Any time you move to a new place there always comes the necessary hassle of changing your address and updating accounts. The ordeal is never enjoyable, and it reminds you of how many institutions it takes to help us get through life. However, it did prompt me to get rid of some old cards I’ve been carrying around in my wallet, which subsequently led to me uncovering a little gem I’d long since forgotten about.
As a youth, I had the great fortune and distinct pleasure of attending the Asheville School, which is a fairly small college-preparatory boarding and day school nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I attended from grades 9-12, and while the experience proved to be quite challenging, it undoubtedly made me into a better human being than I was when I entered.
My evolution was in large part attributed to some of the incredible individuals that worked, and still work, at Asheville School. They demonstrated a combination of patience, perseverance, and at times, a level of charity, hope, or faith that I still have a hard time grasping but will forever be grateful.
I have, and suspect will always be, a person with immense appreciation and love for the outdoors. It was instilled in me as a baby when my father, a practicing psychiatrist who should have been an ornithologist, taught me to say my first word, which was “bird.” This compulsion to explore and immerse myself in the outdoors has grown since the first days I could stomp through the woods, to the present time where I jump at the chance to grab a kayak paddle, strap on a pair of skis, or strike off down the trail.
It is no wonder then that I was immediately drawn to the Asheville School’s mountaineering department. I know of very few high schools where instead of playing, for instance, baseball, basketball, and football, which the Asheville School has – Go Blues! – you had the option of taking mountaineering as a sport. This I did.
At the helm of the mountaineering department was one individual I will never forget, Ed Maggart. At the time, the base of operations was located in “The Cave,” which constituted one small room next to the mail room. Despite its small size, it housed a tremendous amount of climbing and camping gear that decorated every nook and cranny. These were our instruments of exploration, and when we weren’t practicing our knots, learning how to belee, or working on our kayak rolls in the pool, we were out using this gear to test ourselves and discover the world around us. Through these exercises, and the many trips that Ed organized, not only did I become good at mountaineering, I also learned how to work with others, trust people, and practice humility.
I have not seen Ed in a while, but we do keep in touch to this day. He is unbelievable in his ability to stay connected with former students – meanwhile, mentoring new ones – and I always look forward to receiving his holiday briefings that fill me in on his latest journeys and the progress of his family. From what I have observed, he is still pushing himself and the people around him to become better human beings.
I experienced mixed emotions about sharing this little “gem,” for it was something that transpired between me and Ed; however, it was a gift he gave to me, and I feel it has much more value outside the confines of my wallet. In addition, time is fleeting, and I would rather share it than bury it away in a box or lose it on the shelf. I hope Ed will forgive me, but in the end all you will see is a demonstration of an individual’s compassion and willingness to provide some guidance to someone who was admittedly lost.
While Ed certainly helped me me with some personal discovery, I suspect I’m still a bit lost; but at least I know what’s not in my wallet!