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.

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Janet
Janet
15 years ago

YOU MADE IT!!! HOORAY.

We are all proud of you too.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
15 years ago

That gave me goosebumps, lovely.

samantha jo campen
15 years ago

What an amazing experience. That must be awesome to know you were a part of that. And your sentiment is spot-on: we need to participate and engage. Funny you should write this after I had an amazing conversation with a Relay For Life coordinator and Bryan and I are going to get involved in that.

Loved by God indeed.

Ashleas
Ashleas
15 years ago

No words of inspiration or courage sadly. You take them all.
However I’d thought you’d like to be aware of the Zombie Apocalypse that has settled on Bowling Green State University in the form of a Humans Vs. Zombies game! You should look for a game in the Seattle Area. …Sadly I was bitten at 12:15.. Brains.

Brains.

Teralyne
15 years ago

Your sure know how to say what I feel, how do you know this? You made me cry at work good thing no one walked into my office when I was reading but thank you for this entry.

Donna
Donna
15 years ago

If you live your life regretting the things you did, rather than the things you didn’t do; you will be fine.
You are more involved in the world than almost anyone I kind of know, and you do good things, things that people appreciate, and that help others….like donating in my name for guessing cat or ham….stuff like that is what makes a difference in the world. It IS the little things.

Emily
Emily
15 years ago

How many times a week, hell, a day does someone tell you that you wrote what they are feeling? I can’t even begin to tell you just how much I loved this post. I’m proud to have been one of those people supporting you by sponsering you on your climb. I’m proud to be in some small way connected to you and yours. Thank you for writing here and making me feel connected.

Elaine
15 years ago

You rock . . . and you’re so right . . . it’s about being the cheeror and the cheeree. Well done1

erin
15 years ago

Awesome job on the stair climb!

And everything else you said: perfect. I think so much of it IS a choice.

SJ
SJ
15 years ago

Perfectly stated. You made me tear up AND you gave me the goosebumps.

And for what it’s worth I’m proud of you for successfully completing the climb.

You rock.

Laura Porras
Laura Porras
15 years ago

Wow, great entry :) You have an amazing way of putting feelings into words. Thank you.

Lori
Lori
15 years ago

Oh, you make me laugh and cry and appreciate my life. I seriously am not trying to brownnose…you are my very favorite blogger ever. Thank you so much for writing.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

It is a choice to participate, to BE alive, not just living. You and JB are setting a wonderful example for your boys, to care, to be involved. YEAH FOR YOU!

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

It is a choice to participate, to BE alive, not just living. You and JB are setting a wonderful example for your boys, to care, to be involved. YEAH FOR YOU!

Stacy
15 years ago

This post made me want to happy-cry. Thank you for sharing your experience!!

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

About the climb – that feeling you describe is why (besides the fundraising it brings) is why I do the Race for the Cure every year. On paper you think it sounds and looks corny with the music and the clapping, but it isn’t and I always cry and just feel that we all belong. About your Aunt – so incredibly heart wrenching. I can’t even imagine. Her post about the dogs in his room just did me in.

Jennie C.
Jennie C.
15 years ago

So say we all.

Marin
15 years ago

I completely agree. As an aside, WOOHOO you did it. You are The Amazing.

Lesley
Lesley
15 years ago

So much more than just climbing a flight of stairs.

I suppose this blog is a little like that experience too sometimes.

Kate
15 years ago

I saw a sign or bumpersticker or something the other day that said “Exercise. Reach down and help someone up.”

I’d say you embody that, in more ways than one.

{Applause}

Katherine
Katherine
15 years ago

Okay, much as I enjoy your blog, I don’t usually get all weepy with you. But this one got me. I’m not sure why, but I can barely hold back the tears and I need to because I have a conference call in a few minutes. Damn.

Melissa D.
Melissa D.
15 years ago

I teared up too. Makes you want to do that sort of thing more often. Thank you for sharing the experience so vividly.

Meg
Meg
15 years ago

I know what you mean. Whenever anyone in my life has died, even in my peripheral connections (family of a friend, etc), I am reminded that it’s the people we see and love everyday that makes life great. I tend to overcomplicate life too, wondering about meaning, and where I “should” go next and such, and sometimes, it’s all about giving or getting a hug to/from a loved one or smiling at a stranger. In those moments, life is vibrant and awesome, and that’s definitely something to hold onto.

Victoria
15 years ago

Your post has me in tears.
Thank you.

Lisa
Lisa
15 years ago

Yes, yes, yes! Making connections is the most important thing we can do for one another on this Earth. Whenever I do those career analysis tests to find out what I should be doing with my life, I always want to write across the test, I just want to make connections, could someone pay me for that because that is what I do best. And honestly, we could all use a little of that. I am holding your Aunt close in my thoughts and hope someone is holding her hand because she is going to need to feel that.

Kari-Mel
15 years ago

This brings tears to my eyes too! My health is in the can right now but I would have loved to be one of those people cheering you on, ensuring you get the cool breeze, or slapping your hand wishing you luck!

Love this blog so much!

Sharla
15 years ago

I can’t tell you how much I love your writing. Yes, you are funny, and you make me laugh ALL the time, but more than that, you have a gift with your writing that evokes emotions from inside of me that I didn’t realize were ready to come out. This choked me up quite a bit and reminded me that we were made to reach out to each other…to feel each others joys and pains and help each other. Thank you for this.

Yet Another Jenny
15 years ago

This was awesome. Congrats to you and JB!

Sara
15 years ago

This made me cry.
I have thought about your Aunt often since Tuesday when you told us the sad news.
Good thoughts for your Aunt and The Mister.
Good thoughts for you and your family.
Good thoughts for Caleb.

metalia
15 years ago

Beautiful.

ChelseaLI
ChelseaLI
15 years ago

Beautiful post.
You, JB, and every other stair climber earned that applause, and that feeling.
My one wish in life is to have that feeling.

Anya  Paull
15 years ago

Thank you for this post, it is what I needed to hear, to say to myself, thank you.

beach
beach
15 years ago

Thank you Linda….what I needed to read on this gray March morning.

Siorai
Siorai
15 years ago

“those strangers clapping for me felt like what I imagine it feels like to believe you are loved by God.”

Thank you for that. You just put into words something that I have felt but could never verbalize. And AWESOME job on the climb.

Sarah
15 years ago

You are exactly right. It reminds me of a Madeleine L’Engle quote I love, and I’m sure I’m not getting it quite right here, but it’s something like, “Reach out your hand/Put it in mine/Thus is His glory manifest.”

Christie
Christie
15 years ago

Sometimes simple gratification for the things you do make a world of diffence. I have been following your blog for some time and also Bodies in Motivation. I have taken on the challenge of living a healthier life to be a better me. I never stick with a routine and this time I have. A few weeks back my husband told me he was proud of me fo rdoing it which was a great feeling. Then a few people at work mentioned it to me. Then, i was visiting my family last week and while out with my mom saw several of her friends and each of them commended me. All of this has in turn made me realize that there is more purpose to this life than I ever imagined. I am now volunteering as much time as I can between work and school to give back to the community and help make it a better place to be as well.

Artemisia
15 years ago

This is wonderful.

kate
kate
15 years ago

thank you for being so awesome. it is always a such a bright spot in my day when i’m reading your blog.

Back nine
Back nine
15 years ago

Connections, yes. And I want to stand up and shout how very proud I am to be your aunt. The finest of all titles, I do believe.

Tia
Tia
15 years ago

Awesome post Linda, as always :)

aimee
15 years ago

Lovely post. It really is all about connections, isn’t it?

CA
CA
15 years ago

You touch so many people, just through this blog. Just like those people clapping for you, reading you every day is one of the things that makes me feel connected, and lets me understand “what it’s all about.”

Traci
Traci
15 years ago

Yes ma’am. We might not all like each other very much sometimes, but when we choose to see it, the truth is that we are all one.

Meagan
15 years ago

I know exactly how you feel. I ran a marathon over a month ago, and the volunteers out there for 5, 6, 7 hours were just…awesome. I think the husband and I are going to a 10k on Sunday to return the favor. :)

Amy Q
15 years ago

You are so right on. I know that feeling and community and connection is what makes things better. Thank you for this post.

Kellie
15 years ago

You hit the nail on the head. It’s about community. That’s it. I know you don’t believe in God, but I do and it took me 30 freakin’ years to realize all he was about is love and community. No more, no less. The goal of life is to love and be loved in return. I have found such peace and contentment in figuring that out.

This had me tearing up right away. It is a beautiful post.

Lori O
15 years ago

Congrats on the climb! I know that feeling of the support of complete strangers is so cool. I discovered it when I started running endurance events for charity, and that alone is what makes me keep doing it.

Heather Allred
15 years ago

Hi, my friend Kate sent me this way… I am doing the big climb next year for sure. Several years ago my dad was training for the big climb (as a firefighter) when he was diagnosed with ACL. He instantly went from being a participant to being an honoree. I took him to the climb and he helped change oxygen tanks for his fellow fire fighters. It was overwhelming to see all these people walking around with my dad’s name on their arm. He lost his battle a couple of months later, but the impact of his teams support meant the world to him, and his presence at the climb made them all so proud. Thank you for climbing for Leukemia!

Josh
15 years ago

No I’m sorry Linda. Unfortunately life is only about spending all your time not sinning so God doesn’t karate chop you straight to hell. Your connections to other people are fleeting and meaningless, unless of course you dedicate all of them to making sure other people aren’t sinning either, and everyone is paying their tithes.

Kerri
Kerri
15 years ago

Great entry (clap-clap-clap)!