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  • Writer's pictureTerry S.

Bears, Buffalo and Communication

We long dreamed of vacationing in Yellowstone, one of the natural wonders of the world. Someday, someday. Finally, someday came in the form of a too-good-to-miss opportunity: my friend Mark Branger invited me to keynote for the Montana 21st CCLA After School Training in Polson on July the 6th, 2023!

So, since we would be relatively close to the park, we decided to combine “pleasure with pleasure” and take in the sights of Yellowstone after the event. At Mark’s experienced suggestion, we booked cabins for nights at Mammoth Hot Springs, Lake Yellowstone, and Old Faithful.

Each day was an amazing natural experience! We saw, of course, Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, a bear, bison, antelope and so much more. We also saw much about ourselves, as related to communication. We were reminded of three things:

False Communication. Though we were excited about our trip, we both had anxieties. They involved my wife Sherry’s health and whether she was ready for such an adventure.

In October 2020, Sherry took a horrendous head-first fall, resulting in emergency surgery to correct a serious neck injury. Thankfully, the surgery solved what we first thought was paralysis. But as far as her resultant neck pain, she still had it. In December 2021, she had revision surgery by an amazing surgeon, and her condition has thankfully improved tremendously. When we left for Montana, though, she was only a few months out of physical therapy. Prior to our departure date, she worked both in and out of the fitness center to get ready for our Yellowstone adventure. Sure enough, when it came time to walk up and down and all-around Yellowstone, she was able to nearly walk me to death. She wanted to see everything! Sherry could do more than we even hoped possible because she put the “can’t myth” aside and replaced it with determination and intention.

Isn’t it often the same with communicating and connecting? We tell ourselves we’re limited when perhaps we’re not. We sometimes tell ourselves things like, “I’m not a people person,” “I’m too introverted for this interaction,” or “I just can’t communicate with him/her.” However, we can often do more than we think we can if it is important enough to us to put in the work—and communication should be important enough.

Controlled Communication. Not only did Yellowstone remind us of what we can do if we’re determined, it reminded us of what we might want to say and shouldn’t.

There were times that at the end of a full day of exploring Yellowstone, we simply fell into bed. For the day, we had enjoyed all of Yellowstone we could stand. During those times, we learned that silence is golden. We also learned that, when fatigued, stressed or anxious about what the next day held for Sherry, it might be best to hold our negative thoughts. It gave the next day a fresh start.

Everyone, including teachers, faces similar circumstances. Oftentimes, less is more when it involves relationships, and it’s better for all concerned if you don’t say everything that comes to mind.

Self Communication. In reflecting on our adventure, Sherry and I both have concluded that for us Yellowstone will always be the trip of a lifetime. Unbelievably unforgettable!

On the other hand, what if it had not gone well? What if our fears regarding Sherry’s limitations had materialized? What if we had to leave right after I spoke at the event in Polson? What if we had to cancel our trip to Yellowstone and postpone a lifelong dream?

For certain, it would have been disappointing for both of us. However, I still could have considered our trip a success if I had focused on what I was there to do. I could have communicated to myself that I was there to connect with wonderful teachers while sharing “People Connectors” in a gorgeous location.

PEOPLE CONNECTORS: Even in a setting like Yellowstone, good communication can be the real wonder of your world.

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