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Lessons learned on rope course

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
With wet hair, which may have been that way due to pouring rain or sweat, and dirty clothes, we looked like the Pagong tribe from the television show Survivor' and many of our tests that day brought to mind the "immunity challenges" featured weekly on the show as well.
But, we weren't there to win a million dollars or to vote someone off. What we were there for was to learn about each other and what it means to be a member of a team.
What I'm talking about was last week's outing to Camp Beckwith by the 2001 class of Leadership Atmore. Twenty-one people came together last Thursday to recognize challenges and work together to meet them head on.
Personally, I took a lot away from the excursion and I truly believe the others there with me did the same.
Among those things was what can be accomplished through teamwork and commitment. For example, I never dreamed I could get over a wall more than twice my height. The truth is I couldn't. But, with the help from my classmates not only did my super-sized body make it over, but so did the other members of the team. My point being, that I may not be able to get over the wall, but if I ask for help perhaps the goal can be met anyway.
Another important lesson that I have thought about from time-to-time since the trip came from the same wall.
When asked if anyone had participated in a wall-climbing expedition, one of our teammates told the group that he had. Instead of making him the king of the wall or supreme ruler based on his knowledge, he was instructed to put on a blindfold and that he could not talk. My initial reaction was that this knowledgeable wall climber was now rendered useless. But, by accommodating his handicap and working with him, he too made it over the wall (you will have to ask him how he had the guts to trust us to lift and pull him over).
There are many people in our society who are handicapped, perhaps physically, mentally. Maybe they are financially handicapped or are the victims of old age. No matter, these folks can do just as much to help our community grow as anyone else. They may need a helping hand from time to time, but they can pull their own weight and most would be happy to do so.
As well as discovering the importance of cooperation and teamwork, I also learned that perhaps people sell themselves short too often.
With each challenge given our team I remember my first reaction being one of negativity and doubtfulness. From standing atop a four-foot high pole and falling straight back with only your teammates there to keep you from cracking your head against the earth below to balancing your way through a network of cables, my first thought was I can't do that!'. But, with each element my confidence soared and I began to realize that I could do a lot of things. Certainly, I may need help, but what's wrong with getting a helping hand from time to time. Even the greatest leaders in our history needed counsel and they certainly needed the aid of those who believed to carry out the vision.
But, the most important thing I learned was that we all have more friends than we realize. Another television series popped into my head regarding this notion. A character on a popular show in the early eighties once said Strangers are just friends you've never met'. Even at the age of ten that line stuck and, though it may be filed away somewhere in the archives of my memory, from time-to-time something happens to bring it back.
As our day at Camp Beckwith marched on and the rains came and went, many of us who began the day as strangers became fast friends. We learned the things we had in common and what each other did for a living. As we continue to meet during the upcoming months I am sure the buds of these friendships will continue to blossom.