a high school youth event for a weekend called Senior High Youth Connection (SHYC). I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember too many specifics from that event anymore. I couldn’t tell you who the keynote speaker was (although I’m sure some Presbyterian friend might be able to – the Presby world is a small one), who was in my small group or even who came with me from my home church. The theme of that weekend, though, has remained in the back of my mind ever since: mountain top living for valley dwellers. 

It goes like this: you go to these high emotion, high energy events, like SHYC or church camp or Triennium, or, in this case, YAV orientation. You get really pumped up about the event and you hear all of these awesome messages and you get to the end and tell yourself you’re going to live this kind of life everyday, use the tools you learned, and share the message you received. This is the mountain top. You have good intentions, and maybe you even follow through at first, but as time goes on, you fall more and more out of the habits you thought you gained, until eventually you’re back to your pre-event normal. This is your valley. You, the valley dweller, repeat this cycle every time you go to the mountain too – every camp, conference and retreat, you promise to make changes in your life that will stick this time. As anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution will know, sticking to these self-promises can be difficult, especially away from your supportive mountain top environment.

More realness: I really do not remember what the keynote speaker suggested as a way to bring the mountain top to your valley dwelling (Grace Presbytery friends, holla at yo girl if you remember). But it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How do I bring the lessons and emotions and tools from this week of disorientation and apply it to my life in Chicago? It’s not an answer I have just yet, and I may never have a satisfactory answer. Life in Chicago, away from beautiful Stony Point is going to be messy and exciting and not every situation, and indeed most situations, will be black and white and easily understood.

I have some ideas as to where to start though. With my fellow YAVs, both in Chicago and through the larger program, we will hold ourselves accountable to the lessons we learned. We’ve been given the tools to begin our exploration of center/borderlands relationships (more on that in another post), but it is up to us to employ them. We’ll remember to roll in and roll out, as appropriate, and to make sure to ask our site coordinator!

I can think of no more perfect example of a mountain top experience than this week. A surreally beautiful campus, loving and caring like-minded people, powerful ideas and concepts, and some emotional extremes. At 3:30 in the morning, this valley dweller doesn’t have much more to offer on the subject for now, but it’s something I will continue to keep in mind through my year of service.


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