Picture this: a wooden wall, perhaps 15 feet high. It is smooth; no notches or handholds. Gathered at the base of the wall are folks, waiting.
The object is to scale the wall, supported by pairs of hands lifted high. Peeking over the top are two counselors and the last two individuals who made the climb. It is a chain of human support. It is an amusing feat, I suppose. I smile and think of how I will write about this. I have no plans of participating. And then the whispers reach my ears: “You get a turn, Miss Debbie.” Umm, no thanks. I like my hips unfractured, thank you very much. My son looks over the crowd and shouts to a woman who is scared to death, “My mom is doing this next! You can do it! Show her how it is done.” Great. Now he’s called me out and he knows I will not say no. I watch this lady’s face go from grim to grinning. How hard can it be?
Then, it is my turn. I face the audience…state my name and one or two goals for my immediate future. The folks cheer and I pivot and face the wall. This looked like child’s play when I was standing on the perimeter, watching. Now, all eyes are on me. Usually the one up for a good adventure, I am fearful of failing. Of falling. Of looking dumb and disappointing all of those watching.
I face the wall and there’s nothing to grasp. I am at the mercy of those hoisting me up. This wooden wall looks so much taller now, and those peering over the top seem small and weak. What if my short status eludes their grasp? If I fall upon those children and adults below me, injury is certain. I should exit now! Camp is not for wimps. I am claiming wimpy-ness. But the yammering inside my head is drowned out by the noise of positive chants.
My fingers touch the smooth wood and I am reminded of a quote that says: “A smooth mountain is impossible to climb. Rough obstacles are necessary for a successful ascent.” This is my smooth mountain. My anxiety deepens.
One foot is hoisted up. My sweaty hands try to read the wood grain in an odd style of Braille. My fingertip comprehension fails me. No intellect will do this job. Trust. Complete dependence on these kind folks who have owned this wall will have to do.
I am moving! Rapid accession, wild cheering, hands grab mine! My feet dangle as does my comfort level. The wall is rough unforgiving and I’m cussing myself for the extra weight that affects—not just me, but every hand who is supporting my body.
Gravity does its best to make us fail. Yes, ‘us’. There is no ‘me’ and ‘them’—it is ‘we’. ‘We’ will scale the wall. ‘We’ will not let one another drop. ‘We’ will be successful! ‘We’ve’ got this!
I’m at the lip of the wall’s top. My legs clamor to fasten over that top ridge. I cannot do any of this myself. My hands, clasped in a death grip with those folks trained to turn my “try into triumph.” And ‘umph’ it is! My body is briefly in a horizontal lump and I realize that I’m being pulled, pushed, and permitted to do one thing: succeed.
We’ve done it! I am at the top of my smooth mountain, peering down at those who lifted me up. My fearless graspers’ hands are patting me on the back…but not for long. One person exits the platform and I am being called to turn around, look down, and help another climber make her trip to the top of the wall.
I will not fail her. Strike that. We will not fail her. There is no ‘I’ in success and Lord knows, I could never have made it to the top without the support of others.
And it took facing a wall to remind me of just how small I am until others lift me up. May I never forget this lesson.