good life by carrie hunt
Part of cultivating a good life is challenging your family to do and be more.
On one wall of our home, I have a picture gallery of some of the challenging and fun family adventures we have been on together. Each one has a story about struggle, sacrifice, and fun. When my husband and I got married and started to dream about our future family, I knew I wanted a large, close family who loved each other and who were loyal to each other. I observed a closeness in other families who worked together to accomplish something hard. It was a different type of closeness — something full of shared struggles and triumphs — and it was something more than merely being entertained together or even by cheering each other on in our individual pursuits.
Fast forward to now. We have 6 children at home from 1st grade up to 12th grade. And life is busy of course. But my husband and I do not allow it to become so busy and full of distractions that we have no time for what we really want. It’s hard not to get sucked into the tide of a fast-paced life full of things that pull each family member apart from each other, either through overscheduling ourselves or allowing technology to rip away family interactions. So in our family, we try to cultivate a good life by challenging each other to do and be more together. We do this by working on everyday things together like yard work and kitchen duty and memorizing long scripture passages. We encourage and support each other to push ourselves in work, school, and extracurricular activities as well.
And so we have the wall of pictures. Some of these adventures have really stretched us and caused us to have to rely on one another for encouragement and help in order to stretch ourselves past what we thought we could do. Hiking is often our challenge of choice. In May our family of eight hiked a portion of the Grand Canyon together. Our plan was to hike down the South Kaibab trail 7 miles to the Colorado River (a 4780′ elevation change), cross the river, and hike back up the Bright Angel Trail 9.5 miles to the top again (a 4380′ elevation change). All told it was a little over 17 miles. We planned to do this in one day without an overnight stay at the bottom. Recognizing the difficulty of the hike, we told our six year old that he could stay with his grandparents on the day we went. This was unacceptable to him. He did not want to miss out. We told him that if he could go on 4 hikes that were at least 4 miles long without crying, then we would consider it.
On the first hike, he broke down and cried and even sat down on the ground, refusing to go on. I told him it was okay; he didn’t have to do this. But he wasn’t ready to give up yet. On the next practice hike, we brought his older brothers. I whispered to them as we began that I would need them to help their little brother by distracting him. These 15 and 13 year-old brothers talked and played little games with him the whole time and soon the hike was over without a tear. This continued until he made 4 hikes with no crying. Next we had our bigger prep hike that was 9 miles. The same pattern continued. With the help of his brothers and sisters, our 6 year-old son was ready. Each of the older children told us they would be ready to help carry him on the day of the hike if needed.
Beginning our descent, we were all excited and quickly made our way down the canyon. Our six year old was well prepared and the excitement of the adventure distracted him. He hiked about 13 miles on his own two feet. When there were about 4 miles left to get out of the canyon, he started to break down. My husband and 15 year-old son took turns carrying him on their shoulders 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off, telling him that in order to get the next ride, he needed to stay with the group during his 5 minutes of walking. About the same time, our 16 year-old daughter began to cramp up and really struggle. Every step was painful and we still had a ways to go. I stayed with her when she rested off and on, and we fell just a bit behind the others. She was not willing to give up but asked that I stay by her and talk to her. I began telling her every family memory I could think of and talking about old stories. Our 13 year-old son who was about 1/4 mile ahead, ran back down to be with her and to encourage her. Our family is competitive, but our son wasn’t thinking about being the first one to the top that day.
Tired but proud, we asked a stranger to take our picture when we had all made it to the top of the canyon. I love that picture because I know what happened the 10 hours before it was taken and I can feel the closeness oozing out of it. It’s a type of closeness that doesn’t just happen…it is created by struggle and triumph together.
Our family is pretty tough, but we are not elite athletes by any stretch of the imagination. There are people who do much more challenging things for sure. The point of this story is to illustrate that by choosing to do something that is challenging for us and then working together as a family to accomplish it, leaving no one behind, we are doing something to cement our family unity and loyalty, as well as teach each member to reach past his or her current abilities to do more. In the past it was just my husband and I who were excited about our challenging adventures, but I have begun to notice that without our insistence, they are beginning to seek for ways to stretch themselves to do and be more on their own. I also love the times when they depend on each other for help and advice in their everyday lives. That more than pays off for all the whining and blisters I’ve endured through the years!
Note from Becky
That Carrie Hunt is one of a kind – and so is her family! I love them! We’ve been friends for quite a while; ever since the Hunts moved into the community where our family has lived for over 9 years now. In fact, her husband is my son’s boy scout leader (the best) and their first grader is my little guy’s best friend. Carrie is such a go-getter, a motivator, a student again (she just went back to school; amazing!), a wife and mom who knows where to keep her priorities and she practices what she preaches.
Speaking of preaching… Carrie and I both teach in church from time to time and we’re always excited to contribute and make comments in each others’ lessons. I absolutely love when she speaks up and chimes in because I find value in learning from her experience and perspective. This guest post she wrote is very indicative of her family for sure. The Hunts are hard workers, very active, and they love a good challenge – especially a physical one! The best part is that they’re always in it together. Just as families should be.