One weekend this summer one of our sons and two other relatives climbed the Grand Teton, a mountain peak near Jackson Wyoming. All of them were experienced hikers and in good physical shape. But it’s called “Grand” Teton for a reason. It would be a difficult climb. Often climbers make camp on the mountain in order to break the assent into two parts. But this time the group could not get a permit to camp on the mountain. They would have complete the entire climb in one day.
The group got up at 1:00 am and drove to the trailhead so they could begin hiking by 2:00 am. They chose a route that would get them to the top in the afternoon. Although that amount of time is typical for these types of climbs, it is a long time!
About 11:00 that night we got a call from our son. The group had been awake for 22 hours and on the mountain for 21. And he still had about an hour to go to reach his truck! The other two had slowed down to conserve energy. His stomach wouldn’t let him eat and he could only take small sips of water at a time to keep hydrated. He was exhausted. His words to us were, “If I stop, I am going to die.”
Now we know that he often exaggerates like this. But this time he was pretty serious. Although it wasn’t very likely that he would actually die, we knew he recognized he was in a very difficult situation. There was not really anything we could do but talk to him. And that we did for more than an hour. By then his phone battery was about to die, the others caught up to him, and he was almost back to his truck.
Interestingly, the very next day the group was talking about climbing another of the Teton mountains. They made it through the difficulty and were ready to move on.
So often we meet people in similar circumstances, not necessarily on a mountain, but in difficult situations. They feel exhausted like they can’t go on. They aren’t able to get what they need. Or they feel completely alone.
Then here we are in a different place. And we think there isn’t really anything we can do to change their situation. But we can listen when they talk. We can encourage them to keep going. We can be there with them while they work through the problems and discover their own solutions. We can be a friend.
Do you know someone stuck on that metaphorical mountain? How can you be that friend?