That’s the question he kept asking us, over and over.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon and a group of about thirty of us — composed of students in the 12-18 year old range and their parents were assembled to spend an afternoon collaborating at a ropes course. We would be grouped randomly for each initiative, but sometimes students would be paired with their very own parents.
Before walking out the classroom door to don fashionable harnesses and face the challenges of a variety of collaborative tasks, our guide explained that at any given moment we would have several resources to work with. Some of those resources would be physical, like ropes and cables, trees and poles; and some of our resources would be of the human variety, but anything that could help should be considered resources.
We started with low ropes, first accomplishing initiatives on the ground. And then we worked our way up to the height of one or two feet. When you found yourself on a cable with only a rope to hold on to and the task of crossing a span off of the ground, the temptation was to balance and try to accomplish whatever task was in front of you, without help. At the moment you took your first step, you would hear the reminder floating in the air, “are you using your resources?” and looking around, you would find a hand or two extended. There was no judgement for asking for or for using help.
Our final challenge of the day was to climb a single tall pole, with climbing attachments on both sides. It seemed like it was 20 meters tall, but I’ll bet it was only 8. You were tethered to a partner and the two of you had to make it to the top of the pole and stand on a small platform mounted on the top of the pole. I remember one particular pair, a father and his eight grade, 14-ish year old daughter. She was a cheerleader–a small, but average girl, fairly fit and reasonably strong, but not a weight lifter by any means. Her dad was a healthcare executive. Both able climbers, they started together working their way up the pole. They approached the final part of the climb, which was the most difficult as they had to clear the edge of the platform to get on top of it. They could see each others faces over the top of the platform. The dad worked hard to clear the lip of the platform, but he just could not get to the place where he could pull himself up. He tried a few different footings and grabbed different parts of the structure, but eventually he said, “I can’t do it.” His daughter’s innocent voice said, “I think I can do it, daddy.” She began working to pull herself past the edge of the platform and successfully made it to the top and stood up. And then she reached down and grabbed her dad by the shoulder harness and pulled hard, assisting him as he got a leg over the platform and then together they pulled him up to a standing position. The crowd cheered their support, the climbers embraced as I and several others in the crowd quietly wiped tears from the corners of our eyes.
Assistance is not a gift to be shared only by the strongest players. Likewise, the need for help isn’t reserved for the weakest among us. To offer a hand, to lend aid, to be of assistance are not only things each of us needs from time to time, but they are also something each of us has to offer.
Are you using your resources?
When have you seen help come from an unlikely source?
How are you at utilizing all of your resources when you find yourself in need?
Be on the lookout today for someone, regardless of status, who could use your help and follow through.