The Lesson From Piss Ant Flat

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.”-Mother Teresa

I was at Girl Scout Camp. I suppose I was 12 or 13 years old that year. A few of us with one leader took a back pack trip which was to last several days. We thought it was a really good idea to take a pack animal along to do the heavy lifting. I don’t know if the leader had any experience in handling pack animals but in hindsight I would say NOT. So we had this burro who thought it was a really bad idea to be treated as a pack animal. He was OK for most of the first day but saw his opportunity to rid himself of the pack when we were traversing a steep hill. He lay down and rolled over and over down the hill. This was a very successful ploy on his part as it spread the contents of the pack over a huge, nearly inaccessible area and freed him to run at large in the wilderness.

It took us a few hours to catch him and put everything back in order but off we went again. The burro continued his anti pack behaviour over the course of the trip and we were just exhausted by the time we started back. We certainly wished we had just taken heavier packs ourselves rather than this pugnacious animal. On our way back to camp we encountered that hill again and made it almost to the top (xing fingers all the way) when that ASS – yes he was an ass by that time – did it again! At some point in the re-ordering process I was behind the animal and got kicked. Off I went tumbling down to the bottom of the hill. I had badly hurt something in my hip and back. The rest of the day was a nightmare but while one of the girls helped me out to the highway the others stayed behind to repack the ass and carry most of the gear out. People were very kind to me.

Several weeks later a larger group of us were on another back pack trip – this one I remember the destination – Piss Ant Flat. The first night we were sitting around the campfire after a long day on the trail, when one of the girls became quite ill. It was decided that she should be taken back to camp with one leader and a volunteer. I really didn’t want to leave yet – it was just the beginning of the trip after all – but I was so grateful for the kindness that I had received on the last trip when I had been the one needing help, I volunteered to help get the sick girl out. It was a long night hiking then hitching a ride when we reached the highway but I felt warmhearted about helping and was happy to do it.

When we got back to camp there was a debriefing. Apparently the leader we had come out with had reported that I was eager to come back to camp with the sick girl. It was put to me that perhaps I had been too eager. Perhaps I hadn’t wanted to continue with the trip. Perhaps this was further proof I was a malingerer, which they had suspected when I was hurt on the first trip. I was stunned. I told them I had felt gratitude for being treated with kindness when I had needed it and just wanted to repay that in some way. They were skeptical. More than skeptical. I couldn’t believe that someone could so misunderstand me.

And now I say WHO CARES WHAT MY MOTIVE WAS ANYWAY! I always loved Scout Camp and all the leaders. It was a way to escape a less than pleasant home life for a month or so each summer. But these were really unkind cuts. I never held a grudge but the Mother Teresa quote just brought it right up for examination today.

On the brighter side it could be that an unkind cut given by a trusted leader to a sensitive kid might immunize the kid to the phenomenon Mother Teresa speaks of here – for life. I really don’t get all that fussed about people questioning my motives. I don’t think I have since this incident. You could say it was a wonderful gift given by those too thick to see what they were giving. In fact I think I will say that.

Thank you to all of you who are trusted to look after children’s delicate natures, who fail to see past your own stupidity and self loathing, to give the gift of inoculation to these very attitudes. Thank you.

7 thoughts on “The Lesson From Piss Ant Flat

  1. Great post. Just followed you “home” from Paul’s post at Porsidan. You’re right – often we become inoculated to stupidity and intolerance through being treated with stupidity and intolerance. Odd, isn’t it?

  2. Trish, what a story! I could see this working out in reverse for others – giving a teen a kind of “chip on her shoulder” or distrusting adults or even learning to distrust oneself (which is unfortunately what happened in my case).

    What I love is how hardy you were, how your soul opened rather than closed. And I also love how some souls close, giving us the gift of reopening later…

    Everything in perfect time. :)

  3. OMG!! I howled through this whole thing. You are simply BRILLIANT!! The story, the insights and the whole shebang!! Fantastic. What a talented story teller you are. And honestly, I felt my hackles go up and could NOT believe what you were told. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Wow!! And to top it off what a way to look at it all. They still didn’t “get” you. You are your OWN wonderful free thinking woman. I stand and applaud you my beautiful gusty, funny friend. I am soooo glad I read this. One of the best things I’ve read in sometime. BIG HUGS to you Trish, Robin. You inspire me to always be ME!!! :)

  4. Pingback: Hissing at Badgers « Breathing

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