Friday, April 15, 2016

Why am I so Blessed?

"No, I'm not lucky, I'm blessed, yes!" - Niki Minaj in the song Moment 4 Life.

It's pretty amazing that I am here about to climb Mt. Everest, for the second time, before my 30th birthday. I met one guy from South Africa, Anthony,  a civil engineer, and when I told him how much it cost me, he said that's how much he makes in one year, with the message between the lines being that I make twice as much as him with roughly the same education. Plus, he had to quit his job to go take a few months to explore the world.

Later I met Sean, who is an administrator at a college in Sri Lanka, and he had to take out a seven year loan just to do a trek to Everest basecamp. His view was that prices in Nepal were higher than he was used to in Sri Lanka. He was maybe more interested in the upcoming US presidential election than me.

When I arrived in Lukla I took my bags over to Paradise Lodge, on the other side of the runway, and told them to arrange getting both bags to basecamp. It's pretty standard, Paradise Lodge works with Asian Trekking all the time. I didn't really expect to see my bags until basecamp, I thought they might go on a yak train some time later. So it was a surprise when I saw a red Asian Trekking bag being carried by a porter. I talked to him, as much as his 20 words of English, and my three of Nepali, made a conversation possible. Later he and the man carrying my other bag were stopped at a tea house just outside Namche so I went in and motioned as politely as I could until they both came out and we took a picture.
Satoman, Myself and Budda Sanjay
It's important to me to give visibility to all of the people that don't get recognized for making my life, and this adventure possible. It's heart breaking. Why am I the wealthy person that is doing this? I mean, it's nice that those two men are employed for a week to take my climbing equipment up to base camp, but it's a hard job for much not pay. The financial inequality between them and I is tremendous.  The thing is, they are the global working class, maybe even lower middle class. They are the truck drivers of the Khumbu valley. In many states in the USA a truck driver is the most common occupation and provides for some standard of living which is better than working for minimum wage.

Trying to solve poverty is a depressing and impossible task. We can do many difficult things, like go to the moon, or make cars that get 50 miles to the gallon, but solve poverty? It's a task where progress is made, but the finish line is never crossed.

Mount Everest in particular is a place where the richest people in the world come and do something on the backs of thousands of people less fortunate. They risk their health and their lives for the benefit of so few people. I try not to think about it too often because it makes me want to stop. When I left I 2014 I suggested that maybe I would never go on a commercial expedition again and ask high altitude porters to risk their lives for me, and the owner of the company immediately responded that no I should not do that, because many people depend on the incomes from these expeditions. I'm not saying it's charity, far from it, but there is a satisfaction in knowing that Satoman and Budda Sanjay have work because I am here. In some small way I made the local economy keep going. It's a similar "thrill" when I buy a coffee at the local coffee shop in Dubuque instead of the national chain.

"a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them..." Ecclesiastes 6:2

These are all things I draw motivation from. When I am hopefully high on Mt. Everest in May, in good health, but tired, there will be many reasons not to go for the summit. Yet, knowing how hard so many people, like the porters, the Sherpas, the cooks, my teachers and coaches over the years, and specifically my parents, have worked gives me motivation to do the best that I can. Don't interpret this to mean I am going to take any risks I don't feel comfortable with, rather it is an explanation of part of how I have mentally been able to do what I have done in the past, and what I intend to do in the future is driven. To be honest, as I write this, it takes more motivation during the event to do a 24 hour run well than climb a mountain. 

The point is: I know how blessed I am, and it makes me cry sometimes. Sometimes people are impressed that I do what I do, yet in my mind I have simply taken advantage of the opportunities that have been provided to me. As for the question, why am I so fortunate? That I do not know. I'm not a good person. I don't believe in good people. It seems to me that while I can spend a lot of time pondering that question, it is more important to use the opportunity of my blessings.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Isaiah. I'll be praying for a safe adventure over there. - David Francis

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  3. Isaiah, please change your last name. Your self-aggrandizement, hubris and lack of humility is appalling and an embarrassment.

    Your grandfather would suggest the same were he alive to witness your behavior.

    Uncle Brad

    P.S., Andrew's comment is a classic example of the antithesis of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
    God have mercy on these individuals for they know not who they are let alone what they do.


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