Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The view from here

I do not know one more thing in life more visually awe-inspiring than being somewhere high and looking down at the earth you commonly tread. I'm no expert at getting there by any means. And it's a funny thing for someone like me to appreciate because of my lifelong dance with a fear of heights. I used to say "I'm not afraid of the height, just the falling from it."
Our TLC-ers look down at the glory of nature
This weekend getting up that supposedly 'easy climb' to the top of Peaked Mountain was no walk in the park. Our six TLC teens had to wrestle with more than a few roadblocks (what road?) as we meandered our way up the two mile terrain (Rick, our fearless guide's 'rough estimate was a blessing') and encounter a few snags along the way. Yet, of all the breathless moments and obstacles of the trek, we were reminded that obstacles come in so many other forms. Our obstacles, our fears - those that we consider so paralyzing may seem pale in comparison for another enduring something far more difficult. 
This is perspective.

Joining us on the journey up Peaked Mountain was Scott, outreach coordinator for Double H Ranch (a Paul Newman camp) and his girlfriend Kati. Scott was diagnosed with cancer as a baby and lost his leg before he ever learned to walk on two. Yet, here he was climbing a mountain with us. As much as a person with two legs can understand, I knew the difficulty added for Scott to an already challenging pursuit. His prosthetic with all of its high-tech capability can not grip, steady, push or turn as easily as a real leg.
Adam, Kati, Scott and Rick

Despite many difficulties, several uncomfortable maneuvers and a frustrating fall Scott made it up that mountain with us. Kati was his right hand woman and the two worked like a team.

Scott shared something with us that has stuck with me. When he is mistaken for a veteran or a wounded warrior he is thanked for his service and praised for his courage. However, when he inevitably corrects the mistaken praiser to the fact he lost his leg to cancer he is often greeted with uncomfortable silence. "Oh" is all they can often say. It's sad that cancer can still be to some such a taboo.

We still live in a world that is for the most part populated by people who do not have to fully test their own adversity. This is a good thing. But it is not a good thing if kindness and appreciation fail to accompany those lacking in the hard knocks knowledge. Those who do not walk the path should at least regard the journey of another they encounter with respect. 

 'Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'

What is it that has brought such wonderful people to my life? Is it their adversity alone? I don't think so. It is merely the adversity that sharpens the character that already existed. And then the transformation that comes from working through the adversity...that brings all of their character into a brilliant focus.

Losing hair. Losing a year of high school. Losing a leg. Losing a child.

What is it that makes the most difficult things in life tools and motivators?
Perhaps it's because the other option is to slide back-  to become less than your full self? That is a risk those I know are unwilling to take. 

Saying 'okay, you win cancer' is just a phrase we don't say. Those words will shut out life. And even a minute of wallowing in the ugliness shuts out a minute of the beauty of life. And it is so beautiful...and wonderful. 

And fear...well, yes that's just a part of the whole experience. You don't survive cancer or look upon a loved one enduring it without being afraid. I don't care who you are. But fear is something we must live with and manage to keep on going. 

So, did I mention that after we got to the top of that mountain there was just one more thing to do before descending? A 60 foot rappelling exercise- optional. Five of our six teens chose to do it.

What are our fears compared to what we can become if we tread a little outside of them? What become of our reasons for turning away when we view the challenges and victories of another who has waged them?

And what beauty lies in the discovery of all of it? Sharing, learning and growing stronger from our fears.

You learn early on that the world is imperfect. But some of us learn earlier than others...and perhaps some have to grow their courage by necessity in order to climb above life's imperfection. Climb above to find something else. Beauty.

I have not had the joy of being a parent so perhaps I have no right to own the particular pride I have for these young people. But I am so very proud of them. I am so very lucky to do what I do and I am lucky to be one small part of their journey. 

And I do all of this alongside a leader who inspires me with her courage. She did something I could not do this day in particular. Go Lauren!

The message in all this? Life really is beautiful. It's not always a pretty view but when it is...you have to stop and savor it. I pinch myself that I get to share this with all of you.

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