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Kent Bernhardt: Fly, little bird

“Dad, I have a job!”

I still remember the excitement my daughter’s voice. After three and a half years of college life at Appalachian State University preparing to be a teacher, she had decided to take a semester off to “get her bearings.”

It had been a tough year for her, almost depressing. She was unsettled in a way I had never seen, drifting through some rough seas. I tried to offer encouragement, but she needed to find her own way.

So the news of this new job seemed like just the right tonic. It would get her mind off of her troubles. I only hoped it would be something she would enjoy.

“So where’s this new job?” I happily inquired.

“At Zion National Park in Utah,” she piped.

There was a long silence on the phone. My mouth was moving but nothing was coming out.

I remembered that she applied for work there, but that was on a mere whim. Thousands of young students from all over the country apply each year, but few are chosen. I had never considered she might be one of them.

“Ummm, OK,” I mumbled. “Let’s talk this over when I get home.”

During my 40-minute drive home, I formulated my entire case. You’re too young to travel across the country by yourself. What happens if you get hurt? Who’s running that place? Are you sure it’s not a cult? You know, there are lots of cults out there.

All kinds of dim scenarios were pulsing through my brain.

I arrived at home to find her in front of the computer gathering all the information she could find on Zion National Park. She was ready for me.

Like a skilled prosecutor, I began unfolding my case. She listened patiently, but there was a look on her face and a confidence in her demeanor that told me I had already lost. She was going to do this.

And I have to admit, after five minutes of hearing the excitement in her voice and watching her eyes sparkle, I was convinced she not only should do this, she HAD to do this.

That was three years ago and she is still in Utah, but still her daddy’s girl. She returns to North Carolina from time to time because part of her heart and many of her friends are here, but her home is in Utah. I couldn’t be happier for her.

I have visited her four times there. I love the beauty and I see the attraction. But this is her journey, not mine.

She climbs mountains, explores caves, stands much too close to the edge of towering cliffs to have her picture made, and as I write this, she is with her friend Scotty in Hawaii exploring mountains, beaches, and jumping off large rocks into crystal clear ocean water.

She knows no fear. She lives by a motto I heard just last week: “Some of the best things in life are found on the other side of fear.”

True. The only thing she’s afraid of is the same thing we all fear; living a life with no meaning.

I hope someday she’ll finish that last semester of college, but whether she does or not, I’m already proud of her. She’s done more living in 25 short years than most of us do in a much longer period.

I can honestly tell you I’m one of her biggest cheerleaders. Once, she thanked me “for rooting her happiness, not just her success.” I wear that compliment like a medal.

I didn’t raise my little bird to stay in the nest. I raised her to fly wherever her wings will take her.

Fly, little bird. Fly!

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.


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