WHY I WON'T LISTEN WHEN YOU TELL ME YOU'RE OK.
— I recently heard Elder Jeffery R. Holland relate a story about two brothers who went rock climbing without ropes. One was 19 and the other was 14. The 19-year-old was stuck high up on a dangerous mountain below a ledge, with the 14-year-old on top of it, having been hoisted up by his older brother.The 19-year-old stood gripping the mountain in a perilous situation with no way to lift himself. Unable to hold on much longer, he decided his only option was to attempt to jump, grab the overhang and somehow pull himself up. Knowing this option would likely fail, he told his younger brother to go look for a large, strong stick to help pull him up. He knew there was no such stick and that it would never work. He simply didn’t want his little brother to watch him plummet to his death if and when the jump failed.
Once the 19-year-old was sure his brother had gone, he took a deep breath and jumped. His arms hit the overhang and he immediately grappled at loose rock. He knew instantly that he was about to die. As his arms began to slip, two other arms grabbed him from above. This younger brother, knowing that his older brother would attempt to jump once he had gone, had ignored his counsel to get the stick, stayed silent so his brother would think he had left and then snatched the struggling arms, refusing to let go, finding strength beyond his own to somehow pull his older brother to safety.
As I heard this story, immediately a memory came to mind.
I was 18. My friend’s mom, Paula, called me to see if I wanted to go visit a mutual friend of her son and me who was in the hospital battling cancer.
Once we got there, we found Jon in bad shape. Suddenly, overcome with a bout of nausea, Jon pitched forward. Instinctively I began to back out of the room not wanting him to be embarrassed that I was there and truthfully not wanting to be there in that moment either.From the doorway I witnessed an incredible lesson.
While I backed away, Paula moved forward.
Paula quickly grabbed a pink plastic bucket and held it under Jon’s chin. With her other hand on his back, she began to stroke his hair. I marveled as she stuck her face close to his ear, unfazed by the circumstances. She began to speak to Jon in hushed tones as he vomited over and over. “Jon, you are going to make it out of here. Jon, you are strong. Jon, you will beat this.”
While I had gone to “get the stick,” Paula had stayed and lifted her brother. After hearing the story of the two brothers, I thought of all the times I have waited for people that I know need help to come ask me. Or times I let myself believe that someone else would help. Worse, asking if something was needed of someone and then walking away after they told me they were OK, fully knowing they were not — possibly relieved that I didn’t need to do more.
There was something else for Paula, something that I lacked. Certainly it wasn’t a bad thing that I had done that day. In fact, it was a good thing to go and visit Jon. I simply didn’t understand like Paula did.
Paula’s husband had passed away from cancer years previously. Paula stayed because she knew better than me what it is like to take care of someone who is dying from cancer.
There are many of us like Paula, and all of us have known some type of hardship in this life.
Some of our trials match and some do not, but maybe together we have a nearly complete understanding of how to help each other.
As I heard the story of the two brothers and then remembered that precious lesson that Paula taught me, I vowed that the next time someone told me to “get a stick,” I would not listen. Instead I would stay. I would find a way to grab my brother, my sister, my friend, my neighbor and pull them off the ledge.