Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday we attended the climbing of Herndon. Herndon is a 26 foot monument located in front of the chapel at the Naval Academy. It is the final rite of passage for the plebe (freshman) year at the academy. At 1:30 Monday afternoon over 1000 plebes raced to the base of Herndon, yelling and screaming. They were confident, they were ready, they were a little naïve.
You see, they had practiced climbing Herndon the week before and it took about twenty minutes. This time it would take two hours and forty-one minutes. The difference was one simple ingredient: over 200 pounds of lard. The challenge in climbing Herndon is that it is covered in Crisco, baby, Crisco! The second class (juniors) cover the monument completely with the white grease. Twenty-six feet tall and slick as ice.
Using their shirts to wipe off the grease, they then begin to build human pyramids around it. At each new level, more grease had to be wiped. Time after time they mounted and fell. Someone on the bottom would give out with the increasing weight. Twenty foot tumbles landing on the upraised hands of their classmates below. Exciting and dangerous!
A small group of bleachers were set up for a special group of former USNA graduates, class of 1964, their fifty-year sponsors. Parents and friends brought lawn chairs, blankets, binoculars, and more to watch the event. A great cloud of witnesses cheering on the class of 2014.
After the first hour the adrenaline wore off and the exciting adventure became a toilsome task. I wondered if they could do it. A former Navy man standing next to me must have read my thoughts. He said with confidence, “They’ll do it.”
He was right. They had faced daunting tasks before that seemed impossible to overcome, but they had been trained to persevere, to continue, never to quit. They did not. In the third hour, numerous close attempts ended in failure. Finally, one tall, skinny plebe climbed the pyramid, stepped on the heads of two others near the top and dislodged the sailors cap on the top of Herndon, replacing it with a midshipman’s cover.
Then the shout went up, from the plebes, from the parents, from the 1964 graduates. Victory had been achieved, difficulty overcome. They had climbed Herndon; it was done; they were plebes no more. As we walked away, I stopped and looked at the monument Herndon. It was still there, unmoved, waiting for the next group of plebes to meet its challenge and win the day.
There was risk. There were injuries. Not a single parent crossed the line to help. It was their day alone--the class of 2014.
Your children also face challenges that require perseverance to overcome. Encourage them, root for them, and let them face the monumental tasks they must face on their own. They can face the challenge, they can persevere in the struggle, they can achieve the victory. They learn to talk, to walk, to read, and to do innumerable things because of your encouragement. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are made in God’s image. Trust Him to help them. Be there for them with this message: YOU CAN DO IT!