Our perceptions do not accurately reflect reality. If we saw what was really in the mirror we would see ourselves as much more beautiful, capable, and strong. My hope is to reflect vague pieces of truth about ourselves, our experiences, and the people we love. These thoughts will be reflected without mirrors so the true beauty of life can confidently stare back at us through the haze.

Van Rides and Cafeteria Fries

I was in a car driving back from a trip to Montana at a conference called IACURH. This is what came out.

Van Rides And Cafeteria Fries

Most of us didn’t exactly know what to expect from a weekend in Montana. Some of us were still unsure why we had been invited. Despite preparation stressors, BYU arrived with a lot of inexperience and excitement, a young group of leaders who were mostly attending for their first time. IACURH they call it. This jumble of letters previously had no meaning to most of us as we piled into large vans on Thursday morning. Friendships forged by preparation kept spirits high, though expectations may have been low.

A unique group that will never again be asked to go to the same place (Montana), to spend hours doing things they thought they didn’t want to, to put up with each other, to sleep in beds with strangers, to work on the same projects, or to ride in a van together for hours on end. Most of us have very little in common. Creatively composed of two Sara’s (one spelled with an H), a McKinley, an Aubree, a Brittnay, a Kelsey, a McKay, a MaKena, a Kara, a Skyler, a Chelsea, a Tyler, a Jason, a Charly, a Kevin, and a Ben. All people from various states, ages, and backgrounds. We were only unified by the strange collection of six letters. An I, an A, a C, a U, an R, and an H. This only happened once, and it’s no longer a reality for any of us but a sinking memory.

Two phrases, “I’m so tired” and “its so beautiful,” were on repeat from Provo to Bozeman. A slight snowstorm from the night before lightly capped the grasses and trees as we passed. A trip through the snow-covered pines of Yellowstone was unforgettable. Ben passed around his sketch book and few moments were captured. Shrill voices, movies on laptops, naps, and lots of music altered each person’s perception of the landscape. From the window looking outward only so much of the beauty was captured. No one person in the van perceived everything in a similar way. However, the collection of experiences seems to be comparable to a session of General Conference. Tired eyes awakened by the beauty of a deeper message.

Anticipated arrival came fairly quickly. We moved from our arranged seating in vans to our assigned hotel rooms. As we compared room keys we discovered that McKinley would have the honor of sleeping in a room with three strangers. Before we had time to settle it was off to the blessed cafeteria.

Have you ever wondered if pork loins could build a house? Well, in case you have, the answer is yes. Using Montana State’s pork loins could provide shelter at a fairly decent price.The clever cafeteria workers disguised bricks of ham as “pork loins,” which were solid enough to build a bacon wrapped home. Great hospitality and forgettable meals were all salvaged by one thing. Cafeteria fries. If it weren’t for those, the watered-down chocolate milk and unlimited caffeine may have done a lot more damage. Only a few hiroshima beef bombs were dropped in hotel bathrooms as the majority of us remained surprisingly healthy (though bloated and gassy most of the weekend). This intestinal battle may have been caused by nights in the hospitality room, where extra pieces of pizza, soda, and junk food were consumed. It may have been our nerves about performing our Roll Call. Maybe it was the inexperience, as none of us were familiar with the IACURH cheers, which ended up to be one of the most annoying, addictive, and threatening aspects of the conference. Let’s just say BYU was NOT in the running for the spirit award.

As we were embarrassed by our inexperience on the first day, our efforts turned to earning back our respect. Our shot at glory was our roll call. The display lacked dry ice making six nice holes at the bottom of a peak, we didn’t really expect to win without explaining to judges what happened.

As we prepared to perform our roll call, tensions and nerves ran high. Sixteen hours and much stress in the making . It’s good that we were all wearing sweat suits, seeing that we were in a 300 degree, unventilated room, with hundreds of eyes on us. After practicing our choreography and our short attempt at human flight, for the twentieth time, we were confident. A group huddle, a prayer, and a pep talk later we were on stage. The music started and our practice payed off. Though it wasn’t flawless we R-O-C-K, R-O-C-K rock, we rocked it. One, and two, and three, and Aubree was in the air inches from the ceiling. The gasp of the audience made for a nervous descent. She fell slowly and we prepared for landing. As she aligned her coordinates, piked her foot, and smiled her way down we caught her and moved onto the next stage of the routine. As we completed it we received the first standing “O” ovation from the audience. The thrill and excitement of our success combined with the congratulations and high fives we received accomplished one thing. We were happy. For those moments on stage we represented BYU. Our respect was back, and people loved our routine. In the end it didn’t really matter if we won a small amount of recognition at the awards ceremony or not. We did our best, and the preparation and effort put into our roll call was much more than praiseworthy.

Throughout the remainder of our time in Montana there many new friends and perspectives earned by all of us. As we attended programs and discussed important issues with students across the nation all of us came away with a better understanding of world problems and what we can do to fix them. Though our contributions seem very small in fixing those problems it is comforting enough to see that students nationwide care about others. Discussions on diversity, justice, social expectations, programs, disorders, games, activities, homosexuality, values, prejudices, and many other topics gave us great insight into what the world outside of BYU is actually like. People are people everywhere; mormons and atheists, blacks and whites, men and women, during these three days we all connected. The leaders of different universities opened each other’s minds and hearts and gave a slight glimpse into the challenges they face and the perspectives that their campuses have to offer. All of us had our own unique experiences meeting new, different people. All of us came away with a friendship or two that may not last, but what we gained from that interaction will stay with us. Beauty surrounds us in the form of human interaction.

Unbelievably soon after arriving we were back in vans, headed home. Our assigned seats made for an interesting ride home. Sack breakfasts in hand, we left our temporary home at the Best Western, which most of us will never see again. Though everyone was sitting in the same spots there was a very different atmosphere. An aura, a thick stench of friendship. Fogged windows and even more tired eyes didn’t offset our three day experience in Montana. Olive Garden and a Primary Program made the trip easier, but the most important part was that we came back with our heads held high. We represented BYU well, and we had a renewed effort to bless the lives of on-campus residents using the unique perspectives given to us by the diverse student body we interacted with in Bozeman.

“It’s so beautiful” does not have to be a mere description of what we may see out of a van window. It’s not just snow capped trees, or sandy beaches. It represents what this trip was for all of us. An interaction of a group of people with little in common aside from a desire to make someone’s life better. We were allowed to gain an insight into what God’s children are like in very different situations. That same group of God’s children will never again be at that same place. Nor will this same group be in the same van. The beauty is in the fact that it happened the perfect amount of times, once. Anything that we consider beautiful is rare. The number of times that the names McKinley, Chelsea, McKay, Brittnay, Aubree, Kelsey, Jason, Ben, Tyler, Kevin, Kara, Skyler, Sara, MaKena, Sarah, and Charly will be combined with the letters I, A, C, U, R, H is once. Luckily for us, lessons that are rare and beautiful don’t sink or fade but form our most vivid recollections, and so this trip will remain in memory for each of us lucky enough to experience it.


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