Near our camp were a few rock faces (cliffs) that were set up with a ‘top belay’ system, which is when the instructor/guide/facilitator was on top with a secure anchor rope and would belay each climber up the rock face as we climbed. My first climb was exhilarating. It was both scary and challenging while trusting in the rope and our guide, Paul. There were about 12 of us taking turns and in turn, supporting each other as they faced the adversity of the climb. In the afternoon, I found myself sitting ‘on top’ next to Paul as a young girl was getting ‘on belay’ down below. Paul said “on belay?” and she responded ‘Belay on!”. Then “climbing!” Paul exclaimed, “climb on!”. She appeared to be maybe 15 or 16 years old, very rough looking wearing shabby clothes and messy hair and face. I could tell her life had been a rough journey through her addiction and who knows what else. She had not gone very far up the rock face when she said “let me down. I can’t do this.” Paul responded by saying “I believe you can do this. I trust your desire to climb. Just rest and take a breath and we will go when you are ready.” For a moment, it was silent, then the girl boldly exclaimed, “I told you to let me down from here you %#$@*!! I ain’t doing this!!”. I was thinking ‘Paul you need to let her down. She does not want to do this.” There was Paul, so calm and clear, ‘you are angry and that is alright. I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall. Maybe you have a lot to be angry about and I’m okay with that. Just take your time, I know we can do this.’
It took some time. No more words were spoken, but just a few grunts and growls as she pulled herself up the rock face. On top, the effect on our group was already palpable. Anticipation, hope, possibility in the silence. As she reached the last pull to the top, I saw her eyes meet with Paul’s eyes. Words did not seem necessary to convey all that had transpired between the two of them and by extension to our motley gathering. As she stepped up, There was an eruption of joy, grief and gratitude. Something deep and profound resonated inside of me which I could not describe, but I knew that my life would be in pursuit of moments such as this. A defining moment beyond words to describe. Kairos.