Last Word | Transformation

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we discuss the meaning of the word transformation.
Geoff Lawrence Geoff Lawrence
Former Mountaineers Vice President
January 22, 2019

I’m not a joiner. I’ve never been drawn to participate in structured organizations to make social contacts, network, or fulfill a need to belong to a group. So how did I become fully engaged with The Mountaineers in progressively more involved and time-consuming roles? I’ve asked myself this question more than once, and being asked to write his column has moved me to self-reflection to distill my motivations into words.

As with many, my introduction to The Mountaineers was motivated by a desire for instruction to enable me to gain skills to be more competent in the outdoors. When I moved to Tacoma in 2003, for the first time in my adult life, I found myself in a situation where I did not have continuous travel obligations — making it difficult and impractical to commit to activities that would compromise family time. With my newfound free time I enrolled in the Basic Climbing course with the Tacoma Mountaineers and rapidly learned that I was not only gaining a vast variety of outdoor skills, but that my instructors were a cadre of talented, passionate volunteers who loved what they were doing. I completed the Basic Climbing course (OK, it took me two years) and was armed with proficiencies that not only gave me new confidence and stretched my abilities, but would enable me to go places and see things that were previously unimaginable and accessible only through photographs. I, and several of my other fellow Basic Climbing students eagerly went on to the Intermediate Climbing course, and to serving on the Basic Climbing Committee to continue to improve our skills and become part of the enthusiastic instructor base we had experienced as Basics.

I quickly came to understand that The Mountaineers needs not only volunteers who contribute their time teaching, mentoring, leading climbs, etc., but also others who contribute in less sexy roles of administrative branch leadership, and I realized that competent execution of these “back office” functions was essential to being able to offer excellent front line activities and courses. In not too long a time I determined that perhaps my aptitude in administration might be greater than that in climbing and technical instruction, so I became involved in branch leadership, first on the branch Council, later as branch Chair, and currently as VP Outdoor Centers. 

Along the way, I've had the great fortune of meeting other highly skilled people who contribute a great deal of their time, talents and even treasure. In some ways, the Mountaineers has made a profound impact on their lives, and they want to contribute to perpetuating the experiences and friendships they have gained through it. Tom Shimko, Jim Feltus, Amy Mann, Marty Babare, Julie Myer, and Mindy Roberts just to name a few, are all highly capable, busy, alive individuals who have donated untold hours and unique skills to make The Mountaineers work, and there are scores of others today and in The Mountaineers 100+ year history who have done the same. We contribute because The Mountaineers does important work. We teach people to be safe and skillful in the outdoors where everyone is equal, and where we can push the limits of our skill, courage and perseverance. And we introduce others to the world’s wilderness. Without such an introduction, it is not possible to have an appreciation for why these lands should be conserved.

Invariably, when I’m with some of my Mountaineers friends on a glacier, a rock pitch, or hiking in the Grand Canyon, the topic turns not to why we contribute the hours we do to The Mountaineers, but to the great enrichment we have gained through our involvement with the organization, and how our lives have been in some way transformed and enhanced by this engagement. And yes, there is even discussion concerning how The Mountaineers will figure somehow in our estate planning. These activities elicit lots of philosophical, existential thoughts, through a desire to perpetuate it for others. Being present in the majesty of places I have had the privilege to experience, my existence is put in perspective and the value of having been introduced to the skills to reach them is validated.

I’m not a joiner, but I’m certainly glad I joined The Mountaineers 10 years ago — it's taken me places, literally and figuratively, where I have never been before — and has transformed my life.


This article originally appeared in our Sep/Oct 2014 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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