A Short Story About Gravity
Claire - Thursday, July 25, 2013
The weekend before last I had the privilege of volunteering at an event called the Kokoda Challenge. It is a either a 96km hike for adults and older school teams (The Stan Bisset Cup) or a 48km hike for the younger school teams (The Jim Stillman Cup) . The route is along some of the Gold Coasts most rugged bush walking tracks which is completed with in the 39 hour time limit. Having done it myself twice, I can say honestly it is one of the most grueling events out there. On Saturday night there were 4 of us stationed at checkpoint 13, the final checkpoint, just 4km from the finish line. We had the amazing privilege to see teams come through when peoples bodies are aching and their emotions are raw and what I learned was quite amazing.
Not long after midnight, the checkpoint was really busy with kids from the Jim Stillman cup, it was a constant flow of teams for a couple of hours there. At one stage I had a teacher approach me to say she was concerned, she had left 2 students behind one of them was not doing well and was going to pull out. The emotions certainly were raw at this stage and this teacher was struggling to contain her contempt for this student. I left my companions at the checkpoint and went for a quick jog to see if I could find these two kids. Not far down the track I found a girl leaning heavily on her team mate with tears streaming down her face. I thought this might be the pair I was looking for, but no they were from a different team and I could hear her entire team encouraging her along. Her teacher was like a rock, keeping them all together, staying positive, friendly and encouraging. I continued on looking for the missing pair from the first group. Not realising that while I was talking to this second team the missing pair had walked straight past me. Eventually, I turned around and walked back to the checkpoint. This is where I found the student from the first team tucked up on a stretcher, her team had gone on to the finish without her and she was waiting to be picked up by the SES. I asked about the girl from the second team, who was physically much worse off than the girl on the stretcher. The second team had stopped at the checkpoint, reapplied tape and Band-Aids and continued on as a team to finish the last 4km.
I could give you a dozen stories like this from that night. What was evident time and time again was; if you have a person with conviction and their eye on their goals, they can hold so much gravity they carry others along with them. In this instance, we had teacher 1 who didn't want to be there and the finish line was just a gateway to getting home. The school kids with her struggled, complained and felt little joy in the journey. Then there was teacher 2, who saw the goal as not just getting to bed, but finishing something huge as a team. It was late and they had hike 44km but his enthusiasm and joy on the journey was contagious. His gravity lightened the load, where the first teachers gravity was like a cinder block tied to the kids ankles.
Seeing this gravity in such an acute setting has opened my eyes to seeing it clearly in day to day life. Families where a parent is constantly optimistic and excited about life often have kids that find adventure and fun everywhere. Workplaces where the boss doesn't want to be there the employees are generally unfocused and frustrated. The greater the gravity, the greater the effect to the happiness and productivity of those around them.
Gravity is not just about age or positions of power. It comes from a foundation of conviction, self assurance and solid goals. For example have you ever worked with someone who hated their job and would spend all day in a bad mood just because they were so unhappy there? When they took a sick day did the mood change around the workplace? All it takes is one person with a strong conviction about their roles and responsibilities, their pay or their personal dislike for their boss and everyone suffers. On the flip side have you ever worked with someone who was so passionate and enthusiastic you couldn't help but get drawn in to their projects.
I leave you with this question. Do we have some level of responsibility to our friends, family and coworkers to look at our level of gravity and which direction it is pulling them?