How Two Intrepid Rock Climbers Give Inspiration this New Year

The new year is about new beginnings. It is a time to recalibrate and make plans for the upcoming year. Often, however, it can be reduced to a futile exercise of establishing unattainable goals that leads to disappointment. Recently, I was watching a news clip about an intrepid pair of rock climbers and realized that the new year is as much about being inspired and reinvigorated as it is about setting goals.

The pair, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, began their third attempt just before the new year to scale the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Their climbing method is known as free climb, which means they climb without benefit of ropes other than to catch their falls. A video clip of their adventure is truly breathtaking as they record fingertip holds on the tiniest crevices to haul themselves up a wall of granite that the New York Times calls “as smooth as alabaster.” As if that were not impressive enough, what really struck me was a comment made by Caldwell, the father of a 20-month-old son, that this climb was the “perfect venue” to demonstrate to his son “the most important values…optimism, perseverance, dedication and…dreaming big.”

This Dawn Wall climb is the perfect metaphor for the challenges that those we serve confront. For many of the children, youth, and families in our care, the issues they address are as insurmountable as the granite wall these climbers are attempting to climb. Confronted by the sheer magnitude of the obstacles in their lives, they nevertheless set a course to overcome them, driven by the desire to be free of the traumas they have experienced. Along the way, they often hold on to gains by their fingertips but are able to pull themselves up inch by inch to achieve a greater sense of freedom, healing, and hope. Like these climbers, their only recourse from a fatal fall is the “ropes” that secure them: the dedicated staff that are ready at any time to support them against a devastating slip.

Goals have been set for 2015. Achieving them will mark progress toward fulfillment of dreams long-held. However, unless these goals are rooted in the values expressed by Caldwell, they may never be reached. Like the Dawn Wall climbers, the odds are against those we serve. Often multiple attempts must be made before the ultimate goal is achieved. It is for this reason that the values of optimism, perseverance, dedication and “dreaming big” are so important in any attempt at progress.

Rather than identify a list of goals, the beginning of 2015 is better initiated by being inspired, not just by two skilled and determined climbers, but by the courageous and valiant attempts of all those we serve to be optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds, to persevere in spite of considerable challenges, and to tirelessly pursue their dreams of a full and happy life.

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