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Kind word of a stranger

Jul 14, 2016
‘Ok guys, listen up .. for the rest of the day you’ll stay in your groups, so decide now whether you want to go with the Chicken Littles, the Intermediates, or the Insanity group.’

Well, I didn’t hesitate, straight into the insanity group. We’d run many Turning Points before, and I loved the ropes course element in the middle on day 2. As we self selected and lined up in our groups, BJ said counting the Insanity group ‘Some of you guys can go for the Extreme Inanity experience if you want, as we’ve got a few too many of you.’

Once again I jumped straight in and went off with my Extreme Insanity team mates.

Our first element was what Paul calls the Stupid Thing – it’s a 60 foot high structure with various ladders and ropes and cables, you climb up one end and then make your way over the 200 foot distance from one side to the other. I’d done it before, but this time we walked to the other end of the Stupid Thing to start.

‘Ok, so we’re going to climb up the pole using the nails for foot and hand holds. Go all the way to the top .. who’s first?’

I watched the first two people climb up, cheered on by the rest of us in the group and then it was my turn.

'I’ll impress everyone by racing up the pole' I thought to myself. At about 20 feet up I thought, 'these nails are smaller than I thought, very easy to slip off'. At 40 feet, I was now thinking, 'is this thing really safe??'. By the time I got to the top, I realised that we were climbing on top of the structure we had walked along before. It was another 10 feet higher.

‘Step up onto the platform when you’re ready.’ Said a 24 or 25 year old girl with her blond hair blowing across her face in the wind. She didn’t seem to be at all phased by the whole structure swaying.

Towering high up in the air, suddenly very isolated from everyone on the ground, I was not ready! But I didn’t want to appear scared so I scrambled across, gripped the pole as if my life depended on it (because it did!) and stood up.

I was panting heavily .. the 70 foot vertical climb on nails is harder work than I realised. And rushing up turned out not to be such a good idea. The swaying of the platform made me feel very uneasy and as I looked at the hard ground all the way down below, I couldn’t help thinking how unlikely I’d be to survive a fall like that!

‘Hi I’m Elisha’ the girl said with a big welcoming smile on her face. ‘Are you ok?’

‘I think so’ I said, now not in the least thinking about being cool in front of the group, just hoping I make it through alive.

‘I’m gonna get you from here over to the other side, ok?’ Elisha said

I nodded as I looked at the platform unconvinced.

‘You’ll be fine, so hold on here and I’m gonna swap places with you and then just catch your breath and move on when you’re ready ok?’

I nodded again and we swapped places.

Standing now in a slightly better place, I felt a bit better. But what really struck me, right at that moment, was how Elisha’s calm, confident, friendly demeanour was such a comfort to me at a time of disorientation and stress. I looked at her for a moment pondering: how do they train you to do that? How did you know I needed help and how did you know what to do?

It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the feeling you have when someone’s just saved your life, but it was a powerful moment for me and I felt that I had to say something, to let her know what a difference she made.

‘Thank you’ I blurted out, not at all conveying the gravity I had hoped.

‘You’re welcome’ she said with another smile, then turned back to the next person arriving at the top of the platform.

I carried on with the element and as I edged across the high wire I thought to myself, I know I can do this but I really don’t like heights. I could get used to them if I wanted to, but I don’t want to!

When I got back done to ground level I immediately took out my phone and made a note of my experience:

**Elisha, Stupid Thing, kind word of a stranger – May 2015**

Up until that point, I never realised the power we have to make a difference in the life of people we don’t even know, with the tiniest of actions.

When you think about it, it costs us nothing to be nice, does it?

We may never know the difference we make the world, just by being warm and kind and friendly .. and caring enough to let other people know we see them.
Until next time .. 

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Communicating is not just about words. We need to think about our body language, tone, and pacing. How we feel impacts the way we speak. Struggling to find the right content makes us ineffective. Great speakers know that becoming an exceptional speaker isn't just an art - it's a process with many essential elements.

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