I was thinking about the time I was teaching rappelling in the Rockies during the summer between my two years of graduate school. The camp was for high school students of varying backgrounds and their counselors. On more than one occasion, the person on the other end of my rope would freeze and I would have to talk them down safely.
Late in the day, a thunderstorm broke quickly over the mountain, causing the counselor on my rope to panic. No amount of talking was going to get her to move either up or down, so it was up to me to rescue her. I may have mentioned in a prior post that my total amount of rappelling experience was probably no more than a few more hours than hers. Nonetheless, I went off belay, and within seconds, I was shoulder to shoulder with her.
The sky blackened, and the wind howled, raining bits of rock on us. I remember that only after I locked her harness to mine did she begin to relax. She needed to know that she didn’t have to go this alone, and she took comfort knowing someone was willing to help her.
That episode reminds me of a story I heard about a man who fell in a hole—if you know how this turns out, don’t tell the others. He continues to struggle but can’t find a way out. A CFO walks by. When the man pleads for help the CFO writes a check and drops it in the hole. A while later the vendor walks by—I know this isn’t the real story, but it’s my blog and I’ll tell it any way I want. Where were we? The vendor. The man pleads for help and the vendor pulls out the contract, reads it, circles some obscure item in the fine print, tosses it in the hole, and walks on.
I walk by and see the man in the hole. “What are you doing there?” I asked.
“I fell in the hole and don’t know how to get out.”
I felt sorry for the man—I’m naturally empathetic—so I hopped into the hole. “Why did you do that? Now we’re both stuck.”
“I’ve been down here before” I said, “And I know the way out.”
I know that’s a little sappy and self-serving. But before you decide it’s more comfortable to stay in the hole and hope nobody notices, why not see if there’s someone who knows the way out?