Bottom of the Great Wall
Today’s thought provoking question is: For What Challenge am I Grateful? And the Million Dollar ball dropped onto … Starting a climb to the top of the Great Wall in China and making it to the top.
My traveling partner Faye, a much younger and much fitter friend (think wildland firefighter fit) and I started up the steps, casually at first along with hundred of other tourists. Every so often there would be a landing as the stairs changed direction … think a very steep road of continuous switch-backs, though without any easy grade change. It was always straight up hill.
You’re asking so what’s so difficult about climbing some stairs? These stairs aren’t standard measurements, like climbing the Eiffel Tower, but are ever changing heights and depths; 6 inches, 9 inches, 15 inches, 4 inches and depths were like 10 inches, 26 inches, 8 inches … each one smooth, slick, and worn deep from millions of feet over thousands of years. You can’t get into a climbing rhythm with changes like that. Add into the mix the count down clock given us by our tour guide; you have 1 hour here before we leave for the tea plantation.
From the top of the Great Wall
My thought was to climb a bit then stop for a photo op and return. That was not Faye’s thought, no, not at all. I’ve not come all the way to China to climb up this wall and stop part way. Up we continued, at first I tried to keep pace with Faye’s running feet, but she soon out paced me. She would run up to the next landing, look down toward me and urge me on. Me? I fell into a trudge, a stair at a time, huffing and puffing as I tried to keep up with her. Every now and again, I’d say, I’ve had it, this is it, I’m not going any farther. And Faye, friend that she is, would yell back at me, you can do this and if you don’t I’ll tell everyone at work that you whimped out. I wouldn’t let that happen, so I continued plodding up the stairs, pushing on my knees at times to keep them from shaking out from under me as I stretched for those extra tall steps.
Finally I could see the watch tower 100 steps above me and Faye’s face leaning over the path ledge urging me on, encouraging me to make that final grade, that final push. As I gasped for air leaning against the base of the tower, Faye said, we can go inside and to the top of the tower … what? more stairs? She said, “I waited for you so we could go up together”.
Faye & Me at the Top of the Tower at the Top of the Great Wall
How grateful I am for Faye’s laughter and encouragement that helped me reach that pinnacle in the sky. If it weren’t for her shouting and calling and walking next to me I would not have made it to the top of the tower. Isn’t that how we reach success most often in our lives? We don’t really do things ‘ourselves’. We have cheerleaders, we have mentors, we have parents and friends, we have teachers and coaches guiding us, encouraging us to reach higher than we think we can. Encouraging us to see ourselves from the top of the tower and so we might feel the sweetness of success.
Like standing next to my friend looking down at the throngs of people at the base of the stairs at the bottom of the mountain, and saw them rather rapidly thin out as the climb steepened and sheer stamina alone couldn’t pull them up … like the 8 of us standing at the top of that tower, 4 pair of friends each standing in awe at what we had accomplished together.
That awe lasted just a few minutes then we ran sliding and slipping downward to meet our bus … we were the last ones on of course, but the only ones to reach the summit. (Yes, they had to wait longer than an hour, but not by much.)