Our mailbox is across a grassy patch and around a corner from our house. The grass is nice and soft, and in good weather, I often walk to get the mail in my bare feet. A couple of weeks ago, we had a cold rainy spell, and I went out anyway, not realizing just how cold that grass was going to be.
By the time I hit the concrete in front of the mailbox, I was in serious pain. My feet were so cold, I could hardly stand it. I grabbed the mail and dashed back as quickly as I could, pulling on a pair of socks as soon as I got to the house. It took a good hour for my feet to feel warm again and to stop hurting.
While waiting for my frozen toes to recuperate, I couldn’t help but think about the pioneers of the Martin and Willy handcart companies who walked through the snow, often without shoes, in their attempt to reach the valley. Many of them did freeze to death, but the miracle is, most of them did not. They made it to the valley and told the story of their journey, saying that they had grown closer to God as a result and that they would not have traded that experience for anything.
I simply cannot imagine walking in the snow, barefoot, for miles each day. My little trip out to the mailbox lasted probably four minutes, and I was in agony. I tried to imagine placing one foot ahead of another through deep snow drifts, my skin coming in direct contact with ice crystals, sharp and cutting, while wrapped in little more than a shawl. I know the pioneers were blessed with strength from on high to complete their trek – I truly believe I would have died on the first night out.
The faith shown by those pioneers is astonishing to me. They left behind all they had, the conviction of their testimonies burning so brightly in their hearts, nothing else mattered. They walked a large portion of the way across the Midwest, not stopping to give up when the storms hit, but rather to push on. They weren’t prepared for the cold weather. Sometimes they woke up with their hair frozen to the ground. I’m in awe that they woke up at all.
When I start to feel like my life’s too hard, I think about these pioneers. I’ve never been asked to do nearly as much as they have. I need to stop my bellyaching and be so proud of their accomplishments and so grateful for my own blessings. How truly inspired I feel when I think of their story, and the legacy they have left for us.