Not seeing the forest for the trees.

Trip Start Jul 22, 2009
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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Camping in the middle of the desert without a tree in sight and I use an idiom like that. Sometimes life is like that. You have to go so far into left field to find the truth of the matter.

Thursday, I headed to the Mojave Desert with Debby and family for a weekend of camping and dirt biking. A group of 8 families, or so, were meeting up to do some dirt biking and quading. I joined them and decided to try out some of my camping gear. I set up my tent in the middle (OK, off to the side) of all these RVs. There was only one other RV at this location when we arrived, someone from a different group, and they were a few hundred feet away. Sometime after midnight I get woken up by these headlights flashing directly at my tent. Lights go away but I hear the vehicle stop nearby and then these hushed voices. No one else from our group was due to arrive until suppertime on Friday. During the evening we had talked about locking up the dirt bikes in the trailer (which is always done) and the quad had been parked between the RV and me. It's been known that thieves show up and steal these items in the middle of the night, especially when it's a small group out. I also know that firearms are in the RV for protection in case they are needed.

Now I’m freaking out. Who else would show up in the middle of the night? My mind starts imagining all kinds of deadly scenarios. A vivid imagination I do have. A while later another vehicle shows up. This time, by the sounds, I can tell it’s another RV as they are setting up squeaky stabilizer jacks. It was a tense waiting period. Let’s just say that I didn’t sleep very well the rest of that night.

Our senses do like to play games with our imagination. Sounds get distorted and we are unsure of the true distance where they are emanating from. Being a moonless, cloudy night, sight was useless. Besides, I was scared shitless to even move and see what was going on outside. We seem to like to accentuate the negative instead of the positive. Why didn’t I arrive at the positive conclusion first? That it was only other campers arriving instead of the scenario that it was possibly thieves. What is it in our psyche that allows this?

Friday morning I went for a "brief" dirt bike ride with Bill and the boys. My motorcycle riding gear was too heavy for the heat of the desert and from the exertion of trying to keep up with the others with way more riding experience in the sand. I wasn’t enjoying myself. So I went back to the RV and chatted with Debby. Then I went for a ride on the quad. After a while of feeling like a Mexican jumping bean I returned to the campsite and didn’t ride the rest of the weekend. I figured why do something I’m not having fun at. It wasn’t that I hated riding, just that I was making a conscious decision to do what I do enjoy doing...nothing, but not quite!

Friday, between 6 and 8 the others arrived. We circled the RVs, a la covered wagon style, in case we got attacked by Indians, a gang of marauding thieves, or maybe, just to make it a cozy gathering. A fire pit was set up in the middle of the RV circle and food was prepared for a shared feast. After eating more food than our bodies need, we sat around the fire, some till quite late. Not me, but in my tent I could hear the sounds emanating from the campfire.

That night I slept a little better as I had inserted ear plugs and couldn’t hear the various noises a desert full of campers make. Plus, I wasn’t worried about middle of the night marauders. I am a light sleeper. By 6 am some individuals were raring to go riding. The sounds of engines sputtering and roaring to life. Zooming by, mere feet from where I was lying, cocooned in my sleeping bag. Going to be a long day!

I went for a brief walk and found a baby California Desert Tortoise. Thinking it was drying up and dead I brought it back to the campsite to show the kids. The tortoise wasn’t dead, it just looks like that normally. After the kids had all seen it, I took off for a hike to take some pictures and relocate the tortoise away from the trails. Back to its natural habitat. I was doing what I enjoy doing...exploring and examining the natural world around me.

After a couple of hours of that, I had told Debby I would be back in a couple of hours and I didn’t want anyone to worry, I returned for lunch. I then spent the rest of the weekend doing the other thing I enjoy doing, observing. I sat around, mostly, watching and noting the interactions between the various individuals.

This small gathering of individuals was a microcosm of the world around us, the good...and the bad. Everyone seemed to have a story to tell about someone else. So and so does this. This person doesn’t do that. It was a real, live, Desperate Housewives episode of gossiping, drama, tell-tales and emotional upheavals. What interested me the most is how the adults treated the kids. A dozen or so teens and pre-teens, I felt they were all quite well behaved and polite and got along well with each other. These kids were acting very much like the adults but were judged differently. An adult would comment when a teenager didn’t say Thank You, when I knew that same adult hadn’t said the same words in a similar situation not much earlier.
What I hated the most was all the negativity. Most of it was good natured ribbing, but telling a kid he’s stupid, or an idiot, even in jest, does affect that individuals self esteem. One female teen made the comment about one adult who constantly bugged her. The adult stated that it was because he loved her. That goes back to elementary school where the boy pulls the girls hair because he likes her. This young woman then stated that he never tells her. Now that is what stuck in her mind. To be honest, when the teen went to bed and gave the adult (not a parent) a hug and said her good nights, the adult did say he loved her. But what will the teen remember the most? The constant negative ribbing or the occasional, love you?

This is but one situation where certain individuals use negativity as part of what they would consider good natured teasing. But should adults be teasing kids this way? It was the same with the stories about a certain adult. That adult knew the stories that were being told about him. Don’t you think it hurt him deep inside? Why do we do these things?

I observed so many situations where positive things were being said and done but somehow I believe it’s the negative situations which, though fewer in occurrence, actually stay at the forefront of our thoughts.

As we were getting ready to leave this morning a few of the teens left on some quads. One teen came back a while later on one of the quads stating that he had crashed a quad that did not belong to him and that it was quite damaged. Though he was visibly injured his only worry was about how the owner of the quad would react. Having observed all the individuals over a few days and having met some of them previously, I did know that most, if not all of these individuals would be more concerned about the well being of an individual rather than of a possession. So why would the first thoughts out of this teens head be about the owner being upset rather than having someone check the extent of his injuries?

Does all this "good natured" negative ribbing affect the way someone perceives how that person will react in certain situations? Why does someone else’s fears affect our thoughts? As in, why did I worry about thieves in the desert when a more logical and positive explanation was the most probable? If our thoughts do create our lives and we need all the help we can get in creating an amazing life, why don’t we spend more time saying only positive things to others about them and about others in our social network?

The funny thing about the stories I had been told earlier in the weekend about how certain people do or don’t do certain things on these camping weekends, the exact opposite happened. The stories weren’t true. Maybe this weekend was an anomaly and they did do/not do the norm. So then, why do people keep on repeating stories that might be the norm but isn’t factual 100% of the time? We all do what we prefer, but it doesn’t mean that we are what we normally do and can’t change if it suits us.

Overall, I found this group of adults and kids quite amazing. Everyone seemed to care about the other, young and old, food was shared, possessions loaned or given. There was a lot more positive teaching and learning going on than negative. But I wonder which situations will be at the forefront of each person's mind when they have a story to tell about the weekend? The positive ones? Or the negative?

I made it though the weekend without anyone wishing me a Happy Birthday and then on the way back to the city, four of the families (about 20 people) stopped for ice cream and I surprised everyone by treating them.

It was a Thank You to all for a wonderful weekend, but I hope a lesson that the kids will remember (They all thanked me and I did not notice anyone prodding them). It was a small gesture that was unexpected and uncalled for, in most of their minds, from someone (me) who was just tagging along and isn't (really) part of their camping/biking family. I believe it's the small, positive, gestures that will have the most impact in the future of our kids and those that they will remember the most.

So, take a closer look at the people around you, and start noticing the forest instead of focusing on the trees. When you look at the big picture of who a person really is, you'll see a lot more positive then negative. And all those positive thoughts you have about those individuals will start having an amazing effect on them. That, I guarantee.

Think It! Feel It! Live It!
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