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Do you have trouble asking for help? Read a Parable: The Sherpa's Wisdom

For a change of pace on my blog, I'm sharing a parable (a short story with the purpose of conveying a moral/or principal). I hope you enjoy it!

Chupta Sherpa was a wise, wiry woman who trekked up an immense mountain in Nepal so often she appeared to be part of the landscape. Her face was brown and leathery from the sun, her muscles lean and strong, her eyes warm. She carried her supplies in a small pack, decorated with beads and threads of different colors. On each trek, she brought along her trusted companion, a small white mule who wore a colorful harness lined with small bells to announce his approach. He was ornery and stubborn. If she ever lingered too long on the trail, perhaps distracted by a beautiful patch of flowers but ignoring the forming storm clouds, he nudged her and closed his teeth on her hand gently but annoyingly if she pushed him away. His stalwart reliability began to look like love to her and she tolerated him, because he often made a good point. The Sherpa guided hundreds of inexperienced climbers to the top of her beloved mountain, ensuring their safe return. Flat-landers and experienced climbers alike sought her guidance, knowing that her wisdom and experience were assets, as well as her kindness and friendly personality.

One day, a young woman asked her to guide her to the summit. Nima was self confident, yet unsure of how to begin. The woman had lived in the city her whole life, knowing nothing of nature and physical endeavors.

The Sherpa told her, “If you will train with me and follow my guidance, I will help you get to the summit. You must make me one promise, however, in order for us to succeed.” Nima nodded. The Sherpa continued, “If I ask if you are okay, you must be honest. Only you know if you need assistance, so you must be honest with me. You must tell me if you need a hand.”

The woman agreed. In her heart and mind, however, she told herself, “I want to show her I can do it by myself. I will not need to say I’m not okay. I will not need to ask for help. I will learn to do it without help.”

In a few months, the woman became strong enough to climb the mountain. She and the Sherpa summited the mountain together, fulfilling Nima's lifelong dream. She shared her pictures from the summit on the internet, all over the world, beaming widely and being sure to avoid showing her mentor next to her in the photograph.

A few months later, after climbing with the Sherpa many times, the young woman decided she would climb the mountain again. This time she would climb alone: no Sherpa and no little mule. She thought to herself, I’m strong now. I know how to do this. I won’t need any help. She passed the Sherpa along the trail. Chupta Sherpa was guiding another climber along the steep trail. Nima felt strong and happy as she summited alone that day. Again, she shared pictures of herself with many friends at the summit: The strong solo climber. The pictures showed some looming clouds forming over a nearby peak, but the young woman ignored them.

As she began her descent, the storm hit. The wind pounded her from all sides. She began to have trouble seeing where the trail was. Her lungs burned and she felt exhausted. As the snow began to envelope her, she came upon three shapes. It was the Sherpa, her mule, and the hiker. They were also descending the mountain. The little mule was carrying their packs and they each held onto a tether to follow him.

“Are you okay?” Chupta Sherpa asked.

Hesitating only a moment, the young woman thought: Of course I’m okay. I can do this alone. She ignored her confusion, her freezing limbs. She thought only of those pictures of herself from the top of the mountain. I can’t tell all those people I’m not okay or that I needed help to get down. This is the easy part. I shouldn’t need to ask for help.

“Yes, I’m okay. You go ahead. I’m going to rest a bit and continue.”

The Sherpa could not see her face through the snowfall, but she felt her hesitation.

“Nima, if you need help, you only need to ask for it.”

“No.” Nima said. “I’ll be fine.”

Hours later, the Sherpa rested at the base camp, warming her feet in a tent. Her rest was disturbed when she received distress calls on her radio from other climbers. They had found Nima some distance from the trail, blowing her rescue whistle. She was near death. They needed help to carry her down the mountain. The Sherpa quickly gathered her gear and her little mule and began her return up the mountain. The snow was so blinding it was difficult to see the trail, but her little mule knew the way. Each step they took, she relied on him to pull her forward.

Nima heard the bells on the little mule’s harness as they approached. Her spirits lifted for the first time since she realized she was lost on the mountain. Even having the other climbers around her gave her little comfort, because they could barely save themselves. It was Chupta Sherpa and the little mule that held her confidence. Chupta Sherpa went straight to work, strapping Nima to the back of the little mule, putting warming packs in her boots and gloves and administering oxygen to her. It took hours for them to slog through the white-out, Chupta Sherpa following behind her little mule, the climbers plodding along behind her. All of them made it out alive. However, several others on the mountain lost their lives that day.

Nima and Chupta Sherpa never spoke of that day until many years later. Nima remembered her promise to Chupta Sherpa and strove to keep it. She wasn’t always perfect in asking for help, but the lessons of this day stuck with her and motivated her to strive to remember. She became a strong Sherpa herself, living happily as she guided others up the mountain and taking Chupta Sherpa’s place when she retired to a simple life in the town at the foot of the mountain.

Now, Nima sits in a ladder backed chair in Chupta Sherpa’s living room. Chupta Sherpa is elderly and nearing the end of her life. From her comfortable spot, reclining on the sofa, Chupta Sherpa opens her eyes and smiles at Nima.

“You have become a fine Sherpa, haven’t you?”

Nima nods at her.

“Do you remember your promise to me when you first came to the mountain?” Chupta Sherpa asks.

“Of course.” Nima says. “I learned my lesson well.”

“Yes, well, that’s good. Now you should ask me the question.” Chupta Sherpa asks.

For a few moments, Nima doesn’t know what to say. Then, she smiles and says,

“Chupta Sherpa, Are you okay?”

Chupta Sherpa smiles broadly and chuckles a little.

“Yes. And you can bring me a bowl of soup and stay by my side to keep me company.”

“Ah. That’s good. Chupta Sherpa. Thank you for allowing me to help you.” Nima laughs and feels her body fill with warmth.

So while Chupta Sherpa has many loving friends, neighbors and family members to help her, she allows Nima to provide assistance however she can in the last days of her life.

When Chupta Sherpa dies, Nima feels at peace. Her teacher showed her that acceptance of help can be the greatest gift, both to ourselves and to those who offer it.

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