Last Sunday at the Big Climb I saw hundreds of people wearing bright yellow shirts that read Climbing for Caleb. They were part of a team raising money in Caleb Thornstein’s name, and every t-shirt included a graphic of the little boy’s face. Before JB and I started our own climb we saw Caleb in person, being toted in his grandather’s arms, his lovely calm face as recognizable as a celebrity’s. People milled around, yellow everywhere. I tried not to cry.

There were so many people smiling and offering encouragement on that day. Volunteers everywhere, pointing out where to check in, where the bathrooms were, where to line up. When our start time was called and all of us 11:15 climbers began walking to the starting point, people cheered and clapped and swung plastic noisemakers in loud clattering circles. We were released in three-second increments and jogged across the outside of the building before entering the stairwell, and every single person who crossed that entryway passed a man with his hand outstretched. He stood there smiling and saying “Good luck!” over and over, as each person slapped his palm.

In the stairwell we wound upwards and everyone’s breathing got louder and soon there were more volunteers waiting for us with small paper cups of water and heartening words. “Great job,” they said, and “You’re doing awesome!” and I don’t know how many climbers they had watched puff on by but no one looked bored or distracted. They stood and adjusted air blowers so cool breezes rushed over the sweaty panting people hiking up and up and up and they helped find a seat for those who needed to take a break.

Near the top they told us that we were almost there. Just a few more flights. Soon there was music playing and you could hear shouts from the volunteers at the top. And when we came staggering through that last door, cheers and applause. For all of us, one after another, and it didn’t seem silly or dumb or embarrassing, those strangers clapping for me felt like what I imagine it feels like to believe you are loved by God.

I’ve been feeling scratchy and restless lately, having a cyclical bout of vague dissatisfaction and that self-absorbed oh what is it all about feeling and you know, I think the answer is so much more simple than I make it out to be. It’s about connections. It’s about being the person clapping, it’s about being the person being clapped for. It’s about the yellow shirts. My aunt is going through a hard time and there are people standing by and holding out their hands to her and that’s what it’s all about.

I don’t want to be here alone, I don’t want to be skating along the surfaces, and I guess maybe it’s about choosing not to be.

Comments

56 Responses to “Life in a yellow shirt”

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    an kai proin kapnistria (na’nai kala eknieo to test egkimosinis pou vgike theriko prin ena hrono kai i anipsoula sou pleon pou me krataei super-busy), teino na simfoniso mazi sou… to peri kapnoviomihanion den to sholiazo, giati einai polla ta lefta ARI MOU! Latrevo tin to-the-point gkrinia sou kai oriste pou se sholiazo, san ton palio kalo kairo! <3

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