Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Win THAT Contest!

 by Susanne Dietze

School’s starting soon. Do your kids complain about walking? You know the old cliché/joke/adage, “Back when I was a kid, I walked two miles to school. In the snow. Uphill, both ways…”

The joke being, of course, that none of us walked uphill both ways. We weren’t pioneer children who hiked for miles to school, through sleet or blizzards. Nor did we have to go to work in a coal mine or textile mill as a kid, or wait for the end of harvest season to get educated, like some of our not-too-far-back ancestors. Nevertheless, we still share this joke of one-upmanship over our kids.

Your life is easy. You’ve got nothing to complain about. I had things much worse than you...

When someone brings up that old, tired line about hiking to school, most of the time I don’t say anything. But if it’s a lively discussion somebody wants about how hard or weird or unusual their walk to school was, I have something to add. In other words, I might win that contest.

I grew up in a hilly region of southern California. My parents still live in the house where I was raised. The backyard is shallow, and ends in a uncultivated descent down the hill. Below are the backyards of the folks down the hill. (We didn’t have many secrets from one another.)
Looking down the hill in 2013--a fence now separates the properties
Now our backyard hill might have been uncultivated, but the front was quite civilized, thank you. Still, to walk the "normal" route to school, my brother and I would have had to descend the street downhill and round a dangerous corner that lacked visibility and a sidewalk. Fearing an accident, my mom came up with an ingenious solution for an alternate route for us. She received permission from our down-the-hill neighbors, tied a rope to a tree in the backyard, and sent us to school down our backyard hill so we could cut through the neighbors’ backyards and avoid the scary intersection. So, from age five on, I climbed to school.
Heading off to the first day of Kindergarten down the hill. I have the most awesome haircut EVER!
We tripped sometimes, and got scratched. Our socks were stained brown from iceplant, and our hands were always blistered from the rope.
So I might, just might, win a conversational argument about the weirdest way one got to school, if one is up for such a competition. (Pretty stupid.)

The thing is, I think many of us do this same sort of thing with our spiritual lives. There’s a part of us that relishes having experiences that trump others’—whether it’s to puff ourselves up (by sharing something we've done) or to make ourselves out to have overcome/have to deal with more than others (by bemoaning our circumstances to earn pity or sympathy).

Sharing our needs in prayer is one thing. The Bible is clear we should storm the gates of heaven on one another’s behalf and bear one another's burdens. But have you ever tried to share with a friend who cut you off, only to wax tragically poetic about how their circumstances are worse? How did you feel? (For me, the answer is insignificant, unimportant, and un-listened to. I didn’t want to ask that person for prayer or fellowship again.)
The spot where we'd begin our descent. The tree is gone now, and the backyard is walled, but that doesn't keep out the coyotes.
Our life experiences, trials, and triumphs should not be viewed as a competition with others’. Busyness, sickness, stress, and suffering are not idols to glory in. We’re each on the journey God sets forth for us, and some of us have a smooth, easy walk at times, while others endure seasons of trudging through snow, uphill both ways.

And yeah, I had calluses from my rope climbing. But I also strengthened my shoulders and lungs in the climbs, and my imagination sparked. On that hill, I was a pioneer or Kumeyaay girl, running away from a bobcat or gathering hard-to-reach herbs for my ailing grandma. To this writer, the climb was a good, good thing.

Bottom line, no matter how hard or easy our climbs, we aren’t in a competition with each other. We’re to be each other’s cheerleaders, prayer warriors, supporters, and friends. God gives each of us a path to follow in humility.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

How did you get to school?

Have you ever experienced spiritual rivalry?


Susanne Dietze, sadly, did not keep up her climbing skills. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. You can visit her on her website,


  1. That is one amazing haircut! You were so cute! (Well, and still are.) Yes, I'd have to say that story tops any I've heard. I had to walk to school in my elementary years but there was no climbing involved. :)

  2. Wow! I think you win!

    I know when I was in first and second grade, we had to walk to school. We lived just barely inside the mile limit, so the bus didn't come to our area.

    Mom didn't drive and Dad had to go early to work, so my brother and I (we were six and seven) walked back and forth to school most days.

    We lived in a fairly newly developed area,so our neighborhood was pretty much by itself. We had to walk out of our neighborhood and along a very long stretch of empty road to finally get to school.

    Thank God, we never had any mishaps, but I would certainly not let kids that age do that now. But we never thought anything of it. And by third grade, we had a new elementary school built just down at the end of our street.

  3. Good morning, Karen! Yes, my haircut was fun. Not sure if we were going for the Dorothy Hamill look or something else. Oy!

    Thanks so much for stopping by this morning! Blessings.

  4. DeAnna, I know what you mean about not letting kids do things today that we used to do "back in the day." Childhood has changed!

    I'm glad you and your brother had each other to walk with. Having a companion makes all the difference.

  5. I love the picture! For a short while, my sister and I had to climb up and down a hill to go to the bus stop, but we didn't need a rope. Thanks for the reminder to set our competitive pride aside and give the gift of listening.

  6. Susie, this tops any story I have of going to school. LOL

    I admire your mother for her ingenuity, especially when you mentioned the dangerous corner. My first thought was that it would be icy in winter. Of course, my next thought was how you managed to get down the hill in winter. Then I wondered if you even have frost that would have made the slope treacherous. Or did you have to contend with morning dew?

    I think the longest I had to walk to school was a mile. It seemed like forever because I was in Grade 2 and 3 at the time and don't remember much about it except the tears freezing to my cheeks from the biting wind and -50F temps. That was back in the early 60s and although there were school buses, we were town kids who happened to live on the other side of the tracks.

    This post is very powerful. Thank you.

  7. Awesomely fun story, Susie. And such a great spiritual reminder. Like the others, I also love the haircut, and your mom's ingenuity. :)

  8. Hi Karl! I like what you said about the gift of listening. It's something we have to cultivate, isn't it?

    Thanks for coming by!

  9. Hi Anita Mae! In the area where I grew up, we didn't get snow. (Drive an hour east, however, and you get plenty.) We were too close to the coast, I guess. We did get frost, but it was never an issue.

    -50 temps and you were walking home?! Oh my goodness! That sounds terrible. I think the coldest "walk home" I had was when I lived in the midwest and it was -17 and my nose froze shut. Shudder.

  10. Suzie, my mom was pretty smart, huh?

    When I was older, I stopped climbing the hill and walked the "dangerous" street. My jr high was almost 2 miles away. Bleah. Hated that walk.

  11. I can't compete with that either.
    I did live in a rural area that had so few kids on my side of town that we were picked up in a station wagon for kindergarten.

    And, if we competed for snow-bound stories of climbing over drifts in our snow pants to get back home, Anita would surely win!

    I do love that photo, Susie! So adorable!

    I'm going to be thinking about the spiritual competition now. Good reminders!

  12. Deb reminded me that I'd forgotten to mention your photos...

    Thank you for including them. Talk about a slope, sure, but to see the real thing - and with such a cutie, too. That's a great pic!

  13. Deb, you're right: Anita definitely wins the Harshest Winter competition. It reminds me of Little House on the Prairie. I would be dialoguing the whole way home. "Mary, I'm so cold. I hope Ma has some soup on the stove waiting for us..."

    You guys are sweet about the pics. I wish I had more pics of the hill back then. There's one of a handful of our neighbors giving the rope a try, but I couldn't find it at my parents' house.

  14. Wow, I just rode the bus. Kind of boring.

  15. Hey Suzie. Thanks for the reminder. I am very competitive, and I really do need to work on that.

    I'm like Dina too. Boringly rode the bus. But I do remember when I was in middle school, my hair freezing while we waited at the bus stop. I don't think it was 50 below, but cold enough!

  16. Lisa, frozen hair sounds terrible! Brr!

    It's hard to keep our focus sometimes. I have to work on it all the time.


Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.