The older I get – the more I value and seek perspective. In my life, a healthy dose of perspective can cure just about any bad mood, stressful day or case of the “poor me’s.” Over the weekend I began to really stress out about this climb. Noticing that the countdown app on my phone is now ticking at around the 6 month mark, I’ve started to stress about all of the details surrounding this climb and fundraiser.

“Am I strong enough for this?”
“Do I have the right gear?”
“Will I raise the full amount?” 
“Will I build a big enough team?” 
“Does anyone else even care about this or am I the only one?”

I went on two walks this weekend and instead of enjoying being outside in nature I was contemplating these things. Then today, with a little dose of perspective I came back to the WHY.

Mary, a colleague of mine – who I’d like to call a friend at this point – shared a story about a young man she met in South Africa who, at the age of 11, was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. This young man’s situation was one in which life on the street was safer than life at home and he then spent a good chunk of his adolescence locked up simply because he was starving. Throughout his time in prison he endured unspeakable things, did unspeakable things and by the grace of God somehow made it out alive. Upon his release (and after repeatedly pleading for guidance from the prison staff), he was directed to the YMCA. It was there that this young man received a second shot at life and was able to not only turn his life around but become a role model for other young people in similar situations.  I feel like Mary could’ve broken out into tears at any moment in recalling this story and if she had then I would’ve easily stopped holding mine in. This young man left a mark on Mary… and now me.

I immediately felt that shot of perspective that I needed to pull me out of this stressed out state. And it’s stories of impact like these that remind me of why I do what I do and why I believe that we should celebrate the work that YMCAs across the globe are doing to strengthen community. These are the stories we should be sharing. These are the kinds of superheros we should be celebrating.

 Why am I climbing this mountain? Because I can. Because for whatever reason I was born into a life where I didn’t have to steal loaves of bread…I just had to beat my sister to it (kidding Kristin). I was lucky enough to have a loving home, access to education, role models and the kind of opportunity that some people in this world couldn’t even dream of because they don’t even know it exists. And no matter what I’m dealing with – it pales in comparison to others that aren’t as fortunate.

Yes. Climbing this mountain is a personal endeavor and I’m grateful to have the ability to do something this extravagant with my vacation time. But my hope is that by dedicating this climb to the YMCA programs that are saving lives, like the young man I just described, I can bring more meaning to it. I’m not just climbing for me anymore. With every foot I climb – all 19,341 of them – I will be thinking of all the young people who will be given hope, opportunity and a shot at a future as a result of the awareness and funds raised.

I will end with my favorite photo from last weekend’s walk through Caldwell Woods. A reminder that beyond the darkness there is light. Or that light has the power to cut through the dark. Or something profound… I’m not a poet. High five to the person that can come up with a much better caption for this photo than the two lame ones I just wrote.  tre.jpg

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