Part 1.5 of 4: The measure of character…

I promised that the next post would be about the trek and it is, sort of.  But it’s actually a sub post, if you will.  Post 1.5 of 4.  And this post is about character.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote is perfect for this post about the character in the face of disappointment.

Because my fellow trekker and friend, Olivia, had to leave the trek on the second morning.  You can read her post about it here:

Her ‘comfort’ wasn’t warmth, and her ‘challenge’ wasn’t cold, as it would be easy to assume.

Her comfort would have been achievement and her challenge was disappointment.

Asked before the trek of my greatest fear I naively said ‘not being able to complete the trek’.  On reflection, this was far too simplistic.  I simply hadn’t internalised the extreme conditions we were tackling, or the seriousness of this.

Because on digging deeper, my greatest fear was ‘not being able to complete due to my own strength of character, or lack of preparation’.  That is, due to things within my control.

Olivia was unable to complete not due to lack of preparation or weakness of character (indeed, as I elaborate here, in many ways her character was tested more than mine), but due to an inability to cope with the crippling and numbing cold.

Let’s be clear: we’re talking about an inability for a human to successfully retain body heat in -32 degrees.  In a tent.  On a frozen lake.  That is not a test of character.

Seeing that as failure is like saying ‘I failed because I wasn’t born with a third nipple’.  There is no element of choice here.  Disappointment – yes.  Failure – no.  (And to be clear, I’m talking about the body heat, not the nipple).

So faced with – her words from her blog ‘crushing disappointment’ – as the greatest challenge she faced on this adventure, how did she respond?  What was her reaction when, the day after she left the trek, she came to meet us inching, limping, and stuttering towards the finish line?

Those of you who know her will have seen her massive, ear to ear, whole face smile.  That is how she responded.  High fives all round, laughing comments about how we all looked, hugs for every single one of the team, and an enormous bear hug for me causing us to almost fall over and be lost in a snow drift.

Would I have responded with such class in the face of my own disappointment?  The generous part of me thinks maybe I would have.  But I fear I may be a little more selfish.

If it weren’t for the cold/camping, would Olivia have walked 3 days – absolutely.  And what is the measure of her character?  She is already planning her next walking adventure to prove this (NOT is sub zero temperatures…. and with her husband this time… I’m trying not to take it personally…)

And let’s not forget that she did get a dramatic snowmobile extrication ‘rescue’ clinging to the body of a muscular, tanned, handsome, Finnish man… or at least, that’s how we pictured him under the layers of clothes and balaclava that he constantly wore.  Talking of strength of character…


Next post: the trek itself.  I promise.

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