Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide. – Morgan Harper Nichols
The journey to the top began in December 2019 when the first person after myself to believe in Hope Has a Cold Nose when it was only an idea called me. He was moved to “make it matter” for yet another story of an exceptional life that reached a point in which this individual’s strength to live was harder than the arms of despair squeezing out his will to continue. The book of his life not meant to be finished by his own choosing.
This first person who has never paused the championship of HHCN, nor his mentorship of me, suggested a mountain climb to increase awareness just as HHCN has as one of its goals. We could model the “event” after a university course this individual created and teaches annually. Just as this mentor gave me the gift near two years prior when he said without hesitation Yes! to the idea that one written story become one written book, I immediately said Count me in!
We became the “A-team”, short for Mount Adams, with another dear soul; the three of us seeking, asking, and brainstorming to form a planned event. We had among our goals to increase awareness but hold the sacredness of these stories written thus far in a manuscript not yet finished. This was not to be a sensationalized event. Who to invite? Do we focus on this climb as a healing event, targeting veterans journeying with PTSD? Do we include all alumni to the university? Do we narrow the scope to veteran alumni? Seeking. Asking. Brainstorming. Repeat.
Landing on university veteran alumni and/ or spouses of veterans. Trusting who signed up would be who was meant to be on the climb.
As soon as a team of between fifteen and twenty said Yes! the remaining stories for HHCN appeared. The energy of a team of individuals who believed in HHCN set in motion its completion to a published state.
We picked a date in 2020. We adjusted that date. We held strong to resilience and hope that what was closing down the world would pass before our adjusted date.
With reflection, and with sadness, and with determination that not if, but when, we let go of 2020 and looked to 2021.
Some who could attend in 2020 could no longer join in 2021. Others not on the virtual team calls in 2020 joined the team in 2021. Trusting who could go on the climb would be who was meant to be on the climb.
I began this climb for twenty-three co authors of HHCN. And, for twenty-two lives a day who lose hope.
I also began this climb for one of our team members who only days prior determined he could not join because judgment is in the lead of humanity’s actions and reactions. An extraordinary individual of gentle and humble heart and equal bravery and conviction to serve and save humanity as first responder is now fighting a raging war of collective anger and hate directed from perceptions and emotional pain towards stereotypes and labels. Appearance many are holding as certainty there is no gray nor exceptions nor any other view but absolute. This team member desires to serve humankind. Humankind is rejecting help.
Five days before the climb I heard of another friend, also a first responder, facing collective anger and hate. Two days prior to the climb a dear friend shared with me how she had just heard Alan Jackson’s song on the radio “Where were you When the World Stopped Turning”. Her heart was hurting because 20 years ago when 911 occurred, the world came together. Now our world is trying to find a way to turn again, and we are torn in…shattering pieces.
It was with this view I began the climb with a team of fourteen extraordinary individuals.
Resilience, anticipation, excitement, and willpower through ascending. Check.
Beautiful scenery, majestic mountain views, steal breath-away sunsets and sunrises, and star-filled skies including a shooting star at the start of ascending day two. Check.
Team support of one another at the tired moments, laughing, sharing, learning, bonding. Check.
Standing at the summit of a mountain for the first time, moved to tears of gratitude and joy, my heart whispering this is for every story I have heard and all whose stories I have yet to hear, and whose stories ended at what feels like an incomplete book. To be a bridge between voices unheard and heard, I made it to the top of this mountain. Check.
See a dog at the summit and though not a service dog, still symbolic of why I was standing thousands of feet above the ground. Check.
Start the descent to be kissed by dog number two, and a German Shorthair Pointer at that! Check.
Where is our teammate? Missing? Please do not let this become a check.
Begin searching. Check.
At long last. Finding. GRATEFUL Check.
Each team member moves into a position to support a teammate in need. Check.
Ah, but dear reader, so much more than a simple check.
I witnessed every team member come together through far more words unspoken than said to assist our teammate. Yet. And. I witnessed a piece of our world in which I have been given the sacred gift to enter as a guest and storywriter but recognize I cannot begin to be a true member of. Military and first responders are those who would lay down their lives for a brother or sister in arms or a civilian in need and they know experiences that I can only know through imagination and a willingness to listen. In a collective society that struggles with death and dying, addiction, mental instability, abuse, terrorism, robbery – i.e., all the “ugliness” of life, there are team members of society who feel called to step into the ugliness head on and fight for their beliefs in peace, safety, and re-direction for lost souls. Serve others over self who they feel called to be.
I witnessed the words I could only reverently respect when told to me for HHCN now being put in action. Got your six, have your back, no man left behind. Some team members were the front-line defense of what was coming ahead in the twists and turns of the pathway. Others moved rocks out of the path and were the tour guides for footsteps. Another team member was the anchor at “command center”, a port in the storm, and a calming energy force field pulling every member down safely. Additional team members were the life-giving water supply awaiting depleting hydration.
My eyes beheld the beauty of a veteran inches behind our now fragile teammate’s back – also a veteran – as this veteran helped guide our teammate’s unstable footing. One was not going to let the other fall, no matter the weight on his own back nor his own fatigue. I experienced awe and gratitude for strangers also descending beside us who kindly offered to help carry backpacks down for our teammates.
For a fellow human being.
As I descended in humble awe from this grand powerful piece of Nature standing 12,600 feet above our every day lives, I also drank in the extraordinary beauty of witnessing humanity unconditionally supporting one another.
I physically climbed the mountain in hope and faith, and a heart stepping towards my own anger and judgment at the collective rage ascending higher and higher in our world. Lost in my own line of sight was the reminder that people are crying out to be heard, and the anger is because we as a human race have stopped listening. Snow-blinded by everyone striving to know they matter in a vast world of information of the mind and painful histories in which traumatic cycles have not yet been broken to begin turning in new ways, collectively the world can no longer see that all of us are souls made up of shadow and light. No one wants to get lost, yet it feels like there is a descending towards darkness with our headlamps turned off.
The mountain handed me back faith and hope and a reminder of what I so deeply believe. It is the lens in which we choose to see. I can judge judging, or I can cast ripples of non-judgment. The choice is mine.
The choice is for each person.
Like my favorite starfish parable or the words that I just heard recently by Nikki Giovanni: I used to think I could change the world. Now I know I won’t change the world, but I do know I won’t let the world change me. I may not be able to make a difference in how we listen for all the starfish on the beach. Yet, if together with a team of storytellers who give me the gift of their willingness to share their stories not easily listened to, at least one sentence makes a difference for one person.
Who finds dignity in their own story,
Or their story inspires another’s survival guide in this thing called life,
Or influences another to see and see again for there IS ALWAYS more to a walk in someone else’s shoes then we perceive.
A difference will be made for that one person.
And making a difference for one on a team is everything.
There is only one goal. Everyone makes it down the mountain. Making in a difference in how we listen seems like a good goal in life, don’t you think? May we find a way to make it down this mountain of divisive time in our history as one team.
It’s what you do today that is your success for tomorrow – Dr. Adrian Popa
P.S. Stay tuned for future updates regarding Book 3! For now, I will simply say what do you think of Hope in the form of a Moose and other Inspiring Stories of…
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