It seemed strange to be talking about snowballs in July. Yet Jane Ann’s story was not really about a snowball at all. It wasn’t about justice. It wasn’t even about revenge. It was about relationships. Or, more accurately it was about relationship awareness.
“Just ask him what I do to people who cross me!” Jane Ann said to the group of teenagers sitting in the Bureau of Reclamation Truck as they headed deeper into the Uinta Mountain’s Ashley National Forest to work.
They were all participating in the Youth Conservation Corps for the summer. That meant living together in long army surplus tents. Boys in one tent and girls in another, where each person slept on a single cot-like-bed and had a confidentiality trunk sitting at the bed’s foot to store private, personal belongings. They did and experienced everything together.
They ate their morning and evening meals in a huge “mess-tent” prepared by a camp chef. And, each evening, members of the Corps would morph into faux sous chefs under his direction to prepare a sack lunch for each person to take as their lunch the next day. Such was life as a member of the camp for an entire summer.
On this summer day, while bouncing along a rustic dirt road to complete a “slash” assignment at a recent logging site, Jane Ann Henry talked with her coworkers about what she had learned from her almost lifelong relationship with “A-Boy-Next-Door.”
“We, and our families, were really good friends,” she explained. “Then on a snowy winter’s day A-Boy-Next-Door threw a snowball at me and I was incensed! So I decided to teach him a lesson he would soon not forget. I ignored him and didn’t speak with him for many years, so as to make him feel my pain a hundredfold.”
The truck bounced through the mud puddles deeper into the forest as she spoke to her truck-bound mates. Then the trees abruptly vanished to reveal branches strewn almost as far as the eye could see, in a newly created clearing where their ride stopped. The boys and girls climbed out of the truck and began their work of gathering the branches and placing them into large piles, away from the surrounding, still-standing trees. When the first snow comes at the change of season other rangers will come back to the site and burn the piles, clearing the ground for new trees to be planted the following spring.
“I guess my relationship approach when I was younger was a lot like what we’re doing here today.” Jane Ann continued as she and her companions of the day carried branches to the burn piles. “Slash and burn!”
She continued working, sharing and confiding. “Then, many years later, I was put in a position where I was sort of required to work alongside That-Boy-Next-Door. That’s when he asked, ‘Why have you been mad at me for all these years?’”
She emphatically threw a large branch on a pile, turned and said, “I was quite speechless! He honestly had no idea what he had done; why I was punishing him! That’s when I understood the value of the work we’re doing here at the logging slash site.”
It seemed strange to be talking about snowballs in July. Yet, Jane Ann Henry’s story was not really about a snowball at all. It wasn’t about justice. It wasn’t even about revenge. It was about relationships. Or, more accurately it was about relationship awareness.
“Often times, we’re angry with our neighbor for some insignificant slight and they don’t even know why. They honestly don’t know what they did. When I came to understand this, I realized that when I had slashed and burned a relationship, I needed to take that next, spring, step. I needed to plant and nurture new “relationship trees” in our shared forest so over time, our relationship would fully flourish again!”
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.