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I learned about preparedness and survival kits from my mother.

She was wisdom personified and always seemed to know what to do, no matter what the occasion!

I truly regret it took me so long to realize it.

As a fledgling Boy Scout––less than a Tenderfoot, actually––the troop was going on a long-awaited and unprecedented early spring camping trip. At last, I was going to be with the older boys whom I not only admired, but secretly revered.

The last thing I wanted was to be embarrassed by being unprepared––heaven forbid, imagine not being prepared at 12 years of age!

When I asked Mother what to take on this extended outing, she replied in her soft-spoken manner, practically without a moment’s hesitation, ―You need to wonder what could happen and be willing to pay the wages of wandering in the wilderness. Take some water, Wranglers, weenies, wipes, warm clothing, weather protection, a weapon, a wayfinder, and whatever, and keep a watchful eye…

I knew this was going to be ―W‖ formula, no doubt! Let me elaborate on her method of guidance. She had taught me everything in the world operated on a formula. The only other ―W‖ formula she had told me was, ―Working will win when wishing won’t!

Evaluate these ―W‖ formula preparedness pointers in relationship to your own emergency and disaster preparedness efforts.

Wonder: determine, by some serious thinking, what problems might occur in the field (or in my life), such as:

– To which wonders of Nature I’d be vulnerable,

– What some other creature––man or beast––might cause me harm, or

– Which personal problems I might suffer.

I think she wanted me to ponder what experiences I might not be able to control. She wanted me to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and be able to deal eventually with whatever happened.

Willing/Wages: meant that I must be willing to pay the price to make this trip––time, effort, and risk. From the available alternatives, was this most practical, prudent, and provident for me? I had to decide if it was the most ―bang for my buck‖ at that moment—and about the longer-term consequences and implications. Even at that early age, I had already become aware of the consequences of being unprepared. Mother was indicating the price I would pay for not being prepared for the future eventualities in my life.

Wander: once departed from her presence, the security I had at home would be unavailable, and it would be as if I were wandering in the wilderness, all alone.

Water: ―Take water,‖ she said. ―You can’t live very long without drinking water––just a few hours without it and you’re in deep trouble! Of course, that’s not necessarily true of taking a bath in times of emergency. But it is one of those things a young boy can learn to do without, at least during a weekend or an emergency. You can live three days without water, but you get weaker every hour without it.‖

Wranglers: meant having appropriate clothing for the occasion, depending on the environment. In my youth, jeans (we could afford the name brand Wranglers only after the harvest was in the barn) were the working-class clothes in our ex-urban community—could be worn for man’s work––and camping out, too. They were sturdy clothing, long-wearing, tough, and easily maintained. This admonition was also meant to include a regular change of underwear. (How embarrassing to be wearing dirty underwear in case you were taken to the hospital after a camping accident!)

Weenies: meant the need for nourishment. My mother knew my penchant for hot dogs and pork and beans. Her instruction to me was to take food that (1) I would eat even under the stress of being away from the well-spread table she always prepared; (2) is easily prepared in the boonies; and (3) I’d normally enjoy. (I would have preferred her homemade oyster stew––but that would have been totally impractical for the camping environment––as it would be for most emergency situations!)

We are capable of doing without a lot of things, even when we’re stressed. However, having familiar food to eat when everything else is going badly gives us comfort far beyond the cost of the food. Food is such an important part of creating and maintaining a positive attitude, especially when all else is falling apart, that it bears repeating: don’t take anyone else’s opinion about your emergency food supply––store what you like to eat and you’ll eat what you’ve stored––and you won’t lose it!

Wipes: intimated that if I ate during this camping trip, eventually the natural necessity for wipes would occur. Not to mention a runny nose from the overnight in the wilderness! Wipes were in-deed essential then for any trip away from home––and still are! This was also meant to remind me about the need for good personal hygiene and grooming––a little soap and elbow grease to remove the dirt and smoke odor from my body and clothing. There is no greater comfort than being our best self––putting our best foot forward––handling whatever we encounter with panache and style.

Warmth: how can anyone be prepared if the elements are ignored? Back then, the job of finding both small and effective means of keeping warm was more difficult. Today we have modern technology––so many new fabrics for clothing and camping gear, equipment, and supplies to help in this life-saving necessity. Of course, let us not forget the need for fire to prepare food, purify water, and provide warm water for bathing.

Weather protection: this was the need for adequate shelter from the unpredictable spring weather in North Carolina––a tent and some waterproof matches. For today’s considerations it includes the provision of living space that precludes a family from suffering the effects of inclement weather––whether it’s intemperate climate, moisture, or wind-driven forces.

Weapon: a brand-new Swiss knife attached to my belt for all to see––talk about proud! Nobody was going to mess with me and the complete arsenal at my fingertips. I was prepared for even a bear! Besides, it was a miracle-making tool just waiting to be unleashed, whether for opening a can of weenies, beans or soup, shaving a stick for fire tender, or carving an ―X‖ on a tree to mark the trail (forgive me, treehuggers––I was only 12 years old!)

Wayfinder: meant having the appropriate equipment, such as a wrist compass and a local area road map. At least, I could find my way back to the camp, home, or anywhere on that map, should I be the victim of a ―snipe hunt‖ with the senior scouts. Make sure you have maps of local streets, as well as maps of your destination, if you must depart from your home.

Watchful eye: this part of the communication was a little bit trickier because it was somewhat more philosophic, but I know it meant being prepared for any emergency. I practiced until I was compass-trained and physically ready to take the fifty-mile hike. I was also required to learn all the first aid information, up to and including how to cut the ―X‖ through the skin for subsequent snakebite treatment. Thank heaven that treatment has been superseded! Actually, upon reflection, I couldn’t have cut the snake, much less cut an ―X‖ on my own body!

Whatever: meant a category was for anything I wanted to take that wasn’t in the proscribed categories listed above––like my genuine silver-plated Duncan yo-yo!…or the latest Marvel comic book… or jacks and marbles––whatever was important then for my comfort and pleasure under trying conditions!

Watchcare: meant caring about the others on the camping trip. This was a quality my mother had in bountiful supply––she really cared about others, constantly on the lookout for someone who needed a lift. Her ―good neighbor‖ policy was in full force at all times. She practiced the true spirit of caring about those in her community.

So, my mother’s instructions sent me scurrying enthusiastically throughout all three floors of the house, looking for the equipment I needed to impress the older Scouts in the troop. As the seemingly essential items were located, I placed all the pieces of equipment and little piles on my upper bunk, then called her for approval. At this point I learned how to choose what is essential, and how to focus on economy, efficiency, and personal well-being.

Mother regarded all the gear and paraphernalia I had assembled. I remember her saying quietly, “Pep without purpose is piffle!” She gently (well, not so gently that I soon forgot!) instructed me to sort all of my stuff into three piles. I was to place in the first pile the items I couldn’t do with-out, a second pile for ―stuff‖ I thought I might need, and a third pile for the things I’d like to take with me.

After I had ordered my piles as instructed, mother looked at the three piles carefully and made a couple of corrections to my piles. She then told me to return the stuff heaped in the second and third piles to the drawers and closets––and to place in the camp bag only the items in the first pile. You know, even years later, mother’s words were my guidance when I traveled more than a million miles as an international business traveler. What I eventually learned is that the quality of any trip is being able to travel without a great deal of non-elemental ―stuff.