During our Passover vacation, we continued on our journey down the Israel Trail. We started about two years ago up at the very northern tip of the Trail and are making our way south to Eilat (eventually!) with our six kids in tow. On the first day of chol hamoed (Passover vacation) when the entire country is on the move, we ascended the Arbel. Now, this climb is not for the faint of heart. It’s quite steep and there are a few narrow places where you need to hold on to the metal handles they’ve put in place to help you up or down.
As we neared the end of the mountain it started to get more crowded. Apparently, there is a place to park at the top of the Arbel and a short hiking trail that you can take down a bit, around and back up. So, at some point we started seeing more and more people, and finding ourselves stuck at the bottom of a narrow passage while loads of people were coming down the other way.
This became truly impassable near the very top of the Arbel as we peered up the rocks to see over 100 people waiting in line to go down. We stopped and tried to figure out how we were going to get up the steep, one-person-at-a-time passage. I started talking to the people who were closest to the bottom and asking them how many people were coming down. “Oh, we are a huge group that’s all together. You’re never going to get up there.” I asked if they could please tell their group to hold off for a few minutes and to let us up – which they very graciously did. And as we ascended, and passed slightly-annoyed people in the line, they asked us the same question over and over again.
“Why are you going the wrong way?”
And I just kept thinking, how can you go the wrong way in nature?
What does it even mean to go the wrong way in nature?
Or in life?
Over and over again, I answered that we were hiking the Israel Trail. Most people were very impressed and wanted to know more about what we were doing, why we were doing it and how we were progressing. Some continued to say, “But why are you doing it that way? Why not the other direction?”
It was a mind-blowing look at group-think for me.
Since hundreds, if not thousands, of people had all parked their cars in the same place, and had all headed down a mountain in the same direction, they did not know what do to with people who were moving against the grain.
It never dawned on them that people might have made another path; or, that we might actually be on a mission that was much larger than that one day – than their three kilometer loop.
And it really helped to crystalize for me just how important thinking outside the box is, and going against the grain can be.
It’s true for so many things and in so many ways. We’ve been hiking the Israel Trail for 160 kilometers now, and for the first 100 I was wearing hiking shoes that put me in agony. I have terrible bunions and figured I would need to have bunion surgery sometime soon – nothing seemed to be working or helping. And then my 20-year-old son said, “What about the barefoot movement?” And I said, “The huh?” All it took was one out-of-the-box suggestion and a new glorious pair of shoes for me to be back on the Trail without one blister, one pain or one issue.
There are so many examples in life where we could really transform ourselves and our surroundings by realizing there is no wrong way.
Years ago, a friend told a great story at his daughter’s bat mitzvah. As a young girl, the bat mitzvah child rushed into a room to tell her sisters that half of the number 8 is 3. Giggling, they said, “No…half of the number 8 is obviously 4.” But she could not be swayed. Finally, getting frustrated, she said, “No, it’s 3. Look.” She covered the left half of number eight on a piece of paper with her hand and said, “See!? It’s a 3!”
How much do we lose out on, and how often do we lose it, by telling people they are going the wrong way or seeing things wrong. When we impress our tunnel vision on our children, our friends, and ourselves, we are infringing on their ability to be creative, to forge their own paths. Obviously, in a situation with the number 8, we have to ensure that the child knows what half of 8 is in the mathematical sense. But rather than telling her there is only one way to see the number 8, we can applaud her creativity and ingenuity, and find ways in life to help a child cultivate that unusual perspective.
There is no way to be going the wrong way – unless you listen to all of those voices telling you that you are.
Lessons learned ascending the Arbel along the Israel Trail.