Forty two years ago a group of Uruguayan rugby players spent 10 harrowing weeks of desperate survival in The Andes Mountains when their plane crashed.
One of the survivors, a man named Fernando Parrado, lost his mother in the crash, his sister due to the cold and her injuries, and ended up having to eat his friends to live. This was all before he, and the team doctor walked seventy one miles to the nearest residence to finally get help. Senor Parrado became quite famous as the public face of the Andes Plane Crash survivors and has spent the last four decades telling his story and doing motivational speeches all over the world.
During one such appearance, Parrado tells of an experience. While telling a packed auditorium of his ordeal his gaze found the face of a broken woman in the audience. Her features were pale and drawn. Her hair was stringy and matted while her frame was thin and gaunt.
"She looked to me, like she was dying," Parrado said.
When his presentation was finished, members of the audience came to the stage to shake his hand, hug him, and tell how his experience changed their perception of their own problems.
When the thin, desperate woman from the audience reached him, tears rolled down her ashen cheeks as she hugged him.
"Six months ago," she told him. "I was backing out of my driveway and backed over the head of my four year old daughter. Thanks to your story, I think I can start to live again.
Parrado, unable to hold back his own tears, embraced the woman and cried. "This is your Andes," he told her.
I read this story from a book called The Survivors Club. It is a collection of stories about ordinary people who don't give up when things are really difficult. Survival is about making the most of right now. Some people survive after great tragedy for years, some for only a few months, some survive the crash only to succumb to injury. Some beat cancer only to lose their lives to pneumonia, or childbirth. Surviving isn't about the length of time you do it. It's about doing it RIGHT NOW!
It's not all relative. You don't need to be stronger because so-and-so survived such-and-such event. Whatever is going on in your life right now, may be your Andes Mountains.
Maybe its not. Maybe its just a hill, or a canyon, or Mt. Everest, but its not all relative. Surviving is about doing your best right now.
I have a friend who suffers quite a bit of pain, daily. Some days survival for her is getting up, taking care of her family, hiking, cooking, and loving everyone she can.
Some days surviving means she lays in her bed, facebooks, and focuses her mind away from the pain the best she can. Every day for her is a mountain range of some kind. I have a lot of respect for her courage.
I realized after telling my story about the birth of my son last week, that if I compare that situation to some of the others I've gone through, it was not my "Andes". At the time though, it was.
This week I've struggled to function with a head cold. Yes...
A head cold. I know. Roll your eyes and tell me to buck up. Its not even close to how bad things have been before. Or, how bad you've probably got it, right now.
Does it matter?
I can make myself do more it I can focus on the fact that its not as bad as I know it can get. It's part of what keeps me happy even when things are tough. The fact is though, its not all relative. Today I do what I can, even though I feel like my head would work better if someone just cut it off.Today its what I must survive. I feel better knowing I can, and I will. I also need to hurt, rest, and take care of my little mole hill, today.
I give you permission to survive whatever is your "Andes Mountains" today. No matter what it was yesterday, or what it will be tomorrow. Its not all relative.