It was Sunday night. We had just gotten home from church and finished dinner. Part of me wanted to sit down and rest, but there was this fireside. I had already been to three hours of church — but, it was niggling at me, just a little, and it sounded like it might be fun to hear the story of the lawn mower boy.
Ryan Tripp, the lawn mower boy, is now an adult, living life with his beautiful wife and children. He came to do the fireside as a favor for a friend, and was willing to share his story. He has been gracious enough to allow me to use his story here. Here are the details:
Ryan was 12 years old in 1997. He was out helping his dad with the landscaping business and their truck broke down outside of Parowan, UT. Ryan said, “Dad, we have two lawn mowers in the back. Why don’t we just ride them into town?” Dad agreed and on the ride home, they both started dreaming. Ryan dreamed about riding the mower to Salt Lake, and this progressed into a dream about having the longest lawn mower ride in the Guiness Book of World Records. Maybe they could even drive to Washington D.C. and mow the White House lawn!!
Ryan’s dad later found out about a neighbor who needed a liver transplant, 3-month-old Whitnie Pender. Ryan had found not only a dream, but a cause.
Whitnie Pender had a rare disease that required a liver transplant. The cost was enormous, especially for a family with other children and limited means. Ryan decided that this lawn mower dream could be a fundraising project for Whitnie.
They got a mower and trailer donated, and found out they needed to beat the current Guiness record of 2,900 miles. They gathered dad, Grandma and Grandpa, (and many others) and got on the road: Salt Lake City to Washington D. C. This was about 3,300 miles.
Now, the riding lawn mower that Ryan had only went about 8 to 10 miles an hour — not so fast. They went about 80 to 100 miles in a day. For us, we could do that in a car in about 90 minutes. This was no small task. He had to have a vehicle driving in front of him, and a vehicle behind: a team.
It took 42 days.
Ryan Tripp achieved his dream of breaking the Guiness record for longest lawn mower ride. He raised $15,000 for Whitnie Pender. He also raised awareness for organ donation.
Ryan Tripp was a wonderful speaker. As he spoke, he shared with the youth his own beliefs about setting and achieving goals and making a difference for others. I am certain that when he was dreaming with his father, that 12-year-old boy had no idea what this would turn into.
Here is what I learned from Ryan’s Tripp:
1. Dreams become reality with a whole lot of work. It all started with a dream. Ryan was just dreaming out loud with his dad. He had some ideas and they ran with it. They wanted to do something big, and they did. First, Ryan’s dad allowed dreaming in their household. But, not only was there dreaming, there was follow-through. We all need to learn to set goals and follow our dreams. Mark Gorman said: “Not all dreamers are winners, but all winners are dreamers. Your dream is the key to your future. The Bible says that, “without a vision (dream), a people perish.” You need a dream, if you’re going to succeed in anything you do.” We must all dream — but when we allow that dream to build us into something more through work, dedication, and effort, we give ourselves keys to the future.
2. It takes a village. Ryan didn’t accomplish his goal by himself. It took a lot of support, help and teamwork to get his dream on the road. When we want to achieve something, we must involve others that will cheer us on, believe in us, and support us through the ups and downs. We do not have to do these thing alone. Many times, we cannot do it alone.
3. You don’t have to go fast to accomplish a dream. I cannot imagine the excitement that started this trip, but I also cannot imagine the difficulties: a riding lawn mower, 8 miles an hour, in the rain, sleeping in motels, eating McDonald’s food daily. I am sure that the novelty wore off quickly. Just like life: we work, we play, we clean toilets. We keep going. We cannot accomplish everything right now. Even at 8 miles an hour, with perseverance a lot can be achieved.
4. Once you start, endure. As you look at the picture above, see the road ahead. That is a long way, especially on a lawn mower. Ryan had to endure. He set a goal and he moved forward with it, now he was committed. One reported asked him: “Did you get a numb bum?” Well, certainly! There are times when life isn’t enjoyable; when we don’t feel that we are accomplishing much. We may want to quit and give up, but we must endure.
Orson F. Whitney stated:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
5. Even with good dreams, we encounter difficulties. So Ryan’s plan was to make it to Washington D.C. and mow the White House lawn. Well, for many reasons, that didn’t happen. He was able to make it to Washington D.C. and break the Guiness record, but wasn’t able to mow the White House lawn that year at the end of his 3,300 mile trip. I am sure that was disappointing and discouraging. We all encounter difficulties in this life. Sometimes we think we have it all laid out, ready to go, and then…problem, pain, trial, difficulty. These bumps in the road are par for the course. We must expect that life will not always go smoothly and continue to endure regardless.
Theodore Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
5. When we choose a higher cause, and God is on our team, we are raised beyond our own capacity. It is easy to forget that Ryan was only 12-years-old when he began this adventure. I know some 12-year-olds. I vaguely remember being 12. This young man chose a dream, a cause, but because of help from his family, and I am sure a lot of intervention from a higher power, young Ryan was raised above his own capabilities. He was able to have an influence on others, raise money for a cause, and have an adventure of a lifetime.
I believe that when we choose good, and actively seek it, there are time when we can be lifted above our regular capacity. There are times when we can be vessels for good. Sometimes this happens even without our knowledge. We are able to reach, help, and guide others to good through our actions. I believe that sometimes God sends angels to help and intervene in our lives, but sometimes God can use us to be His hands in helping, serving, and uplifting others. I cannot speak for Ryan, but I see that through his example, many were brought light and encouragement. In the New Era article, Ryan shared one of the brightest memories of his trip. One family saw him talking about organ donation on the news. Soon after, their young daughter died. Because of his influence, the family decided to donate her organs to help others. Ryan was able to influence others to help save lives.
6. Every so often, we get an unexpected gift. Occasionally, when we are going along our path, we are blessed with a gift — something that lets us know we are doing the right things, we are on the right path, and our efforts are making a difference. The first trip that Ryan took he didn’t get to mow the White House lawn. There was too much red tape. But, in 2001, after an additional whirlwind trip of mowing every State Capitol lawn in the U.S., Ryan’s original dream came true.
Now, mowing the White House lawn isn’t a dream of mine, but this boy looks pretty proud! Those are some awesome pictures!!
In summation: work at your dreams, and gather loved ones around to cheer you on; when you encounter difficulties, keep going; and, remember you are lifted above your own capacity when you rely on someone greater than you. Every once in a while, you will be given a gift in return for your efforts. You never know when you are the gift to someone else.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “Forget yourself and go to work.”
So, when you get a niggling, listen. You may just learn something.
I want to thank Ryan Tripp for being so willing to share his story and his pictures with me. I was truly inspired by his story and hope I have done him justice here. Thanks everyone for being so supportive!!