The Gift: Hike With Me

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Sam here, with Chapter 2 of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

About twelve years ago, I led my first wilderness trip for college students. I liked it enough that I still do it. Nowadays I only get out once or twice a year, but one thing hasn’t changed: I see each trip as a gift. As you can imagine, some participants like this gift, some want to discard it, some end up giving the gift to others, and so on. I said each trip is a gift. Let me clarify. The first and best lesson I ever learned about wilderness trips was that the trip itself isn’t the most important part. Huh? Going to the woods, hiking on trails and sleeping under the stars have a decent amount of value as trip elements, especially if you don’t live where there are woods and trails and visible stars. But the true value turns out to be in the increase of the trip.

That’s Hyde’s new term in Chapter 2. Increase refers to what happens because a gift is given. See if my wilderness example helps to explain what he means.

Going to the woods The increase of going to the woods is learning how to suspend normal, everyday, civilized life and recognize how interdependent we really are as human beings. We need Sabbath rest from daily comforts and individualism, and this rest comes as the increase.

Hiking on trails Similarly, the increase of hiking on trails is gaining an awareness of others’ limitations as well as being brave enough to voice our own. If your tired legs keep a hiking group from moving, embarrassment can make it excruciating to ask for help. Yet, asking for help is necessary and normal. Doing it - against the temptation to lie about your pain - reveals the gift’s increase.

Sleeping under the stars Finally, the increase of sleeping under the stars is appreciating God’s majestic creativity, confronting fears of the dark and of unseen (but heard!) animals, and extending grace to strangers snoring ten inches away. In each scenario, the activity is less important than what the activity provides. I don’t mean to sound overly utilitarian, but a wilderness trip is not an end in and of itself. It is a vehicle. The real gift I offer to student participants is found along the journey. Interestingly, I can’t control the increase. I can take someone to the woods, put him on a trail and sleep next to him under the stars. I can also use my gift-giving skills well to encourage increase. But I can’t force it. I can’t dictate it or dole it out in predetermined amounts. I do my part (give the gift of a wilderness trip) and then trust that God will do His to “produce a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." "The increase is the core of the gift, the kernel." Well said, Hyde.

The floor is yours for discussion. If you want a place to start, consider these two questions: 1. How or where do you see increase in the gift you call your work? 2. What is the risk of seeing a job only as a vehicle?

Post written by Sam Van Eman.