First off, I apologize, I didn’t get a blog post written on Friday. I thought about it a couple times during my busy day, but ultimately spaced it out by the time I got home. We have had a very busy week and weekend. But it’s been good.
Today is the 24th of July. For most people it is another day, but growing up in Utah, today is Pioneer Day! It is a celebration of the pioneers who crossed the plains and settled in Utah. When I was growing up, Pioneer Day started off with a ward breakfast in the Church parking lot. We had pancakes, some sort of meat like bacon or sausage or ham, if I remember correctly it was usually bacon, but I can’t remember. Then there were strawberries, fresh strawberries in a sauce, to put on the pancakes, and orange juice or milk to drink. That was a fun way to start the day. When we finished breakfast, we would go to the parade. The 24th of July parade when I was a kid was mainly done by the wards from our Church although anyone was welcome to participate. I remember having the opportunity to ride on a float as well as walk in this parade on a couple of occasions. Then we spent the rest of the day as a family. We would often go to the park for a picnic or have a backyard barbeque etc. It was a fun day. But growing up I didn’t really think about what we were celebrating, it was mostly about the breakfast, the parade and the family time.
As I have gotten older and learned more about not only the history of the pioneers, but what a pioneer truly is, I have grown to love this day even more, even if I’m not in Utah to celebrate it, it no longer is just a day about parties, but a day to reflect and remember all the pioneers that I have not only read about but gotten to know in my lifetime. I have a number of people in my family history that crossed the plains and came to Utah, and then were asked to settle other previously unsettled parts of Utah. I have read stories of family leaving England and coming to America to be free, being the first of their family to arrive, or bringing the whole family and all traveling West. Some people had wealth when they left, some had nothing, but not so many arrived with as much. Many came by handcart, some by wagon and ox team, but they came, looking for a better life. I am grateful that they came, and especially grateful that some of their histories have been written so that we can read about them, be inspired by them, and so that we never forget them.
But a pioneer is not just someone who crossed the plains looking for a better life sometime in the 1800’s. There are pioneers in all ages. I am always in awe of my in-laws. They came to Alaska before it was a state. They homesteaded here in Willow, Alaska before the highway was even built this far north. They could travel over Hatcher’s Pass in the summer for a short time, or fly into the airport, but the highway that now runs past our property ended 13 miles south in Houston Alaska, so they had to hike or snowmachine in the winter to get out here. They, along with a number of other hearty families came and settled, built and created the community that we enjoy here in Willow today. I am truly grateful for their perseverance, especially through the winter, for the life they created here, and the opportunities that we have now because of what they accomplished over many years.
We live in an age of change, not that every era didn’t have its own changes, there’s nothing more constant than change, but we live in a time that seems to be exploding with change. Being a pioneer now doesn’t necessarily require us to travel long distance and move to different continents, carrying all our personal belongings by handcart or snowmachine. We can be pioneers in so many ways. Some of us may invent new technology or a new way of doing something that revolutionizes a particular career field. Some may be pioneers in their families alone by making better choices, changing bad habits and affecting generations of family to come. Some may reach out in their communities and affect changes that make the world around them a better place, not just for them, but for their whole community. There are so many ways to be a pioneer, but I have learned one thing about pioneers that sets them apart from others. Pioneers change things for the better. The way they affect the world around them makes it a better place, not only for themselves, but for everyone in the future. Pioneers see a better future and they work toward that future rather than seeing only themselves and how it benefits them, they want improvement for everyone.
So, today on this 24th of July, whether you are a member of my Church or not, I would encourage you to remember a pioneer. Whether it was someone in your family, or someone you admire because of their great contributions to society today. Remembering where we came from, remembering the sacrifices people offered to get us where we are today will help us remember to be grateful, and can inspire us to be pioneers in our own lives and communities in the future.